Perceiving the material world through our senses is the first step for me in narrative process: One of our earliest questions “What is that?” arises from the desire to make sense of “the what” or the ‘matter’ in life. This part of narrative research answers to the pleasure and pain of ‘material’ understanding.

    The first stories we can tell usually go way back: partly it is safer from a distance to tell hard truths. The first time we tell a story or the first time we read a story, there is always a conflict or tension of some kind – that is part of the definition of plot – and about someone through time with some kind of resolution or ending even if indeterminate.

    I loved my grade one teacher: she taught me the alphabet for being fully engaged in the human world: /a/ is for acceptance, /b/ is for benefit and balance, /c/ is for community, charity, and communication, /d/ is for difficult, death, derision, default, but also for delight, deliverance, description, and desire….  And so my language and house of being grew as I was welcomed, recognized, and taken seriously as a person even at age 6.

    Miss Morrison taught me in the middle-to-late time in her career, when she was also the school principal. When she got stuck or we did, she would say, well, “can we put it in a story so we can make sense of it?”. When children were brought to her office (as I was once or twice) for some difficulty we encountered or invented, she would say, “Tell me about it? What happened? Who was there? When did it start? How can we go back to the part where it started to go wrong?” And the stories would be reconstructed with her help, to arrive at some veracity, some true facts or information to help make sense, come to some shared meaning that would explain, and make it understandable so we could learn from it to help with other experiences.

    [I recommend the film “Etre et avoir” for a cinematic example of just that kind of exchange between mature teacher and young students.]  From that early time, I began to feel if I could just explain, use my voice and language without interruption to tell my story about something difficult, a problem could be solved for a happy ending.

    I am still left with questions about Miss Morrison: What about her life and being and experience gave her the capacity for that spaciousness of relationship and presence? How did she embody a deep commitment to the story of each child, but also each teacher and the school and the community and the town in which we lived together? Remembering all this 50 years later, how is it she thought connection to all the stories of others was essential to living well?

    She certainly had a narrative literacy that developed her own capacity for empathy. Although strict and respected for her ability to maintain control, she was noted for wisdom, fairness, and compassion. She knew the stories of all her 400 students and their families.  But we did not know her stories. I wish she was still alive so that I could have a conversation with her. A story about her is that she was driving the car when involved in an accident that caused her mother’s death, and being responsible for her own mother’s death pushed her over the brink into painful emotional decline and she died some few years later. So often, I wish I could just have tea and conversation with her and ask for her most important stories about teaching. She was a public servant and educational steward for decades, but I often wonder about her own inner teaching consciousness and what she did not say in public about teaching and running a school.

    But also as my first literature teacher, she taught me the power of narrative in fictional literature, in history and biographical stories about others, and in all the subjects, where she shared books about the famous people in the subjects too. She also taught that especially where there was difficulty or something that was puzzling to story it or find the story connected to it to help understanding grow. She taught me to say what happened, to ask what happened from others, and to find the details that revealed more and more as the story evolved. It was my first experience at close reading.

    I returned to that amid the difficulty I noticed in teaching. Although a reluctant teacher, I do enjoy teaching very much but I did notice difficulty in teaching..when other teachers got stuck or I did, even temporarily. I noticed that teaching became, as Heidegger might say, ‘unready to hand’. While I was a high school English teacher and department head, I did begin to write about teaching, to myself, about difficulties that could not be talked about with other teachers. I used fiction to tell truth while keeping the people I knew out of it. I wrote teaching stories that may be considered domain of the counseling room. Stories of teachers in trouble, teachers who committed suicide, were incarcerated in prisons or mental health facilities, and stories of teachers who showed up day after day for their whole lives and lived right through the middle of those difficulties. I began to be a steady witness to invisible teaching and began to make field notes.

    The confessional teaching self (socio-historical, colonized, professional self) can be seen in naïve stories about teaching. Unconscious narrative episodes are blurted at unlikely times, sometimes in answer to questions from others. These stories are unabridged, unmediated linguistic bytes of experience as educator. They reveal and they conceal if they are counter-narratives (Giroux, 1996, et al.) but their capacity to open research to the phenomenon of teaching at the site of the teaching self is remarkable.

    The study and interrogation of narrative data in this first orbital of analysis includes beginning with questions about the narrator and the narrated. In keeping with Aristotle and ‘mythos’  a story always has “a teller, a tale, something told about, and a recipient of the tale”. Kearney, 2002, p. 5, 150. Stories

       try to give answers to the great unanswerable questions of existence: Who

        are we? Where do we come from? Are we animal, human or divine? Strangers,

        gods or monsters?? Are we both of one (mother-earth) or of two (human

        parents)? Are we creatures of nature or culture? (Ibid., p. 7)

    In narrative research, the whole process begins with stories that tumble out with our breath where there is another human consciousness willing to hear or read. Narratives are complex answers to complex questions. When we begin to tell stories, we may be preconscious in our relationship to them, but still the words are communicated and that becomes (in crass terms) the ‘data’ for our studying lives, our own and others.

    Stories, however awkward or erudite, represent authentic expressions of experience and engagement toward connection and understanding. The honest awarenesses that emerge or crash inward from story are like a cleansing astringent to the consciousness.  Understanding and wisdom about being are their own rewards for narrative research. From naive storying come unexpected revelations. Those revelations provoke more curiosity and desire for deeper understanding so I keep looking. New and different questions of thought and feeling (cognition and affect) become the focus of the second orbital of research.

2 Psychological De/Re Construction for next section:


One: Naïve storying

because in the beginning was the word

About Inquiry One

Naive Storying


  1. -Breaking silence

  2. -Finding language to (pre)consciously tell an experience, image, event, conflict, or puzzlement about a difficulty that exists either in the common or private world

  3. -What happened

  4. -Who was involved

  5. -Where this happened

  6. -When it began

  7. -How events unfolded

  8. -Specific details

  9. -The storyteller

  10. -Critical incidents

  11. -Outcome(s)

  12. -Focus on what is being told at the elemental story level

To read my story:

“Home Run”

Key Questions

-What is this story about?

-Why is it being told?

-How is the narrator  connected to the story?

-What is the impact of the story on the listener or reader?

“Telling stories is as basic to human beings as eating. More so, in fact, for while food makes us live, stories are what make our lives worth living. They are what make our condition human.”

Kearney, 2002, p. 3.