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TAG Philly Story Slam – reframing the ‘failing school’ refrain

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

If you love stories, you should plan to attend TAG Philly’s annual Teacher Story Slam. The back- to-school event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at Zocalo Restaurant, 3600 Lancaster Ave.

Let me tell you a story…

Because the human brain is wired for stories, I bet you were all ready to follow a narrative with an attention-grabbing opening, a topsy-turvy plotline, and some satisfying ending or lesson to learn.

TAG Philly is planning a yearlong series of events anchored around storytelling. TAG will provide training and media-focused offerings that will shape and influence the narrative of education reform in the city. Letting teachers, parents, and community members tell their stories is a powerful way to combat the multimillion-dollar public relations campaigns that are being waged to privatize schools and frame educators as the problem and schools as failures.

Stories matter…

The opinion piece "Dispatches from a ‘low-achieving’ Philadelphia school," in the Inquirer by Hillary Linardopoulos, a 3rd-grade teacher at Julia deBurgos School, provided a powerful counter-narrative that takes issue with labeling her school as "low-achieving."

Linardopoulos’ story evoked a powerful image of a teacher and students engaging in the real struggles and strategies of an under-resourced, yet thriving, school.

The script needs to be flipped …

TAG Philly wants teachers, parents, and students to share the narratives of the amazing tragedies and triumphs that take place in our schools. Throughout the school year, TAG will use storytelling to empower educators:

  • TAG plans to conduct one of its Media Empowerment workshops during the Philadelphia Writing Project’s annual Celebration of Writing and Literacy on Nov. 10. (To submit a proposal, contact before the Sept. 30 deadline.)

  • TAG will continue to share teachers’ stories through its annual ITAG (Inquiry to Action) seminars held weekly from late January 2013 to early April 2013.

  • TAG will culminate its yearlong storytelling and media events with its annual TAG Curriculum and Liberation Fair.

As a disclaimer, I am an active member of TAG Philly and will serve as the co-host for the Teacher Story Slam with Anissa Weinraub (an awesome storyteller). At last year’s Teacher Story Slam, audience members laughed, had some tearful moments, and were inspired to make a difference in our school communities.

As a sign of solidarity, a special "TAG-Philly Stands with Chicago Teachers" group photo will be shared with Teachers for Justice, our TAG affiliate in Chicago.

So how about you tell us a story?

Teachers, parents, and community members are encouraged to come prepared to share their education stories or be a supportive audience member. If you would like to find out other ways you can write, record, or present your story about real education reform, visit TAG Philly online or follow @tagphilly on Twitter.

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