44 reasons – interview with Victoria Gregor (10 May 2008)

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Introduction

In March 2008, out of the blue, I received a very lovely email from Victoria. She had come across the website and wrote to tell me she was impressed with the site. I followed through with this by asking her if she’d like to be interviewed. Her story and the 44 Reasons for Teaching Storytelling captured my interest most of all and without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, Victoria Gregor …


Aneeta: Victoria, thank you for sending me that first email and for agreeing to this interview.

Victoria: I am happy to answer your questions.

Aneeta: Please tell me a little about you. Where were you born? What did you grow up? What do you live now and what do you do for a living?

Victoria: I was born in the Fort George G. Meade, Maryland army base hospital and grew up in Odenton,Maryland.  When I was 8 years old, we moved to Baltimore, Maryland.

After getting married, I lived in Baltimore, Louisiana, and Washington D.C. When I became an Air Force wife, I lived in Washington State, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Simbach, Germany, and last of all, Tampa Florida.

I taught sixth grade Language Arts and Geography for 23 years in the Hillsborough County, Florida Public Schools.  I retired two years ago and I love having time for my family, traveling, and being a board member for the Florida Storytelling Association and a member of the Tampa/Hillsborough Storytelling Festival committee.

Aneeta: How did you first become interested in storytelling?

Victoria: When I was growing up, I visited my grandmother Victoria often.  At bedtime she would always dress my siblings and me in my grandfather’s tee shirts, and would fix a plate of Ritz crackers with peanut butter or cream cheese for us to nibble on while she told us stories about her growing up or would turn all the lights out and tell us ghost stories.  She actually believed in ghosts, so she really had our attention.  My grandfather would sneak outside and would make spooky sounds and make scratching or tapping sounds on the walls.  Even though we always knew it was he, it still gave us goose bumps and made our spines tingle.

I have carried those memories throughout my life. I will be 72 in June. I loved my grandmother so much and am extremely proud to have her name.  She was such a positive force in my life and I think of her every day.  Now I am a grandmother and I love my grandchildren and try to influence them as my grandmother did me.  I also have a granddaughter named Victoria. I’m so proud that she is carrying the legacy of my grandmother.

Aneeta: You are clearly a person who is interested in using storytelling as a tool. Now, please explain this a little more. Why do you feel storytelling is so important?

Victoria: I am a person that always follows the curriculum guidelines and make sure that I incorporate them into my teaching.  When I first was teaching, I followed the textbooks and lots of workbooks.  As I got experience and realized that student’s needs weren’t being met and, on top of that, they were bored, I started using my creative side to develop my own activities and materials to teach and reinforce required skills and those skills that are needed for success throughout their lives and careers. The students still used textbooks to reinforce whatever we were studying.

Aneeta: I understand you have created a list called 44 Reasons for Teaching Storytelling. What are these 44 reasons?

Victoria: I got very bored with mandatory teacher workshops that were often painful to sit through because they merely reiterated what already been learned. (Thank goodness, today most are really worthwhile.) One time, I was looking over the schedule for the day and saw a workshop on teaching storytelling. I went to it and it was wonderful.  The presenter was Charles Phillips, a sixth grade teacher. He had his students perform their stories for us to demonstrate how valuable storytelling is for developing academic and life skills.  I couldn’t wait to get back to school to begin teaching storytelling techniques to my students.

The Forty Four Reasons were researched so that I could show administrators and other teachers how valuable teaching storytelling across the curriculum. For years, I’ve heard the comment, “We don’t have time to play.”

My response is, “I make the time because of the fantastic growth my students developed because of the use this approach.”

I started to research and still am doing it 20 years later.  I expanded the information from the workshop that first got me started. I have volumes of information, data and observations to show how learning  storytelling was a life changing experience for my students. My strong belief of how important this tool is came from years experience, research, personal observations, and students, teachers, and parents’ comments on how much it benefited the students.

Aneeta: Am I right in saying that you’ve now used these 44 reasons as a basis for a book you’re writing? If so, would you care to share some information about this book – it’s intended audience, the themes and so on.

Victoria: Yes, my goal is not to get praise for myself. I am a teacher because I want to help students become the best that they can be.  It is, in my opinion, that teaching is not just a job. It is a dedication to work diligently to give students confidence, a positive outlook on life, and the tools to help them find success.

Aneeta: You’ve told me about the Tampa-Hillsborough Storytelling Festival Coaching Manual you co-wrote with others. Can you please provide my readers with some information about this manual and also the website http://www.tampastory.org?

Victoria: The manual was written by Virginia Rivers, who started the festival more than 25 years ago, Amy Crane and myself. It is a guide for parents, teachers, and others who work with children. The festival is the largest in the country that highlights youthful storytellers. Each year we have about 400 children who learn stories and perform at the festival.  We also hire professional tellers to perform and to interact with the children. It’s all day and has many activities.  Best of all it is fun for the whole family and is FREE. The manual can be downloaded from the website or can be purchased.

Here is a copy of the 44 reasons.  Please note that I don’t mind people passing it on.  As I said, my goal in life is to have more and more people push for using storytelling as a valuable tool that changes lives.  I do ask that any copies that are given out have my personal information and the statement that permission is needed when it is transmitted electronically.

1.   Aids in strengthening ability to recognize sequencing details
2.   Benefits the listener as well as the teller
3.   Creates a link between reading skills and writing skills
4.   Creates an opportunity for students to have fun while learning
5.   Develops higher level of comprehension
6.   Develops and strengthens visualization skills
7.   Develops an awareness of varied writing styles
8.   Develops awareness of how words affect an audience
9.   Effectively integrates social studies and science into the language arts curriculum
10. Enhances vocabulary and language development
11. Enhances development of higher thinking and analytical skills
12. Enhances ability for identification of main idea
13. Enhances understanding when tackling unfamiliar text
14. Fosters the development of creativity
15. Fosters positive peer interaction and cooperation
16. Fosters development of self-confidence, pride, poise, and self-esteem
17. Furnishes a vehicle for the passing on of factual information
18. Gives teachers insight into their students’ feelings
19. Gives students insight into human behavior and motives
20. Helps promote multi cultural sensitivity and understanding
21. Introduces effective patterns of language
22. Is an effective vehicle for teaching and reinforcing curriculum standards?
23. Is a tool for evaluating and capitalizing on a student’s strengths?
24. Keeps alive the beliefs and culture of a people
25. Promotes development of listening skills
26. Promotes an appreciation for the talents of others
27. Promotes internalization of effective writing techniques
28. Promotes an enthusiasm for learning
29. Provides an opportunity for students from all reading levels to succeed
30. Provides for subconscious acquisition and familiarity with narrative patterns
31. Provides opportunities for self-expression
32. Provides teachers an opportunity to learn a great deal about student needs
33. Provides positive sharing experiences for students
34. Reinforces learning of writing skills
35. Reinforces and enhances reading skills
36. Shows the relationship between the written word and spoken word
37. Skills learned are transferred to other reading and writing activities
38. Stimulates interest in reading for pleasure
39. Strengthens the ability for recognition and memory of details
40. Strengthens sequencing skills
41. Strengthens analytical skills
42. Supports and reinforces concepts taught across the curricula
43. Teaches and reinforces oral skills in all areas of the curriculum
44. AND MOST GRATIFYING OF ALL: Reluctant students who do not feel as competent as their peers and who are considered “losers” by themselves and others, often become the star storytellers. This positive experience turns students around and changes their outlook on what they can accomplish.

MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED OR ELECTRONICALLY TRANSMITTED WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR.

Aneeta: Thank you very much, Victoria, for sharing this with my readers. As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who are interested in taking up storytelling as a vocation?

Helpful hint for getting storytelling jobs:

1. It’s getting tougher to get gigs in the schools and libraries, as budgets are tighter than ever. Many professional tellers tell me that they always take my 44 reasons with them when they’re trying to do a performance in schools.  On the festival website, you’ll also find a poster of skills taught by storytelling and a list of Florida’s curriculum standards that are reinforced.

I almost fainted one day when a reporter from the Kansas City newspaper called me and asked to interview me.  A professional storyteller had told her about me. She said that I had given a copy of the 44 reasons to him a long time ago and that when principals or administrators are dubious about storytelling, he gives them a copy of my reasons. He said that their expression changes and he usually he gets the job. That makes me so happy that the word is getting out.  The reporter wrote a great article.

There are also other storytellers who have told me the same thing, so feel free to use the information.

2. Explore businesses (business meetings), nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living residences, parties (for children or adults), Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, churches, and social clubs. STORIES AREN’T ONLY FOR KIDS.  Look at Bill Cosby. I went to one of his shows and he had a chair and no other props, and told many wonderful and hilarious stories. I’ll never forget it.

3. Talk to other storytellers to find out what the going rates are.

4. There are hundreds of storytelling sites on the web and you can find stories of all types from to get you started learning to tell and “how to” tips from seasoned tellers. Information on therapeutic stories, healing stories, attention grabber stories, and many, many other types are also available.

Aneeta:Victoria, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Victoria: As I think of them, I’ll send them to you.

Aneeta: Victoria, thank you.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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