Dave set up a video camera last Friday in Mrs. H’s class. The sixth-graders nervously milled around, found their seats. One girl’s hand went up as a volunteer to go first. “I just want to get it over with,” she said to the floor, a smile on her face.
She stood in front of the camera, waited for the three-two-one signal from Dave. “My story is,” she said, putting her hands inside her sleeves and swaying back and forth. When she was finished, we clapped and the others looked around to see who would volunteer next. She collapsed into her seat, smiling, and began twisting her hair into a bun.
Twenty kids went after her, each looking at their classmates or out the windows behind us, each retelling tales they’d spent weeks on as part of a Friday afternoons storytelling project I led in their classroom over a semester or so.
Their hard work was my reward. The story-collector in me heard so many that afternoon: so many folk tales, so many yarns woven with laughter and personal style. For really, a story doesn’t live on a page any more than people do. Sharing stories is what brings them to life.
My oldest two daughters watched from the back, too, sitting on a window seat. “I know this one!” Violet said when she heard Mrs. H’s students retell The Little Red Hen, Androcles and the Lion, and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. My two had a half-day of school and tagged along, enthused about finally seeing what it was we do at Mt. Hope STEAM School.
Magic, that’s what we do.
Not magic because I thought any of the students couldn’t stand up and recite — they’re bright, enthusiastic, and completely capable. I knew they could.
But the magic’s the affection we, our family, feels toward this school and its kids; for the imagination-crafting, the relationship stuff, and the storytelling. Isn’t that the most magical, most human thing?
Aren’t I lucky just to sit and take part?