How stories can transform a classroom: StoryCorps interviews affect both students and teachers

TED Blog

When students get the chance to participate in StoryCorps interviews, it can "reorganize the ions of a class," according to one teacher who tried it. Photo: David Andrako, courtesy of StoryCorps When students conduct StoryCorps interviews, teachers say it can “reorganize the ions of a class.” Photo: David Andrako, courtesy of StoryCorps

Caitlyn, a quiet seventh grader, was bullied by the other kids in her class at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, California. She wore the same cowboy boots every day. “The other kids were awful about it,” said English teacher Rebecca Mieliwocki, remembering this student who has stayed lodged in her memory for 10 years now. “Even the best kids can be horrible sometimes. It’s a jungle in middle school.”

The law of the jungle, however, can change. Caitlyn’s story illustrates what can happen when students and teachers take the time to listen to each other’s stories.

When Caitlyn was in her class a decade ago, Mieliwocki introduced StoryCorps to her students. She gave them tape recorders and asked them to interview someone important in their lives. Over the next few months…

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