On Being a Movement Storyteller

“Even after we have learned to use our words, we continue use our bodies as a means of expression until our last breath, even if we don’t know it. The human form is fundamental to our expression, and it will always tell a story, no matter how simple or complex, whether we want it to or not. So it is no wonder dancing predates almost every form of storytelling mankind has devised. It’s a part of who we are.”–A.T. Augustine

I am a movement storyteller.

Before my identity is given a label as anything else…before I even write or open my mouth to speak, I’ve already communicated in a universal language.

I share information about my past, my abilities, and things I am learning. I believe that what I put in my mind, reflects in my own movement. Do I think positively? Then I’m probably walking tall. Do I think negatively? I might be caving in around my midsection, I could avoid eye contact, or I probably hold my shoulders pinched together to create a plethora of knots that makes me stretch my neck from side to side. In turn, the way that I move, reflects in the way I am perceived and what I begin to believe. I’m stressed, therefore I take many deep breaths and tighten my shoulders up higher. I’m sad so I start to move slower, heavier.

As teachers, storytelling is the most simple, true, whole description of what we do. We may use the same facts but we can form, create, and mold them differently for each class we have. Each time, parts of our own stories may be highlighted more than we anticipated. The surprise of this — that’s when learning happens. And this storytelling starts the moment we walk into a room. We can look up, make eye contact, touch the arm of a student as we are talking with them….or we can look at the floor, talk towards the ceiling, the walls, the door, our notebooks, and stay hiding behind a desk out of fear. Either way, we share some story about ourselves and our world.

If we choose not to be storytellers, we risk….losing a connection to ourselves; we lose our ability to be emotionally available to our students as their needs arise in real time. We lose recognizing the opportunities for self-reflection, self-discovery, and that little bit of vulnerability that challenges us to re-examine our current thoughts, goals, opinions, and approaches. We miss opportunities to engage in learning, which is the fundamental purpose of telling stories and being teachers.

As a movement storyteller, I make it a point to connect to myself by aiming to have an experiential awareness of what I am feeling, learning, and teaching. I also connect with my students and fellow teachers by greeting them individually as they come into class and checking in with them periodically throughout an exercise or activity. I give them time to try things on their own a few times and then offer suggestions, provide examples, and listen to their needs, confusions, inquiries, and wonders.

I think obtaining an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Theatre, while pursuing my passion of dance and movement expression, has only solidified my understanding of what it takes to create this creativity-inducing, learning and teaching practice needed to nurture a thriving classroom into existence. I could have gone the route of working toward my teaching certificate and completed all the necessary steps to be a teacher much sooner. I am glad I chose to study what I was interested in first because it has only enriched my teaching style, philosophy, and skillset.

The purpose of becoming a great teacher is to make others feel as if their story is good, meaningful, and important to share. Also, to show them they have the tools to demonstrate how great their stories are.

And everyone has a story, no matter what their label, classification, diagnoses, inheritance, gift, or burden tries to deny by placing them into a group with problems that need to be “fixed”.

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