The Voices Behind Studs Terkel’s “Working”

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If you’re like we are and you find oral histories fascinating, you’ve probably encountered Studs Terkel’s WorkingIf not, you have a major treat in store. Terkel went around the country in the early 1970s, interviewing people about what they did all day. The result was an incredible collection, one that gave insight into the lives of a wide range of ordinary people. We can attest that it’s excellent for high school or college classroom use, whether in full or as excerpts.

Radio Diaries, in partnership with Project&, has now done one better and made some of Terkel’s audio tapes (via  available for online listening. Check them out if you’ve ever been interested in hearing the voices that Terkel preserved so well.

You can find the feature, Working: Then & Now, at Radio Diaries.

ICYMI: Oral History Resources

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Here’s a quick catch-up post for anyone who’s been following our series on Oral History and how to use these powerful tools with students. More to come soon!

Oral History: An Introduction:

We often think of history as big events—think battles, coronations, explorations—that’s observed impartially, recorded faithfully, and carefully preserved in libraries and universities for later generations. But history is as much about the lives of every day people as so-called great events, and we all can play an important part in preserving our own, and our community’s, history.

And these days, it’s hard not to feel as though we are all in the process of making our own contributions to history….

Oral History: Students are Historians, Too!:

Here at Small Stones, we LOVE hearing about students collecting oral histories from people in their communities. For this second installment in our Oral Histories Series, here’s a quick who/what/where/when/why/how explainer to help students understand to how powerful oral history can be–and to see themselves as historians….

Oral History: A Community College Assignment:

During the second half of the quarter, you and your group will be completing an oral history project. Since we’ve begun this quarter by reading, writing, and discussing issues of immigration, you’ll continue with this theme and interview an immigrant to California. You’ll choose a subject, conduct background research, conduct the interview, preserve the interview, and get it in shape to share with the world….

And deeper dives into two of our favorite resources:

Oral History Resources: Voice of Witness:

First up: a webinar series on conducting oral history projects with students. Registration is required, but resources are available to check out now. We particularly like the resource guide “Listen Up: How to Plan Your Oral History Project.” At the top of the PDF is a list of excellent examples of other projects, notably some from high school students….

Oral History Resources: Story Corps:

For educators, the site is a treasure trove of materials. From a community college perspective, when Emily was helping students conduct oral history projects, a few resources in particular were invaluable.

  1. Great Questions. There are pages upon pages of questions here, organized by general subject area, that you might want to ask as you conduct an interview. Categories include “Growing Up,” “School,” “Family Heritage,” “War,” and “Great Questions for Anyone.” Not doing an oral history project with your own students? These may very well be useful in the classroom in a lot of different contexts, whether in ice breaker games or as a way to “interview” a fictional character….

 

ICYMI: Taking Care of Students

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So as we’ve been mentioning, we are gearing up for the next phase in our blog-life. As we’re doing that behind-the-scenes work, we thought we’d take today to feature some of our favorite Small Stones posts to date, with an emphasis on supporting your students emotionally during turbulent times.

First, our tips on ways to discuss violence with students, with resources from Colorín Colorado, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and UNICEF.

It’s been quite the half-week in news. US strikes in Syria, terrorist attacks in Stockholm and then Cairo, and now a shooting at a school in San Bernadino, California.

Chances are your students may be feeling a bit on edge.

Here are some resources that we’ve found to help process violence with students, whether that violence takes place in schools, in the community, or in the world at large.

Next, student stress: what it is, what it can do, and how we can help students mitigate it in their lives, whether in the classroom or out in the world.

How do we deal with this? There are certainly times when taking direct action is the way to go, as Eva can attest. But what can we do when the burnout creeps in, life throws a few more stressors your way, and your entire family gets sick all at once (see: Emily)?

We’ve collected some resources that may be helpful in those burnout moments–some that can be done with students, and others that might be helpful to take on yourself.

Finally, talking politics and how educators can support students in both strong, analytical discussions while also helping them strengthen their empathy.

From the CS Monitor, here’s an article about teachers addressing politics in the classroom. Entitled, Teachers’ new Catch-22: Students want to talk politics, but their parents don’t, it offers anecdotes from teachers about what they’re encountering right now, and profiles two resources for building empathy in students.

 

 

Oral History Resources: StoryCorps

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Maybe you’ve heard their snippets that pop up from time to time on NPR shows. Maybe you’ve seen the booth somewhere and wondered. Maybe you’ve even spent some time in there, in conversation with a loved one.

If none of these hypotheticals are true for you, you’ve got a major treat in store.

StoryCorps mission is, in their own words:

StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.

For educators, the site is a treasure trove of materials. From a community college perspective, when Emily was helping students conduct oral history projects, a few resources in particular were invaluable.

  1. Great Questions. There are pages upon pages of questions here, organized by general subject area, that you might want to ask as you conduct an interview. Categories include “Growing Up,” “School,” “Family Heritage,” “War,” and “Great Questions for Anyone.” Not doing an oral history project with your own students? These may very well be useful in the classroom in a lot of different contexts, whether in ice breaker games or as a way to “interview” a fictional character.
  2. The Stories tab is an excellent place to begin if you’re introducing students to the whole concept of oral history or interviewing. Here you’ll find a curated sample of oral histories recorded in the StoryCorps booths. At the time of posting, there are stories up about garbage men, Japanese internment camps, adoption, and trans children. One that caught our eye this time around is titled “I Never Planned on Being a Leprechaun.” In Emily’s experience, nothing else helped students begin to understand the value of taking oral histories–and the responsibilities that go with it–better than hearing others doing just that.
  3. The StoryCorps app. Maybe one of the best ways for non-professionals to interview others, you can use the StoryCorps app to plan, record, and archive your interview to the Library of Congress. Yes, archive–they are collecting stories, and yours can be one of them. Find the app here.

And there’s no need to have an immediate classroom use for any of this. We can testify that it’s completely possible to spend hours just listening to the material that’s here, free for all to access.

 

Storytelling

We’ve been musing about the direction Small Stones should take and one avenue we’re pursuing and deepening is storytelling. By that, we mean first-person narratives with a focus on the topics and themes we’ve been blogging about: discrimination, bias, racism, prejudice, and also the tools available to confront these.

Frequent readers will remember some of our oral history posts, including Oral History: An Introduction and Oral History: A Community College Assignment.

As we start developing interviews, we’ll share some resources pertaining to the storytelling process.

Today’s are from The Moth, a storytelling program that’s one of our favorite podcasts. First, three values The Moth promotes, which we offer in the spirit of “food for thought”.

  • We believe that processing experience through narrative can provide insight and agency
  • We believe that listening to stories can widen our perspective and help us realize what we have in common.
  • We believe that a community is strengthened when its members share stories with one another.

And next, some concrete tips for storytelling from The Moth. Keep in mind that The Moth is interested in oral story telling with a particular format, so some of the tips are specific to the genre.

“What to do

“Have some stakes: Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story. A story without stakes is an essay and is best experienced on the page, not the stage.
Start in the action.

“Have a great first line that sets up the stakes and grabs attention: No: “So I was thinking about climbing this mountain. But then I watched a little TV and made a snack and took a nap and my mom called and vented about her psoriasis then I did a little laundry (a whites load) (I lost another sock, darn it!) and then I thought about it again and decided I’d climb the mountain the next morning.” Yes: “The mountain loomed before me. I had my hunting knife, some trail mix and snow boots. I had to make it to the little cabin and start a fire before sundown or freeze to death for sure.”

“Know your story well enough so you can have fun!: Watching you panic to think of the next memorized line is harrowing for the audience. Make an outline, memorize your bullet points and play with the details. Enjoy yourself. Imagine you are at a dinner party, not a deposition.”

“…and what not to do

“Steer clear of meandering endings: They kill a story! Your last line should be clear in your head before you start. Yes, bring the audience along with you as you contemplate what transpires in your story, but remember, you are driving the story, and must know the final destination. Keep your hands on the wheel!

“No standup routines please: The Moth loves funny people but requires that all funny people tell funny stories.

“No rants: Take up this anger issue with your therapist, or skip therapy and shape your anger into a story with some sort of resolution. (Stories = therapy!)

“No essays: Your eloquent musings are beautiful and look pretty on the page but unless you can make them gripping and set up stakes, they won’t work on stage.

“About that (fake) accent: If your story doesn’t work in your own voice, or that of your people of origin, please consider another story. In our experience, imitating accents from another culture or race rarely works and often offends.”

By way of a bonus, here’s a recent broadcast from The Moth: Pam Burrell’s “My Unlikely Brothers“. Click the story name to re-direct to the story, which doesn’t have embed capability.

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(P. Burrell image by Jessica Taves courtesy of The Moth; featured moth image from“[Planches enluminées d’histoire naturelle” (1765) via Flickr.)

Oral History Resources: Voice of Witness

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Over here at Small Stones, we are busy with our own oral history project (come talk to us!), and one place we love to go for resources is Voice of Witness. Today, here’s a look at what they offer for educators.

First up: a webinar series on conducting oral history projects with students. Registration is required, but resources are available to check out now. We particularly like the resource guide “Listen Up: How to Plan Your Oral History Project.” At the top of the PDF is a list of excellent examples of other projects, notably some from high school students.

Also available, as a free download (or for purchase as a physical book): a teacher’s guide, The Power of the Story. You’ll find curricular material that can be used with Voice of Witness’s oral history collections, material that stands alone, and guides to creating your own oral history project.

From the foreword, written by William Ayers and Richard Ayers:

Oral history can be a truly revolutionary pedagogy. Because the work is propelled by questions instead of answers, it liberates students from the dull routines of passively receiving predigested in- formation. Instead, they become actors in constructing history and contributing substantively to the trajectory of the curriculum. They invent and experience the method of science, proposing explana- tions of the world, and then investigate to test the truth or to modify their explanations.

Students can approach the work as artists, filled with creativity and inventiveness, generative mistakes and sparkling epiphanies. Teachers can learn to take an attentive and supportive backseat, after sufficient preparation, and watch democratic education emerge from projects that the students themselves have learned to own. Through these projects, the stories that have been hidden, sup- pressed, and ignored begin to take center stage, and the real dimensions of one’s community and its struggles burst forth and grab the mic. This is why oral history, in form and content, can become a central project of social justice in our classrooms.

Finally, if you’d like your training in person, and you are able to be in San Francisco, consider VOW’s Annual Summer Oral History Training. We certainly are.

 

Discussing Violence, in School and out

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It’s been quite the half-week in news. US strikes in Syria, terrorist attacks in Stockholm and then Cairo, and now a shooting at a school in San Bernadino, California.

Chances are your students may be feeling a bit on edge.

Here are some resources that we’ve found to help process violence with students, whether that violence takes place in schools, in the community, or in the world at large.

Colorín colorado has a good 15-item list for talking with children about violence in schools, but we think the tips could work for discussing violence that takes place in many  different settings. Bonus: at the bottom of the post are links to resources in eleven different languages: English, Spanish, Korean, French, Vietnamese, Amharic, Chinese, Portuguese, Somali, Arabic, and Kurdish-Bahdini. We also appreciate the citation of the  National Association of School Psychologists’ age-specific tips:

Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.

Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.

Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a PDF with information about talking with children about war. They note in particular that certain groups of students may need more care and attention when dealing with these subjects:

  • Some children might be particularly vulnerable to anxiety and distress during a time of war. This includes children of refugee or immigrant families; children with depression, anxiety, or other mental health needs; and children who have experienced prior trauma or loss. For children who have experienced prior losses, anxiety about war could result in increased worries about separation. Children with histories of trauma could experience a resurgence of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, it is important for parents and school personnel to keep in mind children’s vulnerabilities in understanding their response to concern about war and to consider any extra needs they may have.

We highly recommend this resource from UNICEF, Talking with Children about War and Violence in the World. It’s got great information and suggestions, and it provides these through a Q/A format, highlighting questions that a teacher or other adult might have.

12. How can I talk with children if I feel that my own grasp of the facts and issues is inadequate?

Fortunately, we don’t need to be experts or know all the facts about something in order to listen to children. The questions of very young children seldom require complicated technical answers. When older children ask for information we don’t have, it is fine to say something like, “That’ s an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer. How can we find that out together?” The process of figuring out where to get the information, and going through the steps to obtain it, can be a powerfully reassuring experience for children, especially when a trusted adult participates with them…

(Fair to say that this particular question is frequently our response to a lot of what’s going on in the world today, and it’s always helpful to us to have concrete tips for what to do when you have no idea where to begin.)