A Lesson from American History

American history was one of the worst experiences of my educational career. What a shock it was to be hired as a middle school American history teacher! I cried the better part of a day wondering how to breathe life into a truly boring textbook.

Another history teacher sat with me as we planned the first unit together. I asked her, “How am I supposed to teach something I find so dull and lifeless?” She looked at me surprised and asked,”Aren’t you a storyteller? Why don’t you learn to tell the stories?”
A student’s mother led me to a glorious selection of books that lent me new perspectives and fuller stories than those found in the text. She introduced me to primary sources where human struggles and accomplishments leapt from the pages. That year I read more historical documents, historical fiction, and primary sources than I’d ever read. In turn, I shared my new found love for history with my students. Together we learned many lessons from history.
One of my favorite stories was a three-paragraph mention of Ethan Allen and The Green Mountain Boys taking Fort Ticonderoga with the help of Benedict Arnold. The men arrived to discover they couldn’t get to the cannons inside the fort due to the wall surrounding it. The men were perplexed as to how they would get the cannons over the wall. 
That’s when one of the men discovered the crack. By turning the crack into a hole, the men were able to go through the wall, obtain the cannons, and drag the very heavy cannons back to Boston.
As I gave the students Ticonderoga pencils to take their tests, I reminded them to remember the life lesson of The Green Mountain Boys. If you face a wall and you can’t get over it and you can’t crawl under it, look at that wall from a new perspective. Find the fault; find that crack. Crawl through that wall!
I taught American history for three years before turning to theatre and storytelling as my career. There are many times I find myself facing a challenge or the feeling of being stumped. I hit a wall. That is when I imagine Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and The Green Mountain Boys standing at the wall of Fort Ticonderoga. Certainly my little problem is not as difficult as getting a 4-ton cannon through a wall! 
When you can’t climb over and you can’t crawl under, find the weakness, create the opportunity, and claim your prize. 
Learn more about storytelling at www.carolknarr.com.