We have told the story of the teachers as writers project behind this website. It is a story of creativity, collaboration and professional agency. Teachers have been pioneers and heroes, and their testimony is strong, insightful and uplifting. The book places our UK project in a longer, international tradition of teacher-driven research into the dynamics of writing and teaching. It explains how UK teachers have written together, supported each other and transformed classrooms into willing communities of writers. And it provides practical advice about how others can do the same.
If you'd like to know more, buy the book. If you'd like to write the next story, by shaping and improving the teaching of writing over the next 6 years, join a writing group. It's free.
6 years ago, in 2009, I felt angry that writing teachers had become marginalised - there was an increasingly centralised curriculum, a national strategy and a pervasion of testing. Progress targets became more and more fixated with quantitative outcomes. "If you get people setting targets with no experience of operational delivery, you're not going to get the right sort of targets." (Michael Bichard, University of the Arts. Guardian 2/7/2008) Measurements were everywhere, while things of immeasurable importance were being daily ignored.
Few seemed to question what 'writing' actually was. How was it changing in 21st century UK? Why was there such a disjunct between school and university practice? Where did the teaching of writing feature in teacher education? What did teachers know about writing, first hand? And what say did writing teachers have over the way in which writing was defined and policed in schools? I didn't have answers. That's mainly what motivated me to set up NWP (UK) with Jeni and to find out what willing writing teachers could do for themselves and their pupils through the collective action of simply writing together. Even though we had no money, and little power, we had ourselves.
6 years on, today in 2015, although the DVDs and ring-binders no longer thud onto our desks, you might think that the UK situation has barely improved. Well, not as far as teachers' say is concerned anyway. But actually, in the last six years, 100s of teachers have joined NWP writing groups, and 1,000s of their pupils - the reluctant as well as the committed - have been motivated by writing journals and notebooks to write more. In many classrooms, the writing process has been opened up, and writing has become less frightening and more meaningful. Whatever else may have happened, I think that the sum total of professional fulfilment, knowledge and influence has been increased. And now leaders, managers and organisations are looking to see how they can benefit from and promote similar approaches.
Much of this is about ownership. 'Having a say' - we all like to do that once in a while, don't we? And it's even more gratifying when people listen. But will anything happen? Can we change anything? Yes, I believe we can.
I don't want to belittle the challenges ahead. But we will be stronger together.