The storytellers

The boat sailed into the unknown, 21 years ago, when I began my teaching journey amidst the beautiful tea gardens of Assam, in a small two-room school. This first experience remains close to my heart, as the passion towards teaching was combined with lots of interesting stories.

For the first time, I was interacting with small children from different walks of life. Fifty odd kids packed into two rooms would share their thoughts, emotions and happiness with me. The teaching alongside would bring out the storyteller in me, telling them the stories of bravery from far and beyond.

More than simply listening to it, the children would live the story in their little imaginary world. Time would fly those days and the children would come back yearning for more. The years passed and we were transferred to bigger city with big schools.

Teaching had become streamlined by then, where the chalk and talk took over. Storytelling sessions continued, but the content was different, with less of the imaginary world. The child’s imagination needed each character of the story to relate to something in the practical world. Yet, they would passionately listen to the stories. The beauty was that they would take time to think as their tiny steps moved back home reluctantly.

Later, moving about several cities, I saw teaching become a serious affair — there was no room for stories. The subject, with its pre-noted exercises, took over and was shoved down the children’s throats. They were expected to write the same answers as was explained. This closed the door on children whose minds wandered a little away from the lesson and thought differently.

A separate storytelling session was introduced in a little amphitheatre where the children were shown puppets or some props related to the story to make it more interesting. However, these stories were the same for everyone as the space for imagination was closed. The child would relate the same figure to the character shown to her. Story books, even with their colourful and attractive pictures, limiting imagination. They had to follow the pictures to guide them.

Today’s generation of children are burdened with a full bag of books which involve no creativity or flights of imagination. In the world of gadgets and gizmos, children live a fast-paced life. No story attracts them as the patience to listen to one has died its natural death. The storytelling sessions these days are with audio, video aides, yet the child is not able to sit for more than five minutes.

Is this what we wanted them to become? Education has certainly made every child into a woman qualified to face the world. In the bargain we have killed the child like curiosity. Spare a thought. There is a storyteller in each one of us. Let us kindle it.

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