Do you speak puppetry
Puppetry as an alternative form of communication
“Me Stories” With Puppets
My students, adults as well an as children, usually do not give their own name to their puppet. When some one does so, I automatically tune in my listening skills, for they are making a bold request to look at them through the safe lens of the puppet. “Me stories” allow the author to share something about himself with his selected audience.
Emily was fourth grade when I met her. She had a learning disability, and a problem with concentration. She often disrupted the class. Her reading and writing skills were far below those of the other children in her class. They didn’t understand her behavior and were unable to sympathize with her inability to learn to read and write. They often called her names such as “stupid” and “crazy”. Emily, the human being, was masked by her disabilities; it was too hard for the children to see past them. So, inevitably, she was usually shunned by them and left on her own.
I came to class one day, and the teacher told me that Emily had written a story about her puppet. She had promised Emily that if she sat quietly during the first two hours of class, I would work on her story in class when I arrived. Emily succeeded, and when I got to the class and saw her, she was gleaming! I knew that she must have entrusted her puppet with a very important message.
Emily’s puppet was named Emily, and this was her story:
Once there was a girl named Emily. One day, she was walking by and she saw a face in the sky. She wondered why the face was there. One day, Emily went to get some groceries, and she didn’t see the face any more, but she went on walking. One day, Emily went to a wizard, who asked her, “What is your problem?” She told him that everyday a face appears in the sky, but the next day, it disappears. “Well”, said the wizard, “the problem is your imagination. If you try to stop your imagination, you will stop it.”
This story, at first, seemed as baffling as Emily herself. In order to get a more solid grasp of the story, I examined its basic building blocks. Emily had been instructed to create a story identifying a hero who has a problem and finds a solution. I asked the children in the class, “Who is the hero of this story?” They replied, “Emily”. I then asked them to define her problem. They told me that everyday she sees a face in the sky, but the next day, it disappears. As the discussion continued, Emily’s classmates agreed that it must be very scary to keep seeing that face in the sky and not knowing where it came from or what it wanted. It was so intimidating that Emily, the puppet, had to go to a wizard. Probably, there was no human being who could help her, so, she had to seek a magician. I asked them if they could offer a solution to this problem. Of course, they answered, “…. to stop using her imagination!” I immediately countered with the question, “Do you think it is possible to stop your imagination?” The unanimous answer was, “no!” I inquired further, “Would you want to stop using your imagination?” The answer was a fervent “no!” So what were we left with? We had a story about a girl named Emily who had a strange problem, which she wanted to solve but hadn’t yet been able to find a solution. I suggested that while Emily, the puppet, was seeking a way to stop the strange face, it may be helpful if the people around her could be a little more understanding, for they knew that she was seeking a solution to her problem. She hadn’t found it just yet. The class agreed. Emily, the girl, smiled. Mutual understanding can indeed be a source of contentment.