Always a Storyteller

I recently finished reading The Courage to Teach, by Parker J. Palmer. In it, he writes, “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” That thought prompted a journal entry for me,

“If good teaching comes from identity, then my teaching, at its best, is rooted in my identity as a storyteller — that is, not only in my artistic, creative identity, but in the integrity of my healing and wholeness because of stories. It’s from that place of abundant stories, with their inherent power and wisdom that my best teaching comes.”

Another storyteller echoed the same in a recent conversation: “You can’t ask us not to tell stories. It’s how we engage with the world.” It’s how we make sense of the world, too. Our lives, our work, our loves — in some broad or particular way can be called “stories.”

But more than that, being a storyteller is not just a career, or even a passion that coexists with our other activities. Rather, it is something that defines everything we do. As an English teacher, I am a storyteller. As a professor of theatre, I am a storyteller. As a community activist and volunteer, I am a storyteller. As a husband, a son, and a friend, I am a storyteller. Always.

Sometimes that identity is rooted in speaking the best words I can find. More often, it is rooted in an observation, and in deep listening. It means listening from the vulnerable places, and using a story to “tell the truth, / but tell it slant,” as Dickinson put it. When I am given permission to fully inhabit that identity, I am my best self. When I step out of it — by force or by unwitting choice — I lose touch with that deepest part of me, that inner guide for all I do. Storytelling is who I am. Know fully what that means, and you are that much closer to knowing me and my greatest gifts. I am always a storyteller, no matter what work in the world I am doing.