Yesterday I started thinking about writing. I’d begun reading Jenny Webb’s Teach Like A Writer and had also read some fantastic contributions to Hannah Wilson’s Daily Writing Challenge. I claim to be someone who loves writing but in actual fact I just love having a nice pen in my hand and a chunky blank notebook to stare at… I find the inspiration to write is often lacking.
This changes when I write with my department. I have always advocated using department meeting time as subject specific CPD. It’s what we do and it’s been a game changer in how we see ourselves as teacher-learners and not just teachers. Our favourite but most challenging activity is our department writing workshops. The “creative one” in the team talks us through a prompt and an idea she’s used in class… and we write. In silence. And then we share. We all share knowing that there is nothing but support and applause coming our way. It’s really quite wonderful.
Yesterday I felt like I really missed this. I contacted some groups of friends and asked about setting up a virtual writing group… There was initial trepidation for several reasons; “will I have to read my work aloud?” being the main worry. I began to realise that even I was a little embarrassed about reading my creative writing outside the safety of my department. One friend said she’d love to give it a go as she dreads having to model creative writing in front of the pupils – a common concern amongst almost all English teachers I suspect. So many of us consider ourselves readers first and writers second.
It became clear that there was a need for a safe space for teachers to practise the art of writing so that we can build our classroom confidence. Many of us don’t realistically think we’ll ever become the novelists we dream of or write that Pulitzer Prize winning piece of edu-journalism … but being able to write a smashing short story or an emotive article about a current issue is surely not beyond our reach?
And so, the Team English Writers Group For Teachers Who Can’t Write Good But Want To Write Good was born…
I’m joking of course, that’s not the name.
The Team English Writers Group (#TEWriters) will be a place for English teachers in all phases to have a go at writing the very tasks we set for our own pupils. Here’s how it will work:
Over on the TE twitter page and blog we’ll post a fortnightly* image or other writing prompt, just like one you would give pupils in class. We’d love for A Level and Primary folks to as well so these won’t be limited to GCSE style tasks. (*This will possibly become monthly when we return to school and deal with whatever September brings!)
You share your work. We have set up a Google docs folder where you can not only drop your writing but see what everyone else has written. You can also post your writing on your own blog and share it on twitter with the hashtag #TEWriters.
We’ll encourage participants to chat about the fortnightly task and read each other’s work. Fellow teachers may want to use your work in their classrooms as well.
The aim is for every one involved to build their confidence in writing for their own students and departments, and to build up a bank of teacher-written examples that will inspire us.
When I write with my department I go into my next lesson armed with so many ideas and examples from my friends. It’s massively helped not only my confidence but my enthusiasm for writing and has made me a better teacher. Hopefully we can all do that for each other.
The first image/prompt will be pinned on the TE account and blog on Monday 22nd June along with the Google Drive link. A new image will be posted every two weeks thereafter throughout summer.