1 – Your Roll in School
You don’t have to write children’s books to work with children in schools. Being an author is enough. Nor do you need to be a teacher. I’m not, and have never been a teacher in schools, (although I taught in Higher Education some time ago.)
What you do need in order to work with primary age children is an open mind, a curious nature and be able to pass on your love of writing, and stories to children. You need kindness and an understanding that all children bring a different quality to the room; and that some children are carrying burdens which we are unaware of.
If you haven’t been in a school for a while, since you were a pupil yourself perhaps, be aware that they are very different now to when we were at school, even if that was only a decade or so ago. Schools are a microcosm of society and reflect the way the world has changed around us. The older we get, the faster that change seems to happen. I have heard young parents in their 30s saying that school is different to how it was when they were there. Imagine how different it is when you have a few more miles on the clock? Society changes over time and education policy changes schools. But the one thing which remains constant is that schools always reflect the community they serve.
Whether we agree with the politics behind school funding, the delivery of a national curriculum, or whether we hold strong views about teaching styles and discipline, we need to focus only on the children in front of us and what we can offer them. Meeting an author and being inspired might change a child’s life for the better and that is far more important than the politics of education.
The thing I have to ask myself when I work as a writer in schools is:
What am I doing here?
What do I add that the teachers aren’t already doing?
And the answers I give myself are:
• I am here to develop the children’s innate creativity
• To add value to the children’s learning by being a different voice and providing a different perspective to the children’s experience
• To encourage their imagination and inspire the children by transforming writing from a chore to a joy.
Because the whole curriculum is based on a child’s ability to read and write with fluency, children can fall behind quickly if they do not have writing stamina. I aim to develop a creative writing habit and a love of stories that will help them to keep up when they move on to secondary school.
What I am NOT here to do is:
To teach grammar and punctuation, or to teach the literacy curriculum. Teachers already do that really well without any help from me, and they are much better at it than I am. I will, however, correct the children’s spoken grammar when they say things like: – ‘I done’ and not ‘I did’ or ‘I writ’ and not ‘I wrote’. And when I read the children’s work back, I explain the reason for punctuation from a reader’s point of view. My feedback is about the creativity of the writing, not the nuts and bolts in the engine room of literacy. I am also not here to discipline children, or to tell them whether to write with pencil or pen or even give permission to go to the toilet! My standard response to these queries is, ‘ask the teacher!’
Bring your unique gifts into the children’s lives and you can’t go far wrong. So, think about:
• What you are really good at
• How can you best inspire young minds to be curious about the world around them?
• Find a topic that excites and inspires you and share your zeal with the children through devising a creative writing programme around that topic