We discussed how writing – as well as talk – is a way of socially constructing and reconstructing ‘knowledge’. At the same time as teaching powerful writing conventions, it is important to address the plurality of cultures and to nurture new voices. An accommodating environment is not only richer and more just, but its inclusivity strengthens thinking and learning.
Writing in schools, however, is subject to imposed limits, pressures and controls (cf Raymond Williams: Culture and Society 1961). By understanding these from the inside - by writing - teachers are better placed to own their own practice, and to negotiate and advocate on behalf of pupils and peers.
Through stories, witness is preserved, truths are told, and, crucially, it is in stories that issues become grounded and peopled. We write to revisit, record and ‘realise’ our feelings and our emerging understandings, to pose questions and to imagine better futures. As we write we make sense of experience and can hold it open for analysis.
Writing also educates interpersonally – between us , as we attend to others’ writing and as they attend to ours - and as our discussion ‘circles’ and ‘holds’ images, phrases and formulations of greatest power and resonance.
Writing has always preserved thoughts for wider and later scrutiny, but now the speed with which it can be shared globally, increases the scope and power of its practitioners and participants.
We are starting to gather observations from writing teachers in different countries, and discovering to what extent some of these wider ‘affordances’ of writing may be promoted and practised, taught and learnt in different jurisdictions. We will report on progress in future blogs.
On April 28th two of the 21 NWP groups met in London – at the Tate Modern and at the Wellcome Collection. On May 12th three other NWP groups met in Wembley, Milton Keynes and Bedford. At the groups I attended, teachers wrote together, inventing and exploring linguistic and cultural conundrums – such as ...
- those aches of synaesthesia – the glimmers of hope, the fragrance of remembered song, the yellow sound of roses …
- the slipperiness of common parlance - ‘when a ‘little chat’ is not just a little chat’
- the effect of words from frequent combinations, like‘blithering’, on their own without their following ‘idiot’
- that pervading and debilitating culture of blame (‘It had to be someone’s fault, was it hers?’)
- and the many different ways there are of saying ‘no’.
Simon Wrigley, NWP outreach director