Now I've discovered that when we all write and listen together, we can multiply the learning by 30! And this isn't some airy ideal, it's socially constructive - as language learning must be - and it's manageable.
I could get only so far with instruction of conventions, rules and schemes and tropes. 100 exercises didn't make me a writer - I had to develop a feel for the game.
Here are 4 things which I underestimated:
1. Confidence is key to so much: with it, everything is possible; without it I can hardly move.
2. Practice is also critical - 10,000 hours some say - reading and talking, writing and walking; looking, remembering and dreaming; thinking and making, feeling and faking.
3. So is experimentation: after I've held on long enough, I've got to take risks, give myself up to the journey and not worry about the destination. I'll find so much along the way - voices, connections, phrasing, fluency.
4. Afterwards, I need to think and talk. So reflection with others is vital to my development as a writer.
With only 30 minutes a week of writing workshops, I could have taken away pupils' fears and transformed the classroom into a place where everyone was engaged. By changing the climate from over-dependency, writers would have flourished and become more demanding of themselves, acquiring resilience through greater interaction with others. Writing would have been heard by all, not merely seen by two and judged by one.
Instead, I hobbled young writers by enumerating lists of things I thought they should learn and targets they should aim for. When I rewarded only their obedience to my instructions, and 'what the test requires', I lost sight of writers' authority, energies and needs. I closed down the learning when I thought I was opening it up. I needed to listen more to what each writer was saying, not just what I wanted to hear. I needed to attend to the process of writing, not just focus on the product. If I had done so, writers would have been more expressive, and more forthcoming. They would have 'owned' their purposes more fully and fluently, acquired an urgency to refine meaning. And then they would even have minded those very 'p's and 'q's I was banging on about so ineffectually before - because they would have been ready to communicate.
I should have been asking myself a different question: not so much what have I taught, but what have we learnt today?
NWP outreach director