During this intervention, questions were raised in my mind, so here are some thoughts on this experience.
First, before the session, I began doubting the choice of the myth we decided to tell. It’s a beautiful story, it’s true, but so sad. And more and more, I was thinking this was not a story to be told to ten-year-olds. I felt like the moral behind it was not so clear… But then, I thought about it and I realized that we had chosen this story for good reasons, and that yes, children would understand and appreciate it. I ended up telling the moral explicitly: it didn’t feel very warm to end the story with “and then she died, again”!
Also, a discussion with Andrew reassured me: we can talk about “serious” issues with kids, like death and suffering, or other themes we can find so many times in the antique myths. And when I look at the tales the children revived that day, I know Andrew was right: a lot of them ended their story with a “and then the evil queen died”, “and the wolf killed the goat”… And Bluebeard isn’t the sweetest one! Well, you’ll notice that we decided to omit the tragic death of the poet Orpheus, dismembered by the furious Maenads because he would not pay any attention to them, his singing head rolling in the river.
For sure, we will not chose to tell this myth to younger kids: we’d rather tell the stories of King Midas or Dedalus, full of extraordinary adventures and funny facts. Although we can say that Orpheus’ visit to Hades was epic!
Also, we had to face a problem which, in my head, had not been one before we were in the classroom: How do we define what a tale is to the children? When we asked them to illustrate a tale or a legend, most of them found an idea that would match our definition, but for some of them, this was not that easy and clear. And it’s true, when I think of it, I remember we talked about this in middle school, but I only got a satisfactory definition of a tale during my last year of high school, while studying Perrault for the Baccalaureate. So, how do we explain this to children? What words do we use? The best thing I found what basically this: a short fantasy story, like the ones their parents used to tell them when they were little; stories about fairies, ogres, princesses, talking animals… It did help some children, not all of them, as you can see in their drawings. Well, it’s not that big a deal, we were happy to see them all participating!
Finally, it was really interesting to see how this experience showed the children’s personality. We came to the school with no prejudice, as we didn’t know the class at all; we didn’t know who was shy, who wasn’t, who had the best grades, who was the chatty one… Even though this didn’t matter to us, we do know, however, how a class work: I was (literally) sitting in this same classroom 15 years ago! And during the drawing phase, it was so great to see the kids’ various personalities show up, a thing that was confirmed by the way each one told the story they had chosen. And it was not at all a question about who was doing well in school and who wasn’t, no. The children worked as if this was not school anymore (and this was kind of true), and showed something different to the others. And this is the goal of this experience, in the end: to put the kids in a new situation, where they can discover themselves under a new light, and to present themselves in a new way to the others, which they may not be able to do in a traditional educational context. That’s why I really hope we could get the authorization to film these sessions, so that we could share this with you!