Why stories matter

My seniors have spent the last several weeks reading excerpts from different styles and genres and responding to creative writing prompts. These seniors are IB students who work hard and who have now finished their testing for the year. They are just waiting to graduate. They’ve donned the apparel of the college they will attend in the fall and are playing cell phone video games, wearing slippers to class, and passing yearbooks.
Not all of them are thrilled that instead of having study hall or watching movies all class now that testing is over I am still making them read and write, but most are curious and willing to give it a try and a few have been waiting for a unit that lets them just play with words and stretch their imaginations, reaching for their own standards, not IB’s or mine.
Their final is to select one piece to read for the class in a planned, practice presentation that might include props and/or costumes. A student came in this morning to present to me. She explained how her favorite part of books is the description and that she’s always been good at writing description, but her challenge is trying to make a story out of her imagery. She worked on the piece she read extensively to move from imagery to actually having a story behind the description. Her piece was lovely, compelling, and rich in story. Her story, she explained, was a work of fiction in which she attempted to explore something she had been dealing with for the past several months: the inevitability of losing someone close to you at some point in your life (In her case, her grandparents who had both been in and out of the hospital).
We live in a world rich in story that is ours for the spinning and those stories are all deeply personal in some way. One can start with an image or a line of dialogue or an idea for a character or a theme. Why bother? Because our grandparents have been in and out of the hospital, we aren’t sure who we are anymore, or we don’t know how to get the attention of the person we think we just might want to spend the rest of our lives with—to name a few reasons. The stories that connect us are infinite and that matters.

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