Of Empowering Stories and Assertive Squirrels

I woke up early this cold morning, shivering as thoughts surged around in my head. Reflecting on my late-night reading, I could not get Parvana, from Deborah Ellis’s The Breadwinner, out of my mind. Although her dreams were brutally crushed, this young Afghan girl found hope enough to rise above the ashes. Parvana’s story forces me to ask the question, What is it that makes the human spirit so resilient?

Walking to my window, I am drawn into the world of winter creatures fighting for survival. Our new feeder, mounted on two wires between the chopped off “Dr. Seuss trees,” is strategically placed far from foraging squirrels, but apparently, not far enough. Without realizing it, I am pulled into the action of a story that has begun to unfold before me. One creative squirrel balances herself like a trapeze artist along the wire, then jumps onto the bird feeder before sliding in neatly for a feeding.

Wanting to protect the birds’ pantry, I run outside in my knit slippers and grab some rotten apples. Soon the apples are sailing through the air alongside my blood-curdling screams. At this, the squirrel beats a hasty retreat, but I know I must strategize to avoid further pillaging. My next method involves hanging records across the squirrel wire (yes, my husband found some old Beatles and Bob Dylan LP’s stored away) to block access. Only time will tell whether my methods prove effective, and so goes the story of backyard survival. Backyard, front yard, living room and classroom—everything unfolding around you is a story. You are a story, and your students are stories, each different from the next.

What if we considered learning disabilities in terms of story? [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]