Something that pleases me greatly is that the book is filled with teachers’ voices. Their experiences and their thinking contribute to the whole and continue to do so. Writing teachers groups provide a space for teachers to write together and therefore to think together; to discover with and from each other more about writing and the teaching of writing and to articulate those discoveries. Our groups are not about quick fixes or single solutions. They are, however, about strength; the strength of community and slow thought, of mutual respect and admiration and the quietness of writing together. They are about wild laughter and human sympathy, and endless curiosity and inquiry. Writing groups create their own webs of solidarity where much is shared and explored.
During the final meeting of each year, I ask Writing Teachers at UEA to write for twenty minutes or so with the following sentence starter: “This year I have learned about teaching writing......” and I take away copies of what everyone writes. The results always move me. In these words can be found evidence of the individual and the community, the writer and the writing, the way that principles are emerging and dilemmas are wrangled. At this celebration we showed a presentation drawn from teachers’ words alongside images of how we work together. A line that gave me pause for thought when I read it in the summer was: ‘This year I have become a writing teacher.’ It was written by a teacher who has been attending the group for about three years and whom I regard to be a great writing teacher. She runs a very successful writing club at her school and thinks deeply about her teaching. And yet, only now did she consider herself ‘a writing teacher’.
It made me think how slow the process is of growing into teaching, despite current claims otherwise. And teaching writing is a particularly slow business. We can’t rush into it. We can keep working at it and as we write and think together, with each other and with our students, we gain a richer, more nuanced, more confident sense of what it is to learn to be a writer; what it is to be the teacher who is able to teach writing.