Coyote Stories: Attending to Narratives as Life-Making
Saas, Cori Lea
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Living, telling, reliving and retelling my own autobiographical stories of experience, along with the stories of experience of students from my early years as a teacher, I entered formal narrative inquiry with two co-participants, Isabel and Anne-Marie. My personal and social justifications for this research were rooted in my living and living out silenced stories inside and outside of educational landscapes. In the midst of the inquiry journey, my research puzzle shifted, changed, and emerged: How might I live alongside students, attending narratively to our stories of experience, particularly to silenced stories, and then how might our identity making stories, stories to live by, come to be relived and retold? (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999, p. 94). Further puzzlings emerged: How might these stories alter and shift my connections with students? How might these stories and the process of coming to attend to them shift my practice and make me retell my own stories of school? How is the storying phenomenon of my youth akin to narrative inquiry? Does attending narratively to students’ lives offer an educator deeper insights into students’ tensioned, messy, difficult and bumping up stories of experience? When students’ stories of experience have been attended to narratively and mindfully, connected, over time and in place, might there be the potential for these students to understand their ability to live, tell, relive, and retell their own stories to live by? As my familial stories, my own stories, the stories of former students and the stories of the two co-participants looped and intersected and at times were difficult to follow, I came to see the unfolding and weaving of a larger, messier and gentler narrative of experience. “There is no one way to compose [final] research texts” (Clandinin, 2013, p. 206). Narrative inquiry is both a methodology and a phenomenon (Clandinin et al., 2006, pp. 176-181). During the narrative inquiry I noted that we are shaped by both our familial and familiar stories, that our stories of experience matter, that there is no certainty in narrative inquiry, nor is there certainty in storying; we can choose to relive or retell our stories of experience. Through the inquiry I came to understand that attending to stories of experience is relational; students seek someone who will attend to their stories. Keeping the tensioned stories untold is a continuing dominant narrative inside and outside of educational landscapes. Coming to relive and retell our stories of experience is a space of potential for youth, where they might come to know their stories of experience differently. Time and stories loop and can live out on multiple and complex plotlines. Educators must attend mindfully, deliberately and with awareness, to the wholeness of students’ stories. It is not the stories of experience alone that are important but the experience of attending to the narratives that is difference-making. Storying is identity making. I came to a deeper understanding of knowing differently the stories of school and school stories. I came gently to the space of attending to our silenced stories in the ebb and flow of stories that were often messy, difficult, tensioned, silenced, yet filled with a great deal of beauty amid uncertainty. I learned that the experience of attending to our own stories gives meaning to our work as educators. I came to understand that there is profound awareness in narrative inquiry. Storying as a process is as unique as each narrative, as each storier. Storying is life-making.