I hope you get a good rest, and restore yourself by following your own reading and writing instincts.
If you are at a loose end and not on some foreign beach, please do come to an open NWP meeting at the Tate Modern on Thursday 16 August at 10 a.m. A group of us will meet in the ground floor café and spend the morning writing, wandering and sharing stories – not necessarily in that order. If you’d like to join us, please contact me and I will send you further details.
Over the past few weeks, I have been visiting some of the 20+ NWP(UK) groups – Leyburn, Halifax, Glasgow, Islington, West Sussex , Milton Keynes. I have launched a new group in Stamford, and anticipate new groups in Cumbria, Gloucester and in Powys in the autumn.
NWP groups are restorative professional forums for teachers seeking creative ways of bringing greater agency to classroom writing. Sometimes we seem to approach writing cautiously, with a combination of deliberation and opportunism, like hunter-gatherers. Sometimes it's a bit like pearl-diving – holding your breath and plunging in. At other times writing can be agricultural - harrowing, involving much ploughing and hoeing before harvest (cf Amanda Fulford’s metaphors). NWP is evolving.
On the 18th and 19th of June, Glasgow teachers practised free writing and gifting. We discussed why, when and how this benefited learners. We considered some of our experiences:
- improved cohesion and stronger voice when writing is heard as well as seen in classrooms
- greater pupil engagement when writing is ‘re-framed’ as conversation – honouring feelings, staying longer with the provisional, uncertain and unknown, encouraging the ‘new and the true’, rather than the ‘tight and the right’
- writing becoming a habit for learning when regular responsibility for experiment, composition and response is distributed beyond the teacher
- a fascination with words developed by daily opportunities to celebrate variety of usage and consider connections, associations, histories, contexts
On the 20th of June I visited Penrith in preparation for the launch of a new NWP group in October. Raina Parker and I discussed how, through developing teachers’ subject hinterland – specifically by experiencing the writing process - we could help schools re-frame creative writing. Sadly, at the moment, the freedom to express one’s own thoughts in one’s own words is unevenly distributed across the education system – with unhealthy consequences for democracy and social cohesion.
On the 21st of June I attended the BERA conference on Social Justice and Inclusion, and Educational Improvement. Peter Smagorinsky echoed our thoughts when he spoke personally and passionately in favour of teachers ‘learning about other people rather than fixing other people.’ In order to avoid teacher and student burn-out, Peter practises and advocates education which is emotionally-driven and relationship-driven, rather than primarily intellectually-driven. Other speakers also warned against making assumptions about readers and writers by looking at them purely through the lens of ‘tested outcomes’.
On the 23rd of June, I was in Aston for the NATE and IFTE conferences. Wider, international perspectives are so important, and NWP(UK) hopes to be working with Monash colleagues in the near future. Let me share just one thing I 'gleaned' about the importance of our own – and our pupils’ own stories. It’s from Ray Misson’s ‘Literacy and Schooling’ 1998, quoted by Larissa McLean Davies, from Melbourne University:
‘The stories we tell ourselves are influenced by the stories we are told. We model our stories on the stories others tell us. As a consequence, those stories come to constitute who we are or would like to be.’
Thanks, Ray! Thanks, Larissa!
NWP outreach director