story = narrative + informational + opinion
Yesterday I had the privilege to hear James Kofi Annan tell his story. He is a survivor of child slavery. After he escaped, he eventually became a business man. Then he left his promising career in order to fight for freedom for Ghana’s children. He started Challenging Heights as a place to protect and educate children.
I am moved by his story. It is one made up of nightmares and eventually overcoming them. It is a story of walking away from prestige and money. James’ story faces the horrors of this world, and compels me to do everything I can, in my corner of the world, to make it right.
Which makes me think about writing and teaching writers, since that’s what makes up much of my little corner of the world. This weekend I spent most of my reading time studying and highlighting and thinking about Common Core State Standards, as well as the PARCC Model Content Framework for ELA. It’s not the easiest thing for me to read. I have to drink lots of water and eat Saletine crackers to try to keep my stomach settled. (It doesn’t really work.) One of the things that is unsettling to me is the emphasis of nonfiction and opinion reading and writing at the sacrifice of narrative.
Story changes the world.
It is easy to get caught up in the push to prepare students for the big assessment. Our country is currently infatuated by standardized tests. I want students to meet high expectations. I want them to write concisely and conventionally. I want to teach effectively. I’m on the playing field of public education, so I am compelled to play by the rules laid out by the Department of Education.
Then I am moved by a story like James’. And I remember it is story that will change the world.
It is my quest to make Mission: Story intersect with Common Core State Standards. I think it can be done. It’ll take strong shoulders and a little bit of courage. Narrative is the heart of making sense of the the world. Informational is the fodder for understanding the intricacies of the world. And opinion helps us move others into action. James Kofi Annan used all three modes. One is not more important than another. The stories that inspire us eloquently combine all three. Here’s to making our writing workshops do the same.
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