Climbing the Story Mountain


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It is no secret that I miss the classroom.  After leaving the classroom 16 months ago I knew I would.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the work I do and the new learning I have been able to do has been amazing.  But the joy you get from trying something new and having a direct reaction to that is something I don’t get to do on a daily basis.  I have always been the type of teacher that will be walking by the lake on a Sunday morning and have an idea or make a connection and think about how I might be able to use that in the classroom.  I still have those ideas but often I don’t get the opportunity to put them into action.

I haven’t much talked about my role as an educational designer but, put simply, I work on 3 areas with academics; building resources, promoting self directed professional learning and providing opportunities for academics to network and share what they are doing.  I love the freedom my role has to think outside the box and offer different perspectives and ideas.

Quite often in my role I bring in what I have learnt in teaching to the team.  I am certainly the only person in the office to have a craft box and although mocked a lot, people still come by to use it!  My classroom pedagogy is definitely used when I present or workshop with others but in a business centric environment it is not often I get to bring my classroom experience to meetings.

Last week, however, did bring one of those opportunities.  Our team is in the process of creating  a 3 minute video explaining the purpose of our team and what we are trying to achieve.  It has been a difficult process trying to work out what direction the video should take and one I am glad to not to have been responsible for. But when we started discussing how the video should tell a story and be a narrative of what we were trying to do my mind started ticking over.

In the classroom if I was planning a narrative I would have used a story mountain, a  planning tool to set out the beginning., build up, dilemma, resolution and ending.  Why not use the same idea with our planning?

So we went to work.  My wonderful colleague ran the session for all of our team and although I could see people thinking what a waste of time, it was a highly successful activity.  As we are not always clear about our direction, what we want to achieve is difficult to articulate.  Enter story mountain.  By playing out the characters and thinking of it as a story, a bit like a fairytale, we were able to set out the journey we want to take.  The change we want to make.

The beginning described our setting.  where are we now and what does our current environment look like. Who are the people involved and who is the main character. The build up became the urgency of change.  Why did the change need to happen?  The dilemma is the barriers.  What we expected might get in our way and things we needed to overcome to get to the end. The resolution is the moment we will see some change and what it will look like and of course the ending became what we wanted to see at the end.  The change embedded and sustainable.

It has made it a lot easier to see what we are trying to do and where we are on our journey.  And I look forward to using it again for planning, especially in schools. It asks the questions such as what do we look like now and what do we want to be?  What could be the barriers along the way? At the end of change what do we want to look like.

Now I can’t wait to look back at the difference we have been able to make and rewrite the story.