When thinking about the role of the teacher, I took another look at Kieran Egan’s  book, Teaching as Storytelling.

 Here Egan demolishes the notion that the only correct way to teach is to start with ad hoc principles that move from the concrete to the abstract, from the simple to the complex, from the known to the unknown, from active manipulation to symbolic conceptualisation. 

He reminds us that the story form is a cultural universal which reflects a basic and powerful from in which we make sense of the world and experiences.


I still contend that metacognition – making thinking explicit – has empowered young children to take responsibility for their own learning. I also hold a view that might appear to be in opposition: that (to quote Egan once more) In telling a story one does not begin by stating objectives, and yet stories are wonderful tools for efficiently organising and communicating meaning… As teachers are professional storytellers, so the curriculum is the story they are to tell.


Most 5 year olds are more than capable of abstracting the concepts in tales, both traditional and modern, and thereby constructing their unique view of the world. No one could listen to a youngster declaim It’s not fair and still maintain that he has no concept of such abstractions as Justice. Fear and Hope, Kindness and Cruelty, Good and Bad: these are the very stuff of myth and legend and have been successfully adapted for changing media. The same principle holds for older learners too. If I wish to grasp concepts of Liberty, Aggression, the Law of Relativity, then encasing them in story will more thoroughly and enjoyably help me to understand them.


By engaging the imagination – the act or power of forming mental images of what is not actually present or has never been actually experienced – the teacher supports the child in developing the skills of abstract thought.


And that, surely, is our job.