This weekend, I am getting my breath back after a week of juggling priorities. As well as the day job – writing and managing a writing business – I have delivered around eighteen hours of creative writing workshops in seven schools.
I am really happy to be back in schools, despite the challenging circumstances. I realise how much I have missed the interaction and inspiration I get from working with children.
The children have been amazing and I always remind myself that although for us, 2020 is just one year out of however many decades we have lived, most of the children I work with are still in their first decade. This year is a far higher percentage of their lives than it is ours.
The children have adapted brilliantly to the new normal, and so have the schools. I paraphrase the words of one inspirational head teacher I have been working with;
I see this in every school I go into. And the fact that these schools are still welcoming creative practitioners into their midst, is proof of their intention to provide a rich and creative experience for their children. This will support the children’s long-term resilience for learning, their ability to be open and receptive to new things and above all, to enjoy leaning.
This year is a challenge for all of us, and by setting foot into a school under lockdown, we are challenging not only the children but the schools themselves. And they are rising to the challenge magnificently.
Because of Covid-19, I am working with the children in the school hall rather than the classroom. I need to stay at least 2 meters away from the children and so we are socially distanced around a cavernous, echoey and often noisy space; the doors are open to provide ventilation and I am wearing a mask.
I need high energy levels to engage the children in this setting and to inspire them to write. In some sessions this is harder to achieve than in others. It depends on the time of day; what the children have been doing prior to my appearance and of course, what else is going on in each individual child’s life. And this where the staff are expert. They know their children well and they aim to meet the individual pastoral and academic needs of each child in their care.
I get only a glimpse of the children’s confidence and anxiety; the shyness and the competence; the hesitance and the joy. It is not for me to know why the children react the way they do. My job is to try whatever way I can to ignite a spark, however small, in each child. And that is the awesome challenge which teachers face every single day!
Being back in schools and inspiring children to love writing is a challenge on so many fronts, and for me, personally, in one way which I hadn’t expected.
My lockdown year has mostly consisted of sitting at a computer putting words on a page and managing my writing business online. I have asthma, so sitting at a laptop with shoulders hunched builds upper body tension and doesn’t help my breathing, which under normal circumstances, isn’t a big problem and is under control.
But being tested back in the real world, and under the extreme circumstances of delivering workshops almost as though they were a performance, has pushed my energy output, and hence my breathing, to the limit.
My inhalers have been working overtime and I hadn’t realised how much I had neglected my physical fitness and taken it for granted. I will need to get back into ‘training’ to deliver my new creative writing project next year.
So, this weekend, I am getting my breath back, literally and metaphorically. Regrouping and planning for 2021.
I am delighted to announce that I have been given a grant from Arts Council England to develop an exciting new programme in schools during 2021. I will work with teachers to design the programme and with an artist to design a workbook. There will be creativity workshops with a theatre company and online daily writing inspiration.
I will bring to this all of my experience of the thousands of hours of workshops I have delivered to hundreds of children in dozens of schools. And focus on all of those children who now, more than ever, need a little spark in their lives.
Once I have got my breath back.
If you are a teacher or educator and would like more information about my creative writing workshops in schools, please visit my website for more information, or leave me a message below and I will get back to you.