The Sharing Skills session for writers who work in school, held last Saturday in Birmingham, was very useful. As usual, much of the usefulness came from the contact it gave you with colleagues. All the sessions were interesting, though none of them were quite what I thought they would be. One that stood out, though, was about maintaining our identity as writers.
So often on school visits we end up teaching. As a former teacher I don’t find that onerous – I even quite enjoy it – but I do question what value the school and the students are getting from that. By teaching them creative writing, I’m only doing something their own teachers could do better. Yes, granted, many teachers are afraid of writing and don’t write themselves. Even so, a more practical model might be for us to teach the teachers how to write and let them pass that skill on to the students. They are the best people to teach their students.
We must remember too that not every student will go on to be a writer and will only need to write as much as they need to show their knowledge in other areas. It’s just like the fact that although a visit form the local fire service may be extremely interesting, not every student is going to become a fire-fighter. Now and then, however, it may be appropriate to work with a small group of students who have writing ambitions.
Maybe the traditional author visit is no bad thing – read a little from your work, ask the students questions, let them ask you questions. Let them read or hear some quality literature.
Yes, probably we are expected to entertain. But it may be our writing that engages. We must bring something the teachers can’t and something that we bring because of the type of writers we are. And maybe it’s fine to let students try out some of the things we do.
One delegate said that he always tried to make the workshop in school bring him something as well. Perhaps we might research with our students.
We were asked to think of our tag line and logo in the session. I couldn’t get mine. It kept coming out too long. But I have it now. “Writing for and with young people.” I write primarily for young adults, but do also write for younger children and enjoy working with them. I also work with university students, many of them still relatively young. Hence, “young people”. Writing with students rather than just getting them to write also seems appropriate.
The logo is yet to arrive. But I’m thinking butterflies or something similar that represents the young at heart.
I’ve also made some decisions about the type of workshop I am prepared to offer in schools, based on what we talked about in that session.