- Do you teach young people to write?
- Do you write yourself?
- Do you ever share your writing process or outcomes with your class?
This week, we launch #WritersByNight, a friendly online community where writer-teachers come together and support one another in their writing (for pleasure) endeavours.
What is a Writer-Teacher?
So, what exactly is a writer-teacher? I am a teacher, of that I am sure. Identifying as a writer, though? That doesn’t come so easily to me, although I’m writing when I walk and swim and wake and think. I’m writing when I jot down ideas and delicious phrases in my various notebooks, when I fantasise about how some kind of magical voice recorder might instantly transpose my thoughts into perfect print. I’m writing when I’m fighting with a sentence or feeling for the precise word to convey, well … ‘that’. Apparently, I’m writing when I’m sweating about a deadline or consumed with insecurity at the very idea of someone reading, well … this. All, in all that’s a lot of writing but I haven’t written a book. So, am I writer-teacher?
Living the Writer’s Life
The writing behaviours I have identified and listed above are authentic to the craft of writing but they don’t necessarily define me as writer-teacher. The times I really feel like a writer is when I’m using the writing process as a tool to make sense of what is in my head. It’s at times like these that I feel like a writer. Douglas Kaufman describes this collection of practices and experiences as ‘living the writer’s life’.
In their new book, Real-World Writers: A Handbook for Teaching Writing with 7-11 Year Olds (Routledge, 2020), Ross Young and Felicity Ferguson from The Writing for Pleasure Centre summarise key research findings in their various characterisations of writer-teachers, including as ‘investigators’: interrogating “writing privately so they can use what they find out to develop new ways to enrich their writing instruction and the self-regulatory strategies they suggest to children in their classrooms”. I have learnt so much from our ongoing collaboration and from exploring the connections between research and classroom practice through our monthly #WritingRocks chats on Twitter.
So, as a writer-teacher, what is useful to share with children and what does the research say? Well, in a nutshell: all of it! Or, as with all things teaching, as much as you are comfortable sharing. Teresa Cremin and Lucy Oliver recognise the power of opportunities teachers take to “convey a passion for writing and share their expertise, modelling writing tasks and promoting a community of practice in the classroom”.
The writing practices we choose to engage with enhance our lives in profound ways, as does collaborating with others in the joys and frustrations of living the writer’s life. Initiatives such as the National Writing Project and the National Association for Writers in Education have demonstrated over time that having skin in the game is incredibly powerful when it comes to the teaching of writing. We don’t have to be experts; we don’t have to be confident or even the best.
We’d love you to join us at #WritersByNight!
How Do I Sign Up?
- Make an account on our #WritersByNight website.
- Post your writing up on the website when it’s ready.
- Read and comment on another person’s writing.
- If you’re on Twitter, share a link to your writing using the #WritersByNight hashtag.