Monday, November 26, 2012

About my job...

Some days and in certain circles, I get a lot of negative feed back about my "job".  True,  I am not making any money. I work many long hours. Um, check.  Sorry, it is true; I do think and talk about little else.  So, sometimes I feel pretty lowdown particularly days where I need to spend money to keep things afloat. Yet, when I was asked to make a pitch about our organization I found it easy to make some pretty bold statements about what we are doing.  Below is a video and some of the written thoughts I sent to the newly formed Board of Directors.

1. While most people acknowledge that storytelling is  a human universal,  in our work we regularly make storytelling universally available to all.  This year we will teach all the juniors in Newburyport, Watertown, Everett and ALL the seniors of Lynn Classical High School.  Not just the, honors or AP or theater students. 3,000 students so far and in 10 schools this year. We teach in mostly Title 1 schools and we have included ELL classes as well.
I teach literature to students who have many talents, but writing can be a major challenge to bilingual learners who are often immigrants or first generation Americans. To have Norah and the other storytellers come into our classroom ... was like unlocking a vault in my high schoolers. Every one of them, from the most boisterous to the shyest, took their moment in front of an audience to speak. For some, this was the first time they published themselves.” • Sondra Longo, AP Literature and Composition Journalism - Lawrence High School

2. We bring out the unique "voices" of students from truly diverse backgrounds...

Students like Maho (Lynn Classical High), known for being shy and stuttering, get up and present a vivid world of a war-torn 3rd world village that their classmates  never knew.  Students like Sandy (Boston Latin Academy), an award winning slam poet and practiced performer, get up and challenge themselves to take it a step further.  She told how watching her 4 year-old nephew die changed her life. Today, Sandy is at Simmons College and intends to become a pediatrician.

When students who live in a virtual “war zone” of poverty, violence and crime, heard Maho's (Lynn,MA) story about growing up in an actual war zone of Bosnia, their world and world view became much wider. When Sandy (Boston,MA) told her story of how a pleasant family birthday gathering devolved into the shooting of her 4 year-old nephew, students with more stable lives were able to connect a face and a voice to a story of human suffering that may have been every bit as exotic to them as Maho’s Bosnia. The students listen to each other with an intensity and respect that is beautiful to see. They are thirsty for this kind of connection and self-expression.

3. We are unique.  And have a proven track record. Our programs and organization, massmouth,inc.,  were created by storytellers and educators - steeped and versed in the timeless art form. Other storytelling organizations that are more famous and successful were started by writers, comics and theater people. This is not bad but it is not connected to the richer and noncommercial art form.  We all exploit the phenomenon of storytelling.  Meaning all story slams depend on the innate human ability to tell a story - with a little focus and direction.  We at massmouth go deeper. We explore and share the "art" of storytelling.

At the moment, massmouth,inc. is the only group that reaches a contemporary audience in clubs, cafés and even larger theater venues AND promotes traditional form of stories ( folk, fairy, myth, parable etc.)  AND  teaches, during school time, in the high school ELA curriculum. We run the only in-school, during instructional time, storytelling program and organize the only regional high school story slam in the country - if not the world.

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