Rachael Harrington is our June teacher of the month! She’ll be teaching at this year’s Summer camp, After School, Too Cool For Preschool and Homeschool Enrichment classes.
A little bit about Rachael:
Rachael Harrington is a storyteller whose work has taken her around the globe, presenting imagination infused performances and workshops for all ages in theater and arts spaces, community groups, schools, preschools, and as a guest lecturer at Rutgers University. She was the recipient of the NYC Department of Education Arts and Family Engagement Grant and has presented workshops at New Jersey Association of School Libraries, New Jersey TESOL Conference, and the American Association of School Libraries National Conference, and has been published in Voices, the New Jersey TESOL quarterly journal. She performs at festivals including The Uptown Arts Stroll, Gotham Arts Festival, and The Day of Water Festival on Governor’s Island. She is a member of National Storytelling Network.
Hi, Rachael! Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m a mom…I’ve been living in Inwood for almost 10 years now, but I also lived in the neighborhood when I was young girl. I lived right beside the baseball fields. So my first memories are here in this neighborhood — it’s really special. I’ve done a lot of work in the theatre. I love working in comedy, so I’ve done a lot of improv and sketch. I also love soccer. It’s a beautiful game — I feel like it’s something the whole world has in common.
So you’re a storyteller! When did that come into the picture?
So I was teaching art in a middle school — it wasn’t for me…and so I went on this epic, soul searching, “what am I doing with my life” kind of thing. My mom’s a school librarian and she was like, “There’s this whole world of professional storytellers and that’s what they do. They tell stories and host workshops and do performances.” She said, “I think you should try it out, because I think you’d be good at it.” And so I started going to this meetup in the city and it was awesome because it was mostly much older women and I always felt like an old woman. Ya know, I love to crochet, I love to sit at home with my tea and a good book. So I was in my glory at this storytelling meetup with all these wise old women. And so my mom started helping me find little gigs in Jersey where she teaches and it just kind of grew from there. The storytelling led me to acting classes, which eventually led me to directing classes and I discovered that I really loved the process of directing. So I still try to direct when I can in the realm of comedy, but storytelling is the meat and potatoes that I really love doing.
That’s amazing. It’s such a unique skill, too. It’s an art.
It really is. I’m very excited about it and I just feel so strongly that — especially looking at everything going on in our world right now — I just feel like storytelling has a really important place in life in general and specifically within education. We need to remember how to make eye contact with each other and share the stories that have been passed down for generations. We shouldn’t lose those.
Definitely! With the wide spread of technology, we actually don’t spend as much time just conversing anymore. It’s crazy. How did you get involved with Bread and Yoga?
I’ve taught on and off with Bread and Yoga and/or Scribble Art throughout the years. A while back in the original studio I taught a theatre class through a theatre company they had partnered with, so that was my introduction to Bread and Yoga. From there, I taught some Scribble Art classes and I think it was last year… Marcela asked me if I could teach a class and I was pregnant, so the timing didn’t work out at that exact moment. We’re neighbors so we see each other often and I’ve always loved talking with Marcela — she’s wonderful! She got back in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in teaching again — but also to help with some of the educational programming to get a little professional development for the teachers…and it worked out that I could start shortly after my daughter was born, so I’m excited to be back teaching more classes.
So, I found this beautiful quote from your website: “Storytelling has given me a deep passion for the way a tale can speak to and enliven our hearts, guts, and imaginations. Anything is possible with a good story. I also love the way that storytelling helps us to stop and reconnect with each other– human to human– across all different socio-economic lines.” Can you expand on that?
Storytelling allows us to step into someone else’s shoes. It even allows us to “become” a character for a moment. This is what empathy is, and empathy is such crucial need for our world right now. Storytelling is such a strong and immediate way to develop empathy.
One of my favorite moments when I am storytelling is the moment right before I tell. When everything gets quiet, and focused, and magical. It’s like there’s a silent agreement between everyone that something special and unique is about to happen, and that’s the awesome thing about storytelling. Each telling really is a unique creation or gift that the teller and listens share.
Storytelling is one of the best ways I can think of to develop imagination, which is so important for not only creatively solving problems, but for thinking big about life. In storytelling, the listener gets to create all the images in their mind, and when you’re telling a story you get to not only imagine the world which you’re telling, but you get to play with language live in front of the audience, embellishing and having fun building this world with your listener. I think in today’s screen saturated society, people need to know that their own imagination and what they can “paint” in their mind is valuable and important.
When there is nothing in between the teller and the listener– no book, no screen, no nothing– there is an insanely vulnerable and intimate connection that is made.
And because there’s nothing but teller, listener, and spoken words it can be enjoyed by anyone at all, and anyone can identify themselves in the characters of the story so it becomes a common ground. And, not all societies are literate, but ALL societies have stories. Storytelling is a universal “language”.
How do you think parents can help their kids activate their imaginations more in daily life?
Tell them more stories! Tell them family stories, your personal stories, try telling a story for bedtime instead of reading it.
Ask open ended questions.
When you look at their art, ask them to tell you about it, instead of telling them what it looks like to you.
As you walk with them, make up stories about what you’re seeing, or ask them how they thing something was made or got there.
Play with open-ended toys, and consider limiting the amount of toys they have access to– this will make them get creative with what they have in front of them.
What are your goals for the curriculum at Bread and Yoga, or in your work with the kids?
My curriculum goals are to help kids see themselves as the storytellers they inherently are. I want to help facilitate and encourage storytelling skills and technique that already come so naturally to them. I hope that by taking story-focused classes at Bread and Yoga that they get excited about creating stories and telling stories. And that they would then translate storytelling skills into becoming lifelong readers and writers and wonder-seekers. I’d love for the kids who take these classes to tell and create stories all the time!
Tell us what classes you’ll be teaching at Bread and Yoga! 🙂
Week 2 (July 16th-20th) teaching Story Expeditions and Week 6 teaching Sights and Sounds Stories at Summer Camp!
Teaching Too Cool for Preschool: I’ll be teaching two days. On the days I teach I’ll be focusing on storytelling and dramatic play as well as teaching the cooking class.
Teaching Open Exploration and Stories on the Rise Youth Storytelling Troupe for homeschool classes
Teaching Screenwriting and Filmmaking and Authors and Storytellers (Storytelling and Bookmaking) for after school.
Thanks so much, Rachael!
Join Rachael for Week 2 & Week 6 for Story Expeditions and Sights and Sounds Stories at Summer Camp! Learn more or register HERE.