Stories of the month.
Updated: Nov 18
I thought it would be useful to do an extra blog each month that is focused on the actual work I do and I will share some of the narrative-based processes that I have developed.
So this month (I am taking in a little of August too) I have worked with two large school organisations in Sweden and for WSLA.
With the first school, I was working with stories as a tool in language development, especially when working with children who have Swedish as an additional language. With this type of training, (usually taking place over a half day, though a full day is always better) I bring in my knowledge of child development and also the research that led to the ICAN report in the UK, which highlighted the prevalence of language impoverishment experienced by children in the 21st century. It is truly worrying, also it is not new - the Roulstone Report came out in 2011 and was very pivotal to the work that I now do in this area. So, after I shared some of this research and the theoretical underpinning with the participants, I went on to show them how they can use sensory storytelling techniques to improve vocabulary, positional language, comparative language, sequencing and a host of other language related areas. I also shared with them how they can engage parents in this work which is pivotal to the success of the child. Here you can look at some of the work done in this area which resulted in this article in the Guardian newspaper. As you can see, this was back in 2009 and it is as vital to include parents/carers now as it was then - perhaps even more here in Sweden as it is not common to have the parental engagement that we have in the UK.
With the second school, which was for older children, my focus was very different. I wanted to use stories and narrative-based processes to enable the staff to start to create a stronger shared narrative of the school. This process involved once again, the theoretical underpinning of the work, then recognising what stories form the present landscape, including acknowledging many of the negative stories that stopped people trusting. Once this was done I moved the group into a story-based exercise based on 'successful' students and those that had 'failed.' These were students they had known in order to enable an emotional connection with the work they were undertaking. It is always interesting to pause and deconstruct the idea of 'success' in these situations as it means many different things to many different people and if we do not have a shared vision of a what a 'successful' future is for our students, where does that leave us as leaders and more importantly, where does it leave our students? The process then continued to enable the participants to identify the biggest threats to those students at risk and develop the types of stories those students needed to hear.
My last piece of work was in the UK with WSLA and it was very different to the other two. With this organisation I wanted to build up the leadership skills of the women participants who came from all around the world. As leaders our strongest tool is our story and our voice and in this work I created a process whereby they shared personal narratives, identified common themes and used these to create new narratives that they then retold as groups on the evening. It took a lot of courage and there was a wonderful sharing, support and caring that took place and the shedding of tears and great explosions of laughter too. It was a joy and an honour.
You can see that these three pieces of work were all completely different but with all of them the use of story was vital. It is so potent and powerful in our personal and professional lives. My next bookings are for SKR here in Sweden where I will be running a workshop on leadership, then a wonderful day-long training with the Socialkontoret, in Skellefteå in Sweden, where I will be using a process all about collaborative story and identity. Also some work with the inspiring Humly who are a great organisation and have a UK market now too. I have worked with them before on their strategic narrative and have been invited back to do a little more work with them. Then I am off to the UK to deliver a keynote at a conference focused on working with children with developmental language disorder and finally over to Dublin to deliver a keynote to 1000 people at the Global Forum of the Council for International Schools. It sounds busy but really it is not and I am still in need of more work, which is why I am super happy to be an Associate Consultant for the Förnyelselabbet - I really hope it will help provide more opportunities for sharing the power of story. Watch this space!