Why this blog?

"... Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves ... Do not search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." - Letters to a Young Artist, R. M. Rilke

Rooted in the promise and challenge of growth ...

these are letters from a young teacher.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The beginning of some story therapy?

Isaac, I have noticed, learns extremely well with his ears. When I tell a story, he is able to retell it later almost with the exact tone and inflections that I have used.

Isaac also is very demanding when there is a particular story he would like to hear at a particular moment. He has a hard time waiting or negotiating what story will be told. "But I want to hear THAT one!" he insists. "Tell me NOW!!"

No one likes feeling threatened by such demanding behavior, least of all myself; however, I also know Isaac. I know that he generally has difficulty processing emotions, so that they come out much stronger and more aggressive than they might appear in others. He is also a perfectionist, with very precise ideas and little room for negotiation.

As I teacher, my job is find childrens' joy inside them, and to inspire it to come and be shared with the world. Isaac's behavior, at first, makes it hard to do this. However, I have tried to stay focused on that joy that I know is inside him. Despite his belligerent reactions, he really does love stories and is probably so fixated on some of them because they are helping him process something inside that he is, for now, unable to express himself.

So, one day, at his "demand", I began telling a story ... until I stopped. "What happens next?" I asked, with a foolish grin, and a sly "I think I forgot." Seamlessly, Isaac jumped in every time I presented the opportunity, until, at the end of the story, I said, "You know, Isaac, I think you know these stories better than I do. Let's write them down together and make a book of them for you to keep and remember just for yourself, anytime you need them."

With that, I pulled out our classroom laptop, and we began the story from the beginning again.

Retold by Isaac
[Originally from the Pacific Northwest Native American tradition - I learned it from a fellow environmental educator, and I believe he got it from eldrbarry.net, an online story resource.]

Long ago, the oceans had no tides and the shores had no shallows. There was no way for Raven to get the food, 'cause he was a bird. And birds can't get food very easily from the ocean. He was not a fish. And he was ... HUNGRY!! He decided to find Fog Man, far to the North, where the fog comes from. Raven saw an island bobbing from wave to wave. An old man that was wrinkled, with a long straggly beard was sitting with a hat on his head, and there was fog coming out of the top of his hat.

Raven snatched his hat. Fog man was an-NOY-ed.
"Why do you make fog?" said Raven.
"It's what I do."

"Can the sea be moved away from the shore, so I can get food?"
"I don't know but give me my hat back."
"Can the sea be moved away from the shore, so I can get food?"
"I don't know but give me my hat back!"
"I don't know," mocked Raven, "I've give you your hat back if you tell me how to solve my problem."
Fog Man told him to go to the Man Who Sits on the Tides. "Just fly toward the setting sun as far as you can go, and you'll find him there."
So Raven did just that, forgetting to give the hat back. Well, he didn't really forget.
When Raven was near the Man Who Sits on the Tides, he noticed a large rock that seemed to have eyes in the middle of the water. It seemed to be this old man sitting in the middle of the sea.
"Do you know where the Man Who Sits on the Tides is?" said Raven.
"I am the Man Who Sits on the Tides."
"Do you know the secret of how I can get my food? How does one make the sea go out?"
"I forgot."
"Why do you sit on the tides?" said Raven.
"It's my job. It's what I do."
"It's my job, it's what I do," mocked Raven, and he circled the Man Who Sits on the Tides and found little rips on his clothes where his skin was sticking out. He picked on it and nicked on it with his beak. The Man Who Sits on the Tides stood up and let out a painful roar. AAAAARRRRR!!!
All the water seemed to go in this hole, which he was sitting on. Raven flew all the way back to the village and all the see creatures, like the gooey ducks and the sea anemones and the sea urchins and the fish and the crabs and the mussels were all left out on the sand. He flew all the way back to the Man Who Sits on the Tides and he seemed to sit back down again. When he sat back down, all the water squirted back out all into place again, so that the sea creatures were covered in water.
Raven really liked when the tide was out, so when the tide was in, he pecked and picked and nicked with his beak again at the back of the Man Who Sits on the Tides. But he would not stand up. So, Raven put Fog Man's hat on his head and aaaaaaaalllllll the fog from his hat came out everywhere to block his sight.
And he nicked and pecked and picked again. And the Man Who Sits on the Tides stood up once again and sat back down again, and the water went back in place.
Raven liked this a lot. "How would you like to do exercises, just twice a day? It's not a big deal," he said.
"NO!" said the Man Who Sits on the Tides. So he nicked and picked and nicked again. He visited him twice a day to make him stand up and sit down until he did it automatically. So now Raven can eat as much as he wants.
And now Raven says, "When the tide is out, the table is set!"


There are more issues at hand, obviously, to address with Isaac. However, something in the stories seem to resonate with him, so that I feel it will be through stories that I can begin to uncover some of what Isaac is trying to express through his aggressive demands. We shall see what develops. Stay tuned ...