New Zealand author and storyteller, Tanya Batt, had year 1 and 2 students wild with enthusiasm when she took centre-stage. Eyes were glued to her orange-field-of-flowers and trees landscape dress, ebbing beneath a sea of tulle. ‘No matter where you go in the world, everybody has stories to share. Not everybody can read or write, but they can tell stories.’ That’s how old stories survived from other cultures through word-of-mouth.
Batt performed a Native American story about Gluscabi and the Wind Eagle. Her wind and voice sound effects had students so captivated, that one asked how she did it. Batt pulled out her 1000-voice sim card from the back of her neck.
‘Whoooaaa!’ said the students.
With their mouths still agape, she said, ’Do you think that’s true?’ Students blinked and stared. As their eyes widen further, they waited for their storyteller to continue. ‘I made that one up.’
The world needed old stories as well as new stories. She performed her story, My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher. Kids scootched a little closer. They loved the idea that Toby’s dad might have a team of dragon catchers because it was a big night-time job. (See her YouTube version.)
Batt felt lucky to tell stories from other cultures that been around for a very long time. When she travelled the world people told her stories. She felt like it was being in service to the story because they weren’t her stories. Being a good storyteller was not about talking but ‘being a good listener’. Most of her stories lived inside her because she often told stories and not read stories. When she’s able, she’ll travels on her story-bike to tell stories. And she loved sharing with students how she grew her own food, recycled the compost for her garden – with the help of the horse.
She encouraged students, when it was story time, to be the story teller. Tell a story from the workshop or about her Princess Poo Tower (horse poo compost) or make one up. At the end, a group of little girls huddled around Batt and requested see the photo of her standing on ‘The Tower’.
To end her session, she sang her starting theme song in which the students chorused after her. She finished by saying, ‘Time flies when you’re telling stories.’
Batt’s passion for telling stories started 27 years ago and ‘as the world becomes increasingly more rationalized, mega -fied, screen -ified and compartmentalized the need for arts’ education is greater than ever.’
Maria Parenti-Baldey, primary teacher, writer, amateur photographer and blogger. www.bigsisterblogs.com