Stories as Powerful Self Care

My students were working on invention and thesis statements in class one day. I had 17 variations of the following conversation in one class period. It’s a wonder we had the opportunity for all of those discussions between the blasted bells.

Student: I don’t know what to write about.
Me: Have you thought about it?
Student: I can’t think of anything.
Me: Fortunately for you we’ve dedicated this entire class period to invention.
Student: Oh.
Me: Have you tried any of the invention strategies we talked about yesterday?
Student: No.
Me: Why not?
Student: I didn’t think about it.
Me: Why not?
Student: I don’t know.
Me: Well, why don’t you think about it right now?
Student: Like right now?
Me: Yes. This is the time for you to think about it. You won’t think about it later if you don’t think about it right now.
Student: I would.
Me: Really? That’s great to know that you’ll think about it later after you’ve done some good thinking on it right now.
Student: So I have to think about it right now?
Me: Yes. Which invention strategy seemed good to you yesterday?
Student: I don’t remember what they were.
Me: Go ahead and look that up in your notes.
Student: We were supposed to take notes?
Me: You’re always supposed to take notes.
Student: Oh.
Me: Tell me what you remember from our discussion yesterday.
Student: I don’t know. I guess the circles.
Me: Tell me more about the circles. Help me understand what you’re talking about.
Student: You know.
Me: No, I don’t. Explain to me what you mean about the circles. What was important about the circles?
Student: You put your ideas in the circles and then more ideas in more circles.
Me: Do you mean mind mapping?
Student: I guess.
Me: Well that’s a great invention strategy. What else can you tell me about mind mapping?
Student: I don’t know what it is.
Me: Sure you do. You just said mind mapping had circles with ideas.
Student: OK.
Me: So in mind mapping you just put a bunch of ideas in a bunch of circles? You have one idea over here and one idea over there. Is that how it works?
Student: No.
Me: Oh, it’s not? Then tell me how it works.
Student: You put your big idea in a circle in the middle. Then you put an idea that relates to the first idea in a circle and you connect it with a line.
Me: Oh, I see. How many circles do you need to have? Just one or two? And what is it called again?
Student: It’s mind mapping. And you have as many circles as you have ideas.
Me: That’s cool. So, what’s your idea?
Student: I don’t know.
Me: Really? You don’t know what your idea is? I certainly don’t know what your idea is. If you don’t know what your idea is are you sure you have one?
Student: Yeah. I have an idea.
Me: So you do know what your idea is. That’s good, because I can’t read minds. Tell me about it.
Student: I don’t know if it’s good.
Me: Well tell me about it, and we can figure out together if it’s good or not.
Student: But I don’t want to tell you if it’s not good.
Me: But if you don’t know if it’s good or not, how do you plan to find out if you don’t tell me?
Student: I don’t know if it’s what you want.
Me: What I want is for you to express your ideas in a coherent manner that other people can understand. But if you’re concerned that your idea isn’t what I want, wouldn’t I be the best person to share the idea with?
Student: I guess.

Student finally tells me the idea.

Me: That’s a great idea.
Student: So you think it’s good.
Me: I just said I thought it was great. Do great and good mean the same thing?
Student: I guess. Well, sort of but not really.
Me: I think your thinking is great, but you’ll have to do some work to develop it in a way that other people can see how great your idea is.
Student: So what do I do next?
Me: What does the assignment say you need to do?
Student: It says I need a thesis statement.
Me: Then write a thesis statement.
Student: But I’ve never written a thesis statement before in the way you’re asking.
Me: I know.
Student: But I don’t know how to do it.
Me: Sure you do. What are the steps I told you to walk through?
Student: I don’t know.
Me: Go ahead and look for them on your assignment sheet.
Student: Like right now?
Me: Yes, right now.
Student: Now?
Me: I can see your assignment sheet poking out from underneath your folder. In the time you’ve asked me “Right now?” twice, you could have pulled it out from underneath your folder and looked it up. Yes. Right now. Go ahead and look for it right now.
Student: You said we need the thesis statement to include the who, the what, and the why.
Me: Yes. So once you’ve determined what those are, you’ll be able to write your thesis statement. I can help you think through them if you like.

Student and I talk through ideas leading to answering the who, the what, and the why.

Student: But I’ve never written a thesis statement like this before.
Me: I know. You’ve already told me that. Are you telling me that you’ve never done anything before that you’ve never done before?
Student: What?
Me: You just said that you don’t do things that you’ve never done before.
Student: No I didn’t.
Me: Sure you did. You’re telling me that you can’t write a thesis statement this way because you’ve never written a thesis statement this way before.
Student: Well, I haven’t.
Me: How do you plan on learning anything new if you never do anything you’ve never done before?
Student: I don’t know.
Me: You play soccer, right?
Student: Yeah.
Me: Do you already know how to do every skill that exists in soccer?
Student: No.
Me: Are you telling me there are soccer moves out there that you don’t already know?
Student: Of course. You don’t learn everything about soccer in one day. You have to learn skills and practice them until you’re good at them, and then you’re ready to learn more.
Me: Exactly.
Student: What?
Me: You come to school to learn. You learn by doing new things in new ways and then practicing them. All of your schooling in your life so far has prepared you for this point. Sure, I’m asking you to do something new, but that’s only because you’re ready to increase your skill. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I didn’t think you could handle.
Student: But this is hard.
Me: Of course it is. Learning isn’t easy; it’s hard work.
Student: So what do I do next?
Me: Keep working on that thesis statement. I’ll come back in a few minutes to check on your progress. I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with.

I don’t recall what story my student was trying to tell, but I do remember her elation when she discovered how to tell it. She wasn’t one of my talkers. I had a roomful of ninth graders waving their arms, calling, “Dr. Cade! Dr. Cade!” but not this student. She normally sat with her head down, chin-length bangs covering one eye and most of her face, doodling (she was a wonderful artist who gave me masterpieces on each assignment she turned in). But later that class period, she looked up and straight at me. She swiped the hair from over her eye and smiled. I remember her smile. It blossomed big and gorgeous across her face before she realized it, but as soon as she noticed, she tried to hide it by pursing her lips. The joy lingered in her eyes, however, and I walked over to her desk, smiling the whole way, ready to hear her story.

According to Literary Terms, a story

is a connected series of events told through words (written or spoken), imagery (still and moving), body language, performance, music, or any other form of communication. . . . Whenever you’re telling somebody about a series of events, you are telling a story, no matter what the subject nor when they occurred. As such, stories are of great value to human culture, and are some of the oldest, most important parts of life. Aside from being a part of every single type of literature, stories are at the foundation of creativity and part of just about everything we do.

In that moment, my student told multiple stories in various ways – the story of her written words, the story of her spoken words, and the story of her body language. She communicated with me in a way that opened up part of her life, both to herself and to me. She learned she could write a new type of thesis statement, which sparked joy and creativity in her, and I learned a bit more about humanity.

Literary Terms further contends that “the concept of a story is actually a bit difficult to fully cover or describe. Some would say that life is made up of a series of never-ending stories. From a simple commute to school or work, to all the events of our lives, everything has a story.”

Stories are everything and everywhere.

Whether we are telling them or responding to them, stories rest at the foundation of our creativity, our humanity, our very lives. Why not tap into the power of narrative that surrounds us to care for ourselves? Opportunities to read and write are ubiquitous; you already have everything you need to begin.


I am doing a 31-day series on reading and journaling as self care for educators. Each day of the series has a bonus worksheet. Click to join the LELA House family of educators committed to nourishing their reading, writing, and creative souls. You’ll receive a link to the worksheets and gain early access to upcoming LELA House ideas, courses, and products. You only need to subscribe once. I will add a new worksheet each day to the access link.

Roshaunda D. Cade, Ph.D. is an educator, writer, and creator.  She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband and teenage children and enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and pushing her creative boundaries.  You can follow her at,, and on Teachable, Medium, Youtube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Published by Roshaunda D. Cade

I am an educator, writer, and creator. I live in St. Louis, MO with my husband and teenage children and enjoy reading, writing, dancing, and pushing my creative boundaries.

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