The art of storytelling

One of the reasons that we at Cambridge Outlook magazine attend the Cambridge Schools Conference each year is to talk to a cross-section of the international teaching community. The conference is exceptionally useful for making contacts and generating ideas for the magazine. But that’s not the only reason. The most important thing we get out of the conference – and the greatest pleasure – is the stories. Storytelling is integral to the art of teaching, so attending a conference for global education professionals is akin to going to a storytelling convention.

Stories told with passion

Within a couple of hours of arriving at the recent conference in Cambridge, I had heard tales of adventure, bravery, innovation, achievement and life-changing teaching. From keynote speaker Lucy Crehan, talking about some of the world’s most successful teaching systems, to delegates chatting about their experiences during the coffee breaks. By lunchtime, my notebook, recording device and mind were full of stories told with passion.

In the latest issue of Cambridge Outlook magazine, journalist, author and mathematician Alex Bellos, who also spoke at the Cambridge Schools Conference, tells us about the power of stories – in his case, their power to enthuse students about maths. “When you’re learning maths, often no one tells you the amazing stories behind the theories,” he says. “Telling stories gives students a bit of context – the personalities behind the discoveries. A great theorem like Pythagoras’ has equal if not more value than a Shakespeare play.”

 

Putting theory into practice

In the same way, the stories I gathered in my notebook at the conference gave context to some of the education ideas we write about in the magazine. They illustrate the art of teaching and show the practical side of it, in the same way that applied mathematics does of the pure discipline. It’s all very well talking about inclusivity and differentiating teaching approaches according to the abilities of children in the classroom – but it’s only when you hear a teacher telling you the story of a boy whose disruptive behaviour melted away when the teacher established a secret language of hand signals and key words with him that the abstract discussion comes to life. There will be more about differentiation in the January issue of Cambridge Outlook.

Sharing learning experiences

In the meantime, take a look through the pages of the current issue of Cambridge Outlook for some more stories from around the Cambridge international community. Two schools tell us what led them to join the pilot programme for the roll-out of Cambridge Global Perspectives to younger learners. The principal of a school in Bangalore shares his experience of setting up a local community of school leaders, coming together to share good practice despite the competitive nature of the international school market . In our regular ‘Behind the scenes’ feature, a researcher at Cambridge International talks about the year-round analysis that forms the bedrock of Cambridge programmes and qualifications.

Please keep telling us your stories. We want to share them through the magazine to inform and inspire your colleagues across the world. Get in touch at outlook@cambridgeinternational.org

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