There’s nothing that can inspire and inform quite like a good story. The most promising school practices are based on solid evidence and engrossing stories can expand the reach of these practices. Stories engage us, stay with us, help us make meaning of data, and connect us to the people and ideas behind a practice. By listening to stories, children and adults alike build empathy, deepen understanding, and learn.
In her TED Talk How Your Brain Responds to Stories — and Why They’re Crucial for Leaders, former Fortune 500 executive Karen Eber explains how storytelling affects our decision-making — describing the equal importance of data and storytelling and calling the balance of those two elements “a power ballad.”
Sharing stories can also help us move toward greater equity and inclusion. When we read others’ stories, we practice perspective-taking and consider our own goal-setting. Research suggests that these activities might move the needle to undo bias and by changing organizational practices. And as another TED Talk, on The Danger of a Single Story, by author by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, reminds us, multiple stories — told from multiple points of view — create a more complete and accurate understanding of an experience.
WestEd’s goal with this audio gallery is to inspire and illuminate how schools across the country can promote social and emotional well-being, connection, and equity for all students, educators, and families — through specific, compelling, and actionable real-world examples that blend story and data. These stories span the many conditions that educators must attend to as they foster whole-person learning and development — including the personal conditions that ensure individual health and well-being, the safe and supportive school environments and relationships that protect and enable learning, and the system-level community conditions within and beyond education that anchor and reinforce learners’ development over time.
We hope that this balance of evidence and stories — our social-emotional power ballad — will inspire listeners to take action in their own school communities to better the learning and lives of our children and youth.
The strategies you’ll hear in this audio gallery are data driven and evidence based and are brought to life through the words of and from the perspectives of the storytellers — school leaders, their teams, and in one case, a student.