During 2011 and 2012 I studied for my Masters of School Leadership and focused my work on creating a new story for my previous school and dislodging deficit perceptions. The work was all encompassing and tireless but achieved good results and increased interest in the school. More information can be found on the website, The Power of Story, that I created as part of the course
The work was powerful and continues to resonate with me, not only in my professional life but also in my personal life. Stories build pictures, create a sense of meaning, clarify and explain more difficult concepts, and help to teach about ideas that are complex. However, when ideas, concepts and understandings are based on a single story, then what results can be problematic.
The problem of the single story is explained well by Chimamanda Adichie, a novelist, in her Ted Talk.
Whilst Adichie may talk about stereotyping in her talk I think that single stories can be found throughout our daily lives in a number of ways. Take for example how we communicate with people and share information online. Do we tell the whole story or just the bits we want to share whether it be positive or negative? Whilst they may all be true, do we pick and choose which parts fit best with the audience at the time? When asked about an issue, or even just a pleasantry, do we always give an edited answer or all the answer? Or do we respond the way that is seen to be appropriate and provide the information deemed so.
I’ve been thinking about this as I read my novel, Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, particular the chapter on Freud, where Alberto is talking to Sophie about rationalizing a response or explanation for an action or thought. “Another thing we can do is rationalize. That means that we do not give the real reason for what we are doing either to ourselves or to other people because the real reason is unacceptable,” (Gaarder, p 335). So then how does this impact on how we are perceived if we only give the safe or acceptable response?
As an educator and a leader, I am always checking in with what I say and how I say it. I am reflective but also aware of my impact on others. Out of work and during my personal life, am I also keeping a check on what I say and share? Do I create a picture of myself in a way that is acceptable to others? And does this then create a single story that disregards the many other facets that make me who I am? We all have our ups and downs and through social media, online and face to face communication we choose what we share, with whom and when. We create the story or the public profile. We create the single story.
So is there a danger in the single story?