Guidelines for three classroom workshops

Before the first workshop,
1. Read through these guidelines, paying special attention to the notes about collecting stories at the end: ” WHEN YOU ARE PREPARING TO GATHER, PRESENT AND DISCUSS NEW STORIES….”
2. Read “Use these stories to change the world!” (I) in the Methods menu at www.stories-exchange and respond on the Web page to at least five of the questions asked.
3. Ask a member of your family, a neighbour, or a friend to tell you a story about an experience which he or she has had in dealing with someone with a different ethnic background.
If you have a audiotape-recorder, record the story, type it, and bring a printed copy to the workshop.
During the first workshop,
1.In your own words, tell the story you have recorded and printed, and give the printed copy to the workshop leader.
2. Talk about everyone’s stories, asking questions similar to those in “Use these stories…”
3. Vote for the three most interesting stories.
4. If your story is chosen, spend a few minutes after the workshop with the workshop leader looking at your printed copy and deciding if any changes should be made before it is edited for posting on the project web page.
Before the second workshop,
1. Read and respond on the Web-page to at least three stories in the seven menus under Stories and Responses.
2. Tell a classmate a story about an experience of your own which took place in your school or in your local community and which one of the other stories discussed has helped you remember, and listen to a story of his or hers. Both of you should record each other’s stories, type and print them and bring them to the second workshop.
3. Visit another person in your family or neighbourhood, get another story and bring it to the second workshop.
During the second workshop,
1. Each person should choose one of the two stories which he or she has collected, present it orally, join the class in discussing it, and vote for three stories to be posted here at
2. In your discussion you should ask what problems in your school or local community each story depicts.
3. Choose together three or four of these problems and form four-member project teams to address them.
Before the third workshop,
1. Meet in smaller groups and discuss how each group can organize a small, manageable project in which people can begin to solve this problem by exchanging and discussing stories of each other’s experience.
2. Elect a spokesman who will present each project to the larger group.
3. Read, in Interviews at “Most people condemn things they know nothing about,” an interview with a teacher and students in Prague.
During the third workshop,
1. Discuss the projects as presented by the spokesmen for the smaller groups and ask team members further questions about the projects.
2. Assign another member of each team the responsibility of sending an email a week for at least three weeks to, telling about the progress of the individual local projects. The Project Director will respond to each email and post a report on each project on the Web-page for discussion by students throughout the world.
3. Discuss how the local problems addressed by team projects reflect global issues.
Remember, please, that in the Stories Exchange Project we are not interested in general cases. We are interested in particular people in particular circumstances.
It is very important to be there: this whole project is about being there.
1. You take responsibility, they take responsibility.
You have to agree with each teller that his or her story can be presented and talked about.
If they do not want their story to appear at with their name on it, you will have to go to someone else for a story.
You take responsibility, and the teller takes responsibility.
2. What do they look like? How do they speak?
Tell us about the people who tell you stories.
Are they tall or short, thin or fat?
Do they speak slowly and loud, fast, quietly?
About how old are they?
How do they walk, sit, talk?
3. Tell us where you are
Describe the space in which you meet the person.
When you go into someone’s living room or kitchen or garden or wherever you are, find some concrete detail that is unusual.
4. How do you feel…
… before you go to get a story from someone – and while you’re there, and after you leave?
Are you nervous before you go? Is this a person whom you know but have never talked with about what you’re prepared to talk about?
Or have you not met this person, and are feeling nervous or uncertain? Or are you feeling happy because you know the person and you have talked before about the things you are going to talk about? 5. What happens between you and the person telling the story?
Perhaps he or she resisted telling the story, and you had to persuade him or her to talk about whatever it was?
6. The story has a life of its own. It is born, it lives and grows – and then it stops.
A story occurs in separate moments: it is not just all one time. It goes from this point to that; it has a beginning, a middle and an end.
A story focuses on change. Something happens in it: something is different at the end than it was at the beginning.
And the meaning of a story comes from what happens. It is a changing vision.
One way of conveying that is through details of experience, a sound, something seen, something heard, some sense experience. Something that comes through your body.
When you are getting a story from a person, you have to get this information. You cannot invent it. You have to get them to tell the story in a way that conveys their experience, and your job is to carry that experience on to the rest of us in the Stories Exchange Project – and to many other people all around the world.
7. You GIVE the IMAGES to people. A story is alive only if it goes between people. So tell the story again before you write it down. Tell it to a friend, or tell it to one of the other members of your group or to your family: pass it on – and listen to it.
Because when you tell someone else a story it has to be good. You don’t want to have somebody say “Why are you taking my time with that? What’s it about?” So telling it over and over is a way of helping the story live.
This is theater, really: telling a story is a little performance.
And whether we are telling our own story or somebody else’s, it is about communicating the feeling and not letting anyone just sit there and play the distant, uninvolved spectator.We are trying to bring the people listening as close to the story as we can. That is our job. So we have to work on that: to bring out what is at the heart – the feeling center – of the story. It takes work, cutting away to what is essential, getting to the heart of it.
Robbie McCauley, the African-American playwright and performance artist who worked with us on the first run of the Stories Exchange Project in the Czech Republic, in 1994 and 1995 says something interesting in the video documentary on that part of the project [you can see excerpts from that under “Videos” here].
She is talking about what Ondrej Gina, the Director of the Romani National Congress in the Czech Republic and a leading participant in the Stories Exchange Project, said to her – and about how he said it:
“He said you go down – and he made a gesture as if he were going down inside himself – , and you bring up IMAGES and you GIVE them to people.”
So you do three things.
You go down inside yourself.
You bring up images.
And you give them to people.
It is as simple as that – and as difficult.
So much of our training is against us. So much of what we are taught says: “Don’t go inside; look outside, get your rules from someone else, from somewhere else.”
And IMAGES, not ideas.
We are trained to talk about ideas. “I think that…” We don’t begin many sentences, “I feel…” An image is something you see or you touch or you taste: something you experience.
So that is our second rule, which goes against most of the rules we are taught in school. Most schools try to teach you not to go inside but outside to a rule book of one kind or another and get your answers there.
And then the third thing is that you GIVE your images to people. You give whatever you find in there, these images, this experience. You GIVE that, you don’t keep it inside, you find out what it is and you give it to somebody else – as if you were giving them a piece of bread. Something for them to eat.
Telling a story is like giving a gift. Or like a mother giving a child something to eat.
And as for discussing stories, please note what we say in “Use these stories to change the world!”
A discussion creates a space in which you can
 — express your own thoughts;
 – get new and different ideas from your classmates;
 — make compromises.
And remember what is said in “People condemn what they know nothing about” in Interviews here by Irena Martinkova, the teacher at the Jan Patocka Grammar School in Prague who has led discussions of stories gathered by the Stories Exchange Project:
“My task is not to make conclusions but to learn to share ideas.
So we sit in a circle and I ask only one question which everybody has to answer.
And I try to make them listen to each other’s answers.”