One of the things I do to contribute around here, given that I am an incomer and sometimes, even though we have been here 10 years now, it still feels a little “exclusive” in parts, is serve as a Governor at the local primary school. It is only a small school but I do see first hand the absolute desperate state of financial affairs of the education system. Yes, dear International Reader, schools in the UK are closing early in the week because they cannot afford to run a five day system. The Government are doing nothing. I would go so far as to say that they are purposely ignoring the concerns of parents and educationalists.The UK is in such political chaos that we are no longer taking the education of the next generation seriously enough. We are not yet a third world nation – just give us time.
I was persuaded by colleagues, as a result of the publication of my book, to give a talk on the joy of writing to the most senior class in school. They thought that the pupils need to have some male role models to engage with. That bit was a tall order, but I agreed to talk about writing.
It is nearly 40 years since I stood in front of a class. It is several years since I ran my training courses. I was getting nervous so prepped and practiced like I knew I should. You can’t prepare to fail you can only fail to prepare – being my old mantra.
My plan was to give the kids a performance. After all, this is not my normal job and once I’m done I’m outta there. I had a broad framework. Tell them what you are going to do – do it – tell them what you did.
I entered the classroom relieved to find that a Supply Teacher and Teaching Assistant were to be my security blanket. I reckoned that I might need my back covering.
The whole premise was built upon the joy and fun of words. Different kinds of words, their sounds, their bendability, how we can play with them and make them up, too.
We talked about reading and writing at their age (10/11 years). What I read and what inspired me to have a go at writing. Roger McGough. I read funny poems as a way to bring poetry into the equation. All kids like a laugh, I figured. We tried a collaboration to create a class poem based upon the Headteacher’s strange pet. That went better than I’d hoped.
We tried free writing. An unedited brain-blast for pure pleasure themed upon “my secret friend”. That worked too. I had a faint recollection that the new Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, had called for children to allowed regular free-writing sessions. I like being current. And then I read an extract from “Crossing Spain…” and we discussed pinching words from other languages.
I stressed the importance of flexing their “writing muscles” regularly to stay “writing fit” and then they too can write their own books.
My half hour talk lasted 45 minutes. A whole lesson, probably. And then it was lunch time and off they went to their next distraction. Phew, I’d made it.
If just one of them feels inspired to keep writing for fun then it was worth it. Fingers crossed. One day they may become a famous author and reflect when interviewed about a strange man who came to school …