Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

A Blog for Teachers
by Mary Jean Powers

The Power of Story

Oct 5, 2020

“What situation will arise where [the learner] is going to need to use the information? Tell that story.” 
Dianne Elkins

I’ve seen it time and again. Students slouched in their chairs, heads hanging, eyes staring without seeing, until … I begin to tell a story. Almost immediately, eyes look up; they fix on me and follow me around the room. A head may tilt, a tear may fall, a grin may form, the body may lean in. I hold them, my captives. The story is over; the audience is frozen; the room, silent. I’ve made my point and They Heard Me.

At the dinner table that night, I doubt if my students passed along the 3 points I taught, but if the atmosphere was ripe, I’ll bet they retold the story!


Learning to tell someone else’s story is a good way to practice telling your own. How? With BOOKS! What was your favorite book as a child? The one you read and reread?  Do you still have your original copy?! What was your favorite autobiography? Christmas story? Picture book? Fairy tale? The book with The Best one-liners? The book that made you laugh every single time you read it! Make sure you have those books in your personal library. The one-page story you recently read that apprehended you … make sure you have those kinds of stories in a readily accessible file. Practice reading them aloud, and then practice again. And again. Practice holding a book while you read so that every student can easily see every picture.  Read it aloud until your tones and inflections and expressions make your audience feel as if they are living the story!


To tell any story well is a commendable skill, but what about your own stories – the ones from your life? These you tell with more animation, more passion, more emotion. When you tell your story, your body language changes, the look in your eyes tells your students that you are reliving it, even as you tell it. Personal stories have a tremendous impact on students – walls that divide teacher from student tumble down when we tell our own story. Our choice to vulnerably make ourselves known (even through funny stories) creates safety in the classroom, giving students permission to share their stories with us!

Create a bank of stories and make deposits and withdrawals often! Some of your stories will take less than a minute to tell; others may take 20 minutes. Practice them. Tell them – yes, aloud! – until you own your story. Tell them in front of a mirror (brutal, I know!). Record yourself telling them. Tell the neighborhood kids, your children, your grandchildren. Include photos when you can; show-and-tell with tangible items to deepen the impact. Write your stories down and then edit until they are exactly like you want to remember them. Yes, document your own stories – they are part of your legacy! Tell them and retell them – be honest, keep them true – but learn to tell your life-stories like they happened yesterday. Add another story to your bank today!

About Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

I am a teacher. You, too? I hope you love the profession as much as I do! I was 16 when I got my first teaching gigs – I had 20 private piano students and a Sunday School class of 4 and 5-year olds! At that point in my “career,” my definition of teacher was very limited. But now – after 45+ years of experience – I have come to realize that teacher can mean many different things. I’d like to share some of those insights with you! My posts will range from quotes to prayers, from cartoons to words of wisdom. Much of my teaching experience has been international, so you'll get to watch some video stories from around the globe. Jesus is the best Teacher I know, so I will be including Him in this blog, as well. I hope my thoughts and my story will encourage, provoke, and inspire you to become the teacher you’ve been created to be!

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Mary Jean Powers

Mary Jean Powers

B.A. in Christian Education
M.A. in Biblical Studies
Music teacher (band and choir director, private instruction) for 35 years
International Bible teacher for 17+ years
Certified Walk Thru the Bible instructor
Certified TESL International Instructor
CEU Provider for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International)
Certified Life Coach and Chaplain

Who am I? A teacher coming alongside teachers!