Using lived stories with teenage students in Greece

Implementation of "lived stories" in a Greek High School

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Project summary:

This is an action research study aimed at investigating teenage students’ reactions and acceptance of using the “lived stories” approach to document their learning during the first month of school. The study also explores how this approach may help a teacher improve her professional practices in the classroom.

lived stories


This project examines the reactions of teenage students in a rural school when their teacher shares “lived stories” with each of them at the end of their first month of school. The study takes into account the societal and personal characteristics of the students. The purpose of this work is to observe how the practice of writing lived stories affects the relationship dynamics among people involved in school life, including students, teachers, directors, and parents.


As a teacher, I make it a point to continuously observe my students, keep notes, and implement practices that encourage their learning and improve the classroom environment. In September 2022, I found myself in a new school located in the countryside, where students from rural areas attend. Typically, there is no strong connection or no connection at all between the school, families, or teachers and students. It became clear to me during my first few days there that most students also had poor relationships with their parents. Building trust did not seem to be a goal for teachers, parents, and students.

This presented me with an opportunity to try the Froebelian-inspired practice of “lived stories,” which has been successfully implemented in preschool settings for documenting children’s experiences in their early years. Lived stories take the form of personal letters that focus on what a young person has truly been interested in and how they have engaged. I was interested in exploring teenage students’ reactions and acceptance of lived stories during their first month of school, and I wondered if this new practice would affect the relationship dynamics among students, teachers, the school director, and parents.

This is a qualitative study, and data were collected through observations and focus groups. I chose to conduct my action research with a group of students with whom I spent most of the day and had the chance to transform my teaching practices. I observed eight second-year students at the Vocational High School where I was teaching from day one and kept notes. After one month of observations, I invited them to participate in an activity where they had to share with me five personal assets, “because I needed some help to write a letter to each one of them.”

One day after I shared the lived stories with them, we had a group discussion about their feelings, thoughts, and decisions regarding the lived stories. In my findings, I will discuss themes that emerged from my observations and the students’ answers.


The minors who participated in this study were students in my classroom, and the new practice that was under investigation was introduced as part of my teaching practices. I informed the students about my research, which was conducted as part of my professional development, and obtained their verbal consent to participate. As lived stories were shared as part of my teaching practices within the classroom setting, there was no need to obtain parental consent.

"My mother could not understand. She doesn't know this part of me. Since I was 13, I have been in my room with the door closed, when I'm at home".

Sara, age 16


The students I was observing were willing to participate in the project, thinking that it would be something I would do on my own. They were excited at the prospect of receiving “a letter from their teacher.” However, when I found a way to ask for their participation, they began negotiating with me. Upon reviewing my notes from the observations, I found that negotiating and avoiding anything related to their participation or anything they framed as “student work” was common behavior for them. I remember one girl’s response when I asked the group to draw the palm of their hand and brainstorm positive characteristics about themselves: “You want us to write something because you haven’t found anything positive to write about us.” Others agreed with her. This helped me recall a thought I had when I first met them – these children rarely listen to anyone saying anything positive to them.

Once they began to focus on the task, I overheard them discussing that they didn’t know what to write. This is when I decided to offer some hints, and I gave them a hard copy of an article from a magazine titled “36 Traits of Extremely Likeable People“. Soon, I overheard them discussing the characteristics, and when one student couldn’t think of something to write, the others offered support and encouragement. For example, one student said, “come on, but you are generous. You always share your food with us.” I noticed that even the student who preferred to work alone stood up and collaborated with the others in either revising her list of five assets or helping somebody else come up with a list. Prior to this moment, my usual impression of them was that they would ignore my requests, or they would insult each other while working together. But now, things were different; they were building trust.

It is worth noting that the students seemed eager to receive their letters, which I explained would include my observations of them during our first month together. The following day, they were eagerly awaiting their letters and reminded me of them during our first period together. This was a notable change in behavior, as it was the first time in the first month of school that they reminded me of something. Although their tone of voice was somewhat ironic, it was still a positive sign of their engagement and interest in the project. This was a significant departure from their usual tone, which often conveyed mistrust.

The lived stories had a profound effect on the students. They were able to connect with the stories and express their emotions through tears and smiles. It’s also interesting to note that some students wanted to show physical affection by hugging me, which suggests that they felt a deeper sense of connection and trust with me as their teacher.

“I will keep this forever”

“Nobody has ever said something so nice to me”

“How do you know these things about me”

“Teacher, I am crying and I have never cried before here in school”.

I asked them to share their letters with their parents or anyone they felt comfortable sharing them with. The next day, I asked them to share their thoughts, feelings, and decisions about the letters. To my surprise, only some of them shared their lived stories with others. The ones who chose not to share said things like “this is mine” and “why do I need to share something that belongs to me? Didn’t you say it was for me?” On the other hand, some students shared their letters with their parents and shared their reactions with me:

“My mother could not understand. She doesn’t know this part of me. Since I was 13, I have been in my room with the door closed when I’m at home”.

“My mother liked it and now she wants to meet with you”.

“I don’t think that my parents cared, they were tired and I don’t think they read it”.

The experience was transformational for both me and the classroom. I wonder what would happen if I asked them to share their letters with their parents or other teachers next time. I shared some of the sentences from the lived stories with other teachers, and they couldn’t believe that those experiences were part of these students’ stories.


Through this action research, I have gained a deeper understanding of my students’ stories. The practice of “lived stories” has the potential to support a sense of unity and connectedness in the classroom. It is clear that students need to feel trusted and that they belong in the school community. Parents should be involved in their children’s lives and become aware of their school experiences. Teachers must work collaboratively with students and actively listen to and see them. Each child is part of a system that we must understand and support. Behind each behaviour, there is a societal norm that contributes to mistrust and a belief that they do not need to care about each other. The implementation of “lived stories” is a tool that can help build social interest and encourage students to believe in themselves and others. Overall, this experience has been transformational for both me and my classroom, and I am eager to continue exploring the potential of “lived stories” in promoting a more compassionate and connected learning environment.

Dissemination/Impact Report

After completing my action research project, I shared my experience and insights with other teachers who work with the same students. I was surprised to find out that they were not aware of this positive side of the students. Some of them expressed interest in learning more about the students’ assets and strengths, and this new information influenced their teaching approach in the following days.

Furthermore, I shared my experience with the students, and they were thrilled that I felt a deeper connection with them. In the days following, they would often ask me if I loved them and if I liked them because they didn’t feel that most teachers genuinely cared for them.

Lastly, I wrote about the practice of lived stories on my personal website and shared it on my social media platforms, where I have a small network of practitioners, with the hope of raising awareness of the practice and initiating discussion. While Froebel is well-known due to his influence on our curriculum, it is not as common to find practitioners who actively apply his principles in their practices. Through sharing my experience, some practitioners reached out to me and recognized the influence of Froebelian principles in our preschool educational system. Some also criticized the practices used and acknowledged how far we have strayed from these principles. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with lived letters and I hope that more people will try this practice with the children they support, to experience the connection and understanding that I felt with my students.

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

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