Page 1

Storytelling And Storytellers

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno

Newsletter

vol. VIII no. 1

September 1978


First published in 1978. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1978-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-295-4 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com


In spite of its title, this issue of our Newsletter is still concerned with education. If our readers express their liking for such feature articles, we will occasionally include some in future issues. We invite our subscribers to influence our editorial policy. We are expressly asking them to let us know whether they would welcome reports or ad hoc interviews arranged so as to produce copy on topics such as “Who really cares about education?” or “Can I really help my students if I see them as Piaget does?” or “is there a kind of research in education that can truly influence its course?” and so on. A line we have pursued, but think may become monotonous, is one that tells at once what each issue concentrates on. We published issues with the titles, “On Mistakes,” “On Literacy,” “On Evaluation,” etc. We could go on and prepare issues “On Research,” “On Creativity,” “On Problem Solving” and on some other topics. We could also change our pattern. May we hear suggestions? A teacher who has learned something which we believe is vital, contributes an article in this issue. The News Items keep you informed on what we are doing corporately that we believe is of interest to you.


Table of Contents

Storytelling And Storytellers ................................................ 1 A Teacher’s Reflections......................................................... 9 News Items ......................................................................... 13 Press Time ........................................................................................22


Storytelling And Storytellers

In considering storytellers, we have as models authors like Maupassant, who told their stories in writing, or the written versions of the tales of the troubadours and the Arabian Nights. If we use these models to know what makes a good storyteller, we may find some answers. If we want to be good storytellers, we may be discouraged in trying to produce something which is comparable to these works. My career as a storyteller goes back quite a number of years. I remember when I was 8, while sitting on the steps of my school waiting for the doors to open, I would start telling stories to some of the other children who also arrived there early. What I was doing was speaking to myself, about my imagination, before an audience. When I had children of my own to entertain, I began telling stories more systematically, and looking at the phenomenon of storytelling as a problem for myself. Because I had read and enjoyed many stories I could look back and see what made them good. I incorporated the conclusions to which I came into my experimental work as a conscious storyteller. I carried out quite a number of experiments with my children’s friends and with children in the schools where I worked. One of the experiments I conducted was to take a group of children between the ages of 2 and 12 and have them sit together around me, I told myself, “I am going to work in such a way that I will keep all these people interested. First I am going to do things that will interest everybody. Then I am going to do things deliberately so that they will drop out one

1


Storytelling And Storytellers

by one.” This was a test for me of whether I was in contact with what I call “interest.” The little ones, the 2 year olds, are the easiest to distract since, while other people are interested in many things, what matters most to them is very definite and doesn’t extend over huge areas of experience. I knew that I would lose the interest of the little ones at once if I didn’t know what they were doing with themselves while listening and what I had to do accordingly. So I made one experiment after another and came to some conclusions that may provide insights to students of the field of storytelling. To be a good storyteller for very young children, one has to live at the level of perception. Making noises, syncopating, introducing certain rhythms and certain alternations, are all elements which one must incorporate into the telling of the story to make sure the children stay with one. Because they can easily be with the dimension of sensations and perceptions, the story does not need much of a plot, but instead the subject, a fly for example, can make some movements such as dancing or jumping around. This can be dramatized with one’s fingers, the fly moving clumsily at times while emitting a little noise, and gracefully, at other times, while keeping quiet. The audience becomes transfixed by one’s gestures and one’s lips, anticipating the sounds which may or may not come. This can go on for an hour if one knows how to integrate these devices, which, though not apparently part of the story, keep the children spellbound. I found that by taking on large groups (up to 60) which included very young children, I could teach myself a great deal about storytelling that many good storytellers must have by endowment. My concern, keeping all my listeners interested, was in a way unrelated to storytelling itself, but involved instead my being in contact with the dynamics of the people. The by-product of my study of what makes a good storyteller may have been a good story, but my focus was on the listeners. In the case of the Arabian Nights, there was only one caliph to be entertained and it was a very specific challenge to entertain him when he got bored so easily, and to discover what sort of thing would keep him wanting to be with the entertainer night after night. The important thing I discovered about storytelling — and it applies to storytellers as

2


Storytelling And Storytellers

well — is that one must get straight to the message of the story. There must be a message (not necessarily religious or psychological message) so that the person who gives his time to listen is changed forever. When I was 5 or 6, my family had a maid who, after doing her share of the housework, would have us children sit around her on the carpet. I remember that she always spoke of love and, although I don’t know what she said, there was something in her voice which I still recall that assures me that her story was genuine. She was talking from the source, telling us things that mattered to her. Being an adolescent she was talking of love. For us it was all mysterious, all wrapped up in the darkness of emotion. She was telling us things about love that seemed fantastic, terrific even though we had no intellectual access to them or experiential basis for knowing them. Her voice was so rich and so genuine that I could not resist being there, hanging onto every word. When later I studied the troubadours, it seemed likely that they did for the grownups of their time what this girl had done for us children, that was, giving us as nourishment the substance of fantasy (which in her case, was, most likely, not as developed as that of the professional storyteller). Since we did not have the fantasy of love in our experience, we had to invent it to have it as part of our engagement in life. She was talking of her life, of her desires, of her wishes, of her evocations which were, by their transcendental quality, capable of inspiring us. Therefore, I acknowledge a debt to this anonymous storyteller, who allowed me to be connected with the state of storytelling, in which what one does sounds real to others, although it may be fantastic. There is authenticity of experience in the Arabian Nights. The stories are all fantasy but because of man’s endowment, the stories can happen in the imagination, which is not a thing, but is an attribute of the mind, a component of the self, something one carries within oneself. If one can be moved to build images for the words suggested by a storyteller’s art, one can know that there is a fountain of knowledge in one that is being activated and that this source that generates more and more in one is the origin of one’s attention. It is the means by which one becomes and remains interested. To get interested, one must hear things that are akin to one’s dynamics, that are a part of one’s functionings. If one has not activated these things in oneself, one is

3


Storytelling And Storytellers

grateful when someone else does it for one and does it in such a way that it is pleasurable, smooth, exciting and allows one to live, by proxy, an experience of distress or sorrow or sympathy — the things that make up the keyboard on which the storyteller operates. Knowing that the range of emotions exists in him, the storyteller goes out to see whether it exists in others. If he finds that they respond, he knows that it does and he goes on playing variations. What I do in my stories is to provide what might be called realism and fantasy, fantasy that is compatible with reality. In my story “Madcap in the Clouds,” there are scenes that are entirely fantastic, that demand that the reader accept certain things. For example, how could a girl dance on a cloud? Once the reader has accepted that he is in a scene in which a cloud has the required consistency and that there is a girl who is lighter than that cloud, the axiom that makes all the upcoming events seem likely is provided. When Madcap dances on the cloud and then picks up a bit of it to make herself a veil, the reader does not object, because clouds and veils have common attributes. Then, because the cloud has a small area, Madcap, to avoid falling off, manages to pile up from the cloud low walls around it. Since everyone knows that on the roofs of houses there are elevated boundaries to keep people from falling off, the realism of this fantastic situation comes through. Later in the story, when the big birds who live very high in the atmosphere come, (they don’t have weight and don’t need to fly) they stand on the wall and Madcap dances for them. There is a dialogue between this city girl who has managed to go to the clouds to dance and these “owners of space” each of whom is different from the other. The vulture lives as a scavenger, the eagle is an isolated king and the ravens and other birds have various familiar characteristics. When Madcap asks the vulture to tell her what he does with his life, he is ashamed to say, bringing in another element of realism. It is a small thing, but has an appeal of its own. Later still, this girl feels hungry — another example of realism. She is awakened to the reality of “Where am I? I’m on the clouds, away from all kitchens, from all food. How can I get down?” She arranges one so that the cloud is changed into a spiral that descends and she hangs onto one end bringing it down while the other end, the ring of the cloud walls, remains in the sky. The reader can see the generation of the spiral staircase unfolding itself as Madcap

4


Storytelling And Storytellers

comes down, down, down until finally she reaches the streetcar power lines. I always blend the commonplace, the familiar with an uplifting quality of the imagination. Putting them together is not a random choice. They are what makes a good story. Those who are gifted create stories, then write them and then are finished with them. For those who make them (as I do) in order to study the functionings of the imagination, they are instruments of study. When one looks at my stories one may ask “Why do these things, which don’t seem to be essential to the mood of the story, appear?” The answer is that I have put in things which I knew would fascinate young children because they fascinated me. For instance, I remember seeing a chocolate bar wrapper on which there was a drawing of a child holding a chocolate bar covered with … and so on. An artist’s imagination had produced this wrapper, but when I held one in my hand, it made me dream. Having been under the spell of that image, I used it many years later to generate interest in others. I created a story in which two children were playing in a castle and one of them constructed a model of the same castle and then, using the model, produced a story which was the recreation of something that he had experienced and which had been told to us in the beginning of the story. So there are certain devices the storyteller can learn to employ. I can name some of the qualities one must have in order to increase one’s chances of having a story that works, but it is also possible that the knowledge I can provide serves for nothing if the imagination and other gifts that the troubadours had are not present. There is a science of storytelling, but it can only be discovered through the telling and examination of stories. Of the hundreds of stories I have invented, only a few have been gathered and published, but they all share this dual nature of being realistic and fantastic. One is not sufficient without the other if the goal is to hold the attention of various populations. Besides looking at my own stories, I also examined love stories like Tristan and Isolde and other troubadour stories. They all have the quality of affecting the reader for the rest of his life. They bring out in the reader an awareness of something that is vital for living a life of

5


Storytelling And Storytellers

love. Whether this is experienced by everyone in the same way, I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t have to feel scholarly when talking of certain things to find emerging in my speech the events that I lived 50 or 60 years ago when I was reading those stories. They come back because of their dynamics, because of their reality, because of their truth. When I collected my dreams and examined their contents, I found, on occasion, the sword that was lying between Tristan, a knight, and Isolde, the King’s wife, when they were caught sleeping naked in the woods. That sword, which Tristan would never have put between them if they had had a physical relation, was a symbol of chivalry and honor, woven into the midst of the love story. I know that it comes back to me because it was a powerful thing. People looking at the story today might not regard the sword as having any significance, or they might be puzzled that the theme of honor was given such an important place. This is because when we read stories whose symbolism is not ours, we experience another psyche. Such is the case with the Arabian Nights when we read them not for the story, but for the immensity of the symbolic wealth of a population different from the Western one. If their symbolism is not ours, we can look at it and ask, “Am I in contact with the collective unconscious? Is it because archetypes exist that the stories of Mesopotamia are capable of generating such emotion or turmoil or delight in me?” When we look at some of the stories which have an erotic character we could say eroticism is universal and that therefore the storytellers are playing on something which guarantees success. As soon as we start telling a story which has some erotic components, most people will listen. We could call it a device for telling stories and it is, but that doesn’t necessarily make the best stories. There are other qualities which the writer selects from his background and brings out in his stories. One of my stories, “The Singing Jugs” was generated when I read a poem of Omar Khayyam and was struck by one verse in which the hero, who is drunk, says, “if you mix the powder of my bones with your clay, you will make singing jugs.” This verse struck me as being capable of making a very good story, so I used it. Because I read the poem in 1942, I am not sure of the exact words, but the story that came to me expands on them. The story is about the role

6


Storytelling And Storytellers

of belief in our life, about someone who believed that the words above could be true, but did not know how to decide whose bones to mix with clay. That is, his belief appeared to be foolish, but at the same time perhaps it was not foolish, since no one knows everything. The story allows the main character, who believed he could, to find the eventual solution. Since the drunk said “My bones,” and not “anyone’s,” only his bones would do. The main character of my story faced the dilemma of “If I am to produce singing jugs, I must mix the powder of his bones with my clay.” Both that belief and his conscience were at work and so there was turmoil in the hero. The problem was solved when a young girl suggested to him that rather than murdering the drunk, he should go to the graveyards, have the cemetery guard point out which was the grave of a well-known drunk, and dig up those bones. So finally, the hero is rid of the conflict and can grind bones without committing a murder. He quickly prepares the jugs, and, without even testing whether they work, goes to the place in the village where he first heard the statement and proclaims, “Singing jugs! Singing jugs!” But when the people come to buy them and to drink from them, they find that they are ordinary jugs. The bones and clay had not produced the miraculous singing jugs, and the crowd which had gathered is about to go wild when a drunk comes out of a nearby tavern, takes a jug and pours the contents of his bottle into it. It sings. That is how the story ends. Where do themes and images come from? What are the dynamics in the storyteller? What does a particular person do with the seeds that are brought to the mind by one’s sensitivities, gifts and interests? All these questions may concern people who want to experiment in the field of writing. It is possible that anybody can become a good storyteller by being a scientist of storytelling — I don’t know! In my case, I never considered that it was a special gift to have an imagination, since mine worked. I did not consider that telling stories required a special education. Because I told them and preferred to tell a different one each time, rather than repeating the same one, I told more and more stories, and made myself into someone who has a huge spectrum of stories, perhaps wider than that retained in the Arabian Nights. As to whether these stories are worth perpetuating and publishing, I don’t know. I told stories because my life gave me this opportunity and, once engaged in the telling, being a psychologist of 7


Storytelling And Storytellers

consciousness, I studied what I was doing, experimenting with different techniques. One particular experiment involved two friends, a seven year old girl and a seventy year old man. When I told a story to the seven year old and her friends, and got the criteria from them that it was good, I would tell it to the seventy year old (a physicist versed in literature) to know his response. When he responded in the same way as the seven year old, I would know that I had a story of universal appeal. I might have considered it as universal a priori, but my test was that the seventy year old had to be as spellbound as the seven year old. Sometimes he was unable to be critical or on his guard, and this moved him from where he was to where I wanted to take him. At the end he would say, “Well, that was something!” and, on one occasion he even said, “Goethe wouldn’t have hesitated about publishing this one! “ Testing myself in this way, I gained insights which good storytellers have as natural endowment. I provided myself with the techniques of which a storyteller makes use, his experience, his endowments, in order to produce a work of art. Since there are no rules in storytelling, I can create a story about anything. A storyteller can make his stories as wild as he likes (the troubadour stories and Arabian Nights are testimony to that). The storyteller in me provides the psychologist and educator in me with new laboratories, new techniques for study. At the same time, I get works of art in the stories and those listening get some education: that is, awareness that something is being changed in them. Can one really work and write for that? One cannot say that everything has to be educational. But this component is almost implicit in all that I do. Caleb Gattegno

8


A Teacher’s Reflections

In the course of Hindi workshops I, II, III (60 hours) that I gave in August, I found myself grow in an important way as a Silent Way teacher. I am putting it down on paper because I feel the exercise will help me remain in touch with what happened to me, and will give me an occasion to reflect upon my understanding — through my sensitivity — of some of the aspects of the Silent Way which were understood in the past mainly on an intellectual level. I have looked at my native language from the point of view of those who are to meet it for the first time. This has enabled me to see the varied alternatives in the presentation of the language. At the same time, it has alerted me to the restraint I must exercise. I realize that I must do my best to present the various aspects of the language clearly and carefully so that my students have a smooth entry into it. I was prepared to offer my students the widest possible entry into the language new to them. I knew it was right to have the students work on, practice and thus be sensitized to the sounds, structures, phrasing intonation and melody, before asking them to be involved in the meanings in the situations. I am convinced, as part of my preparation, that in this way the students have a chance of getting in touch with the essential aspects of a language, the aspects which permeate the whole of it. Because the Silent Way materials and techniques are available to me and I have some experience in their use, I can more or less (depending

9


Storytelling And Storytellers

on my competence) manage to have my students work towards forming their own criteria for functioning as learners and users of the new language. I can see to it that they relate to the materials in front of them and to the techniques of teaching I use, in ways which allow them to become independent of me and responsible for their learning. But this time, from the start, there was an additional element at work in me. Even though on the basis of my past experience and reflections I could see what kind of activities on my part would help my students learn, I was, somehow, keenly aware of the fact that I did not know how these people in my class were going to learn. The awareness “I do not know,” put me — in a very empirical sense — in a state of mind which asked me to be prepared to learn while I taught. Learning how each one of them was learning became an activity of mine as their teacher. I watched their learning as it took place. I became aware of the fact that the actual learning of each of my students was actually the “unknown” unfolding itself in front of me as time passed. Each moment became significant because at each moment, each of them showed me what each was doing with himself or herself in relation to the new language. I also got involved in watching what I was doing or could do to relate to what they were doing as learners. My awareness that meeting the unknown at each moment was an essential part of teaching, added a dynamic dimension to my knowledge of and experience in the use of the materials and techniques. There was a release of new energy in me and I felt in contact with “the spirit” of the Silent Way. In the past, I had found that as I gained more experience in the use of the Silent Way materials and techniques, my teaching improved, and my students learned better. This time I was vulnerable to the actual learning taking place and was willing to be guided in my teaching not only technically but on a level of interpersonal exchange with each of my students. I found that not only did my use of the techniques improve, but I functioned in a more wholesome manner as a teacher becoming instrumental in the learning process of the students. I still made a number of technical mistakes. But because I was aware that I was learning, I could detect my mistakes more easily, and I could

10


A Teacher’s Reflections

alter them more readily through actions which were in harmony with my students’ learning. I found that I was more at peace with my mistakes. With the focus on the students as learners, I discovered that they were mobilizing their will to act upon themselves and their functionings. They were, for example, working on their vocal apparatus to make the required changes in the muscle tone so that they could produce the required Hindi sounds. I noted that the students’ intelligence acted upon the input of impacts through their senses, made appropriate links between their various perceptions and thus gave meanings to words and statements they heard or read as they perceived the meanings in the situations. I watched them extend their minds and understand the meanings of the same words applied to extended situations under different lightings. Such observations led me to the insight that the learning process is the outcome of the (learner’s) energy acting upon itself to make certain specific forms of functionings available to oneself. Because I was in a state which allowed me to be responsive to my students learning, I found my teaching consisting of giving hints in terms of transformation of energy. Every time I transmitted energy, in the form of hints, and it was received, the students’ learning and functioning in Hindi was enhanced. At one end of the process there was the learning of each student unfolding at each moment. At the other, there was I in readiness to meet it as it unfolded, learning to be with it, and to respond to it so as to serve my students best. Every time these two ends joined I felt a release of energy which I know to be qualitatively different from the energy that stems from one’s competence based on previous knowledge and experience. I know I am going to go on reflecting upon my way of working as an experienced Silent Way teacher and the state of being which allowed me to be open and willing to respond to what actually took place, namely, the moment to moment learning of each of my students. By being in a state of “not knowing” I have learned in depth, what it means to be guided by students’ learning in one’s teaching. Shakti Gattegno

11


News Items

1 An eleven day seminar on Time took place in France, near Besancon from July 2nd to the 13th. Fifty-five people participated in 43 sessions lasting between 90 to 105 minutes each. The majority were teachers and French, but quite a number were neither. The seminar was given in French, was fully recorded and its main trends will be made into a book in that language to appear in about a year. The reason for including this seminar as a news item here is that the participants unanimously found it of great significance for their education and evolution. The format of intensive sessions on specific aspects of the theme provided enough time to make some headway on each and gave the opportunity to abandon matters that were found too difficult and take up alternative topics. In this way this long, uninterrupted seminar did not produce the usual sagging of interest generally encountered in prolonged seminars at about 2/3 of their duration. The leaflet announcing the seminar mentioned that the theme would be difficult and the work demanded made no promise of any particular yield for the effort. Moreover, it stated that perhaps at the end matters would be more confused than at the start. In the opening meeting on the 2nd, Dr. Gattegno, who was to lead the study, mentioned that in contrast with similar long seminars in the past, this seminar was not concerned with something definite and on which we could all begin as if we had already reflected on it. The literature on the subject only stressed how little progress has been made in that field over the

12


Storytelling And Storytellers

centuries, in spite of our having learned how to make clocks and watches which at present measure durations with extreme accuracy. The first day the exercises we tried out were not very successful mainly because they were not very easy. To begin with we tried to distinguish “this moment” from “the time” on the clock at various places on earth. While the first concept seemed immediate — there was a meaning in which the whole universe was experiencing the absolute of this moment or this instant — a great effort and a lot of factual knowledge was needed to know what people were doing at that instant in say Sydney, Tokyo, Delhi or New York. The second exercise is concerned with the criteria for the various past tenses which exist in various languages. The whole session was needed to explain the question and the study had only one effect, to increase acquaintance between the members of the group; it did not give us any of the answers sought. The third exercise consisted in trying to find the relationship between music and time. No progress at all could be recorded here although it was obvious that they were related. One more exercise on that first day was also a flop. However unspectacular the results of that first day, the participants felt excited and elated by the magnitude of the subject. Although it was clear that time was an all pervading notion meshed into every happening in one’s life, it had escaped their conscious grasp. Now that grasp was felt as possible. From the second day on the work became much easier. In order to give a real basis to a grip on time, the obvious route was to study the attributes of time that appear at various places of one’s life. So during that second day, the four sessions were devoted to: 1) time in utero, 2) time of birth, 3) time and the vegetative life, 4) the time of perception.

13


News Items

Each of these periods of life in which the self is engaged in specific activities which require time, will contribute some attribute to the awareness of time, while integrating it with those of previous periods. A session was given to what learning to speak contributes to time. Another to what action can contribute. Another to what can be brought by a conscious involvement in one’s affective life. Another to the role of absolutes as these had been unfolded in the seven previous sessions, ending the third day. The fourth day was devoted to the study of time as it appears to the scientist, the intellectualist. The time that is imposed by experience on earth: days and nights, seasons, years and how the mind studies them and extracts from them a uniform time that can be objectified in clocks. Cosmic time is the time known by all dwellers of the universe but only expanded in words by man. This cosmic time becomes man’s time as a result of looking at the content of the environment. We studied biological time as it is known by plants and animals and through the mystery of hibernation, or in bird migration and other temporal involvements in those kingdoms. The fifth day was taken up by the study of the collective sense of time under the guises of social time, of historical time and of time as a commodity for sale if not purchase. During the sixth day the study of time as it could be found in sleep, in dreams, in contrast between sleep and wakefulness, in routine and intense experiencing, contributed new lights unsuspected thus far. The seventh day was given to looking at what the theory of relativity and that of evolution have contributed to our understanding of time. In particular, what were we to understand by “the cosmic bang took place some fifteen to twenty billion years ago.” Relativity and evolution as new lights on our thinking on time. In particular the evolution of evolution. On the last three days the seminar took up questions in which the gains of the previous 29 sessions could be tested and applied. Cultural time, the times of the various civilizations, what qualifies people to say they are contemporaries, the connections of time and space, why aging, the transformation of time into experience, the responsibility for one’s time, the cost in time of learning and the possibility of accelerating growth. Of course, many

14


Storytelling And Storytellers

aspects of time were not even touched upon in such a short succession of short studies and everybody knew that the seminar had only been a beginning. A happy and intense preoccupation with one of the most neglected components of our lives, a period of knocking down walls and opening vistas that everyone considered very important. During the seminar, time had been given in particular at feedback sessions to what the participants had learned about working together, working in small groups, acquiring instruments of study and reaching particular awarenesses. The discipline of the group was sufficient for almost every one of the participants to be present almost all the time of every session and to contribute spontaneously and responsibly as often as possible. People spoke who usually only listened. People listened to each other and heard much more every day. The value of the work done in everybody’s case was specific, personal, individual but still almost everyone could say, “I too experienced this” when some words were heard as they were expressed by someone else. The fact that so much attention had been dedicated to a neglected study, gives this event in France a wider value yet than another international meeting. But the fact that it involved fifty-five ordinary men and women and made them contribute spontaneously a considerable uplift in their own education, is, no doubt of much greater value. Well approached, any challenge, however profound, can become the daily substance of people’s reflection and contribute to changing us into users of our endowments. *** Our 1978-79 brochure announces a course On Time taking place over 6 weekends. These seminars on the first weekend of the months from October to March will provide a chance to study in New York City topics of importance. 2 “The Common Sense of Teaching Reading and Writing” will only appear in late Spring of 1979. In order to give some guidance to teachers of English involved in teaching spelling, Chapter 6 has now been made available as a separate publication and as a restricted 15


News Items

printing for $3.00 a copy. In this chapter there are two parts, one providing as thorough a study of what is involved in becoming a good speller in the classroom as is needed by teachers, and one giving a variety of activities which permit everyone to do so. Because this chapter can be read independently of the many others in the body of the book, it was possible to extract it and make it into a separate publication. It will also give an idea of the kind of material included in the forthcoming book meant to help English teachers. 3 Our test marketing of the Spelling Kit has been most encouraging. We knew we had a very valuable way of helping students in their study of the Spelling of English and of helping teachers in preparing courses for that area. Now a considerable number of teachers know it as well as we do. We are going to make a very special effort to reach as many of those who need the instruments we are providing so that a very specific problem in education is dealt with adequately and perhaps definitively. Our readers can assist us in this community project by alerting teachers to the existence of the Kit and also of Chapter 6 “On Spelling,” mentioned above. We could add that we are looking for help in presenting our Spelling Kit to neighborhood schools situated all over this vast country. Retired teachers ready to involve themselves in this collective solution of the problem of spelling should write to us about terms for such a cooperation. We think it is an easy job, worthwhile and rewarding. 4 The mini charts are now out and available. Produced for the students in the fields of reading and of ESL they form two distinct sets, both corresponding to the new editions of the classroom materials we published last year. 1) The ESL student’s kit includes four cards (or mini charts) one reproducing in color the 8 Fidel Charts and three reproducing (also in color) all of the twelve Word Charts. A key for the Fidel and some exercises with the Word Charts form part of the package. 2) The Words in Color student’s kit, formed of six cards, reproduced in color, one card for the Fidel and five of

16


Storytelling And Storytellers

them containing four each of the twenty Word Charts of the classroom set. A key to the Fidel is also included. Some notes on the use of the charts for more advanced students are available upon request. 5 We received from some of our readers a response to the announcement of our intention to not reprint the first text on the Silent Way, “Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools.” Since it is a book that first appeared in 1963 and was reprinted with very few alterations in 1972, we believed that the new text, “The Common Sense of Teaching Foreign Languages,” was the text teachers needed. Apparently, it looks as if we are not in touch with the public on this matter. Our reprinting the book or not depends on the chance it has of being read and of serving the profession. We shall revise our decision if we get some indication that it is still a useful text, and make available a reprint in a few months’ time. 6 English Language Classes Our language school will be offering intensive and extensive courses of English for speakers of other languages at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Our expanded staff can take care of individual and group needs and tailor the courses to the customer’s needs and purposes. Because we use the powerful instruments of the Silent Way and the video tape series, we obtain results that please the most demanding students. In particular our work on the student’s pronunciation of English has been considered as truly spectacular. Because our approaches to the problems of pronunciation are scientific we find the means of involving students in a permanent awareness of what they need to do to be uttering words like the natives do. 7 The summer courses at our headquarters have given many people proof that studying with us in New York can be an unforgettable singular experience. As usual, most of what happens to us that is really valuable appears to be ineffable, but many of those who spent weeks with us were able to articulate in precise, and moving terms where they had taken themselves. Since the basis of all our teaching at Educational Solutions is that only awareness can be educated, in almost all cases people find themselves aware of universes of experience (some of them

17


News Items

new) although the workshops were all technical and orientated towards acquiring skills. In particular in our language courses (Spanish, French and Hindi) the participants, who took the 60 hours in any of the three languages, were certain that they learned a great deal more than to function with some ease in one of those languages. They were excited and contained at the same time, because they felt expanded by the activities while the spirit of the language opened unexpected universes of experience. Meeting one’s intuition, the work of one’s intelligence as one has little chance of doing ordinarily, serves as a reminder that one has not finished growing, that one can grow, and is growing here and now. Although the vocabulary encountered in the 60 hours remained restricted, the participants did not feel when attempting to express themselves that it was a handicap. By simply remaining within certain bounds they felt free. Someone, at one of the feedback sessions, aptly stated: he experienced the freedom that results from the blending of discipline, intelligence and relaxation. Good language learning also results from that state of freedom. Good language learning became a bonus added to one’s growth in awareness, as well as the other way around. The two week long seminars, one in July and one in August, which Dr. Gattegno led, were essentially technical events. In the first, the twenty participants were taken through the experience of adapting to seven new languages among other experiences like being a linguist and knowing oneself as such; being a learner of one’s mother tongue; being swifter at learning every time a new language was presented; retaining a great deal very easily. In the second, only English was studied, in fact while studying the teaching of English as a second language, English was being looked at. And not in any conventional way. Simply through the eyes and ears of non-English speaking people. The discovery of one’s language is already a mighty experience. Its discovery in precise terms as well as in its extensive dimensions, uplifted the group. The participants met many surprises in this kind of study of their language and saw that it was a lifelong occupation.

18


Storytelling And Storytellers

A week long seminar on reading and one on mathematics gave the participants so much to work on in the future that they felt the need to come again to enjoy mathematics as was never possible before, or to look at reading through Words in Color as the revelation of one’s mother tongue. It appeared beautiful, supple, flexible, adequate and more than that, the instrument to capture what is subtle and to learn to talk about it. 8 The Advanced Silent Way Seminars this summer were given in the order 3, 1, 2. The first completed a 1, 2, series of last winter and spring, and the other two started a new series to be completed next spring. Because it is assumed that those participating in these workshops are familiar with the Silent Way techniques and materials, the 20 hours of each course are devoted to some aspects of the science of education that yield new awareness in the field of language teaching. In particular, the study of “The Facts of Awareness,” a text handed to the participants on arrival, serves to widen the vision of each person as a student of many universes — language being one of them. Invariably struck by what each of us has accomplished in one’s life by learning so much so well, and often so quickly, the participants find themselves prepared to meet their students as competent learners and to give them many more chances of enjoying their schooling. Looking closer at the relationship of teacher to learner is also part of the Advanced Study Seminars. In #2, some time was given to the understanding of what is meant by: “grant your students everything they own as learners, but as teachers never take anything for granted.” The scrutiny of “remembering” as contrasted with “retaining” gave an opportunity to examine the role of memory in learning as well as what one thinks it is. “The payment of ogdens” is part of this study. Those who have seen how effective the techniques of the Silent Way are always welcome those studies in depth which change their vision of their own work and give to the subordination of teaching to learning its true meaning. It becomes then possible to see why so many techniques and such differing materials have been offered in the Silent Way. Such 19


News Items

insights are not available to people who go to Silent Way seminars that only aim at making them acquainted with this approach to language teaching. The Advanced Silent Way student rolls have now reached over one hundred names and include names of people who are found in many parts of the world. In a few years’ time the Silent Way will be represented everywhere by very competent people who know what they are doing and why. This will save the Silent Way from becoming a fad and will guarantee its future growth as a scientific approach to language teaching. 9 Kuo Shiow-Ley, our colleague, went for the two months of July and August to the Orient and Hawaii as we announced in the previous Newsletter. Her Chinese classes in Daka (levels 1, 2, 3 sixty hours) were received with great interest by 32 enthusiastic students. Japanese have the problem not known to, say, Americans, of knowing a number of the Chinese characters adopted from that language which trigger in them very different sounds. In spite of this obstacle, they managed to move swiftly and to acquire a great deal of the language in their 60 hour course. After a lecture in Tokyo, Shiow-Ley went to Honolulu to give a 40 hour Silent Way week long course with English as a second language as the main challenge to work on. There too an enthusiastic group allowed exploration of a considerable area, including the techniques and materials of the Silent Way as they appear in ESL. Japan is a country where language learning ranks almost as a national pastime or hobby. Hawaii with its cosmopolitan society and its place as the East-West dialogue, is becoming more and more a testing ground for approaches to language learning and teaching with the Silent Way ranking among the top ones.

20


Storytelling And Storytellers

10 We can report on a 40 hour Arabic course given to a group of adults working in one of the major New York City banks whose jobs relate them to the Arab countries. Coming as it did after a long day’s work and lasting for four intensive hours during eight successive evenings, except Sunday, plus eight hours on Saturday, the course had chances of not being successful. Because of its use of the Silent Way and of the relaxation that goes with not having to remember what is being presented hour after hour, the students found to their amazement, that they retained a great deal and that Arabic was no longer a “foreign” language. Working in this way although novel, did not seem strange. The reasonableness of working through sounds, numeration and economy of memory via perceptible situations, appealed to all.

Press Time Since we received enough feedback from a number of acquaintances, we have decided to reprint “Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools: The Silent Way.” Copies will be available in 4 weeks’ time at $4.95 per copy.      

21


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.

www.EducationalSolutions.com

Storytelling And Storytellers  
Storytelling And Storytellers  

Newsletter, Vol. VIII No. 1, September 1978

Advertisement