Each of these 3 groups has been meeting for just over a year in public spaces: galleries, theatres, museums and cafes. They have been writing, sharing and reflecting on the effect of belonging to a writing group.
What difference has NWP made to these teachers and their teaching?
For many it's been the reconnection with creativity - a part of themselves they feel gets side-lined in the pursuit of goals decided by others. They are fascinated by each other's distinctive perspective and voice, buoyed up by the generosity of others, and pleasantly surprised by how attentive listeners respond to the writing they hear. And then, of course, there's the supportive network of being with other teachers, sharing imaginative classroom approaches to writing which entice more children to write and feel good about themselves as writers.
So what do teachers write about?
Here are ten examples:
- a furious conversation between books on the shelves of the Parisian cafe, La Petite Hortense
- humorous Interrail memories of students posing with Gitanes in the havens of European cafes
- reflections of friendships found and rare coincidences while travelling in Ethiopia
- a portrait of a brother's adolescence in a family charged with pain ("I've been trying to write this for 10 years")
- a fantasy of finding in Anish Kapoor's 'Sky Mirror' a portal to another world, and 'stepping into the light'
- the story of a linguistically sensitive 8-year old girl, adjusting her language to accommodate those around her
- a celebration of the studded and whistling exuberance of a Gay Pride demonstration 'reclaiming the night'
- a mother's monologue revealing dark secrets behind the innocence of son, Toby, family playing in a fountain
- an intimate encounter in late 18th century London, against a background of women's oppression
- a patchwork poem of power - ' a collison of empires' - crafted out of snapshots of bird-life by the lake
And the remarkable thing is that this writing was sometimes already in process, but mostly emerged from the stimulation of the group encounter, to the fascination and delight of the writer as well as their audience. Had it not been for the friendly compulsion of the writing group, these stories might never have been told nor would these writers' enthusiasm ever have resonated later in the permissions and inspirations which will inspire a new generation of writers in their classrooms.
It is my belief that no amount of worthy (and expensive) INSET on structures, specifications and pedagogic techniques could begin to equal the energy generated by these writing encounters. These teachers have regained access to their own imaginations and benefited from a privileged insight into the creativity of their colleagues. They are stronger teachers, and the profession is the more resilient because of their voluntary work. They are all now genuinely and intimately acquainted with the writing process and are, therefore, better equipped to make writing a meaningful experience for all their pupils - and it has cost them nothing.
Don't take my word for it - join a writing group.
NWP outreach director