Special offer for Cyberwise Community: Mention "cyberwise" and receive a 15% discount off storytellinglab.online
As a writing professor at the University of Southern California, I have spent literally thousands of hours in a classroom. At the end of last semester, classes went online. I watched my most ambitious, motivated students at the beginning of the year, become the least interested by the end of the semester. I was determined to come up with some alternative outside of the traditional education matrix. I spent my months in the bunker coming up with a solution.
I know the secret to motivate and stimulate even the most bored student. I know because I was that student. Unmotivated. Disinterested. Indifferent. I changed majors as frequently as I changed boyfriends. I graduated with less ambition than when I began. My mother was convinced I’d be her worst nightmare – a hairdresser. (It was before hairdressers were household names and earned ten times what teachers earn).
Ironically, I’ve spent a significant part of my adult life, educating and motivating students. I understand how to hold and keep their attention. You do, too. So does your child. In fact, the beauty of this “tool” is we all possess it. We just don’t know how to access it. Storytelling. Every one of us is a natural born storyteller.
Although my storytelling experience led me to becoming a writer, storytelling in any form is essential. Storytelling provides a lens through which to view the world. Its influence is such that today major universities now offer undergraduate degrees in storytelling.
When you learn to access your inner storyteller, it opens the door to your imagination. Suddenly, boundaries disappear. Everything is possible.
Stories inspire me. After reading “Just Kids,” National Book Award Winner, by Patti Smith, I decided to try painting. I’ve now been painting for eight years. Even my paintings are story inspired. (I still can’t draw a straight line even with a ruler).
It’s not about talent. It’s about exposure. It’s about exploration. If you only take one road, you will not see much. Nobody knows what they don’t know. Storytelling, particularly during these locked-in times, can open that door.
Like most things, it falls on parents to find new and unique ways to augment their child’s education, whether there’s a pandemic or not. Once upon a time parents could take the child to a museum or a concert. With those options and many other options off the table, it takes a lot of energy and imagination to come up with alternatives.
On the other hand, it opens up the possibility of parents and children discovering new interests they could share.
When students are self-motivated, online classes are fine. But for students who struggle with focus, depression, lack of direction, etc. virtual learning can be a disaster. I wouldn’t have lasted one day in their situation. I still have issues focusing, UNLESS it’s something I’m interested in.
Imagine it from your child’s point of view. Expectations, hope and dreams narrowed down to a badly produced 21st Hollywood Squares sans humor. Students have enough trouble paying attention when the professor is in the room. Now many are in their childhood bedroom, family on the other side of a closed door, experiencing life via their computer, and carrying on as though nothing has changed! If they’re lucky enough to have a good internet connection, they must hope all the other students do, as well. Then there’s whether their unsavvy teacher knows the way around the platform.
Is it any surprise so many students of this generation are depressed or hopeless?
And what about parents? When students are home around the clock it puts additional stress on parents. I’m going nuts figuring out meals three times a day, let alone trying to come up with scintillating conversation that doesn’t end up circling back on itself over and over. It is worse if parents home school. They have spent the day interacting with their children. What’s left to say? Living under the same roof morning noon and night puts stress on the most successful of familial relationships.
But complaining about it or wishing it away won’t solve the problem. If there was EVER a time to make lemonade out of lemons, it’s now! Educators, parents and all of us concerned about this generation who have endured, in many ways, more than any in recent memory, must come up with new, innovative, challenging and fun ways of educating our children. Unconventional methods which allow parents and teachers to engage students; to expose them to the outside world; a world that is for all intents and purposes, closed to them at present. That’s the goal of the Storytelling Lab.
My husband and I are travelers. But no matter how well we plan, no many how many miles we’ve racked up, some catastrophe always happens. After we have our respective meltdowns, I always say the same thing. Because it’s absolutely true. “Our trip is now a success. Nobody wants to hear our dull story of how everything was perfect. The catastrophe’s is what makes the best story.”
Please take a moment to learn more about my unique storytellinglab.online.
It lab is aimed at 16 and older. I’ve heard from several parents who expressed interest. Both are welcome. If parents and/or kids mention Cyberwise they receive a 15% discount! Six-week class begins September 26th.
Author: Benita (Bonnie) Garvin
Bonnie is best known for her work in film and television. An award-winning writer, she has credits in the U.S. and Europe. Her work has also appeared on stage and her personal essays published in numerous acclaimed anthologies. She’s taught screenwriting at the University of Southern California for the last fifteen years, as well as numerous independent writing workshops around the country. Bonnie is also a painter, whose work has appeared in several group art shows. She named her art website after what she loves most- stories.