Initial snapshots of possibility: Writers in Schools revisited

Every possible use of words should be made available to every possible person: this sounds like a good motto, with a very democratic sound. Not because everyone should be an artist, but because no one should be a slave.
(Rodari Grammatica dell Fantasia)

I’m walking down along an English corridor with the Advanced Skills Teacher in English, Chris, when a lad strolls by and Chris calls out to him Hi! You’ve grown! Stop growing! The lad acknowledges the call but continues his walk. A ridiculous command if ever there was one. This seems to be what corridors are for: the placing and issuing of ridiculous shouty instructions “Keep left! Stand up straight!! Health and Safety! Punctuation!”

There’s lots of old written material here which is out of date and irrelevant: decrepit texts with no significance any longer, speaking of old regimes, older authorities and matters of older importance. They have no current didactic value and no learning value but try their best to remain authoritative. Public places in schools – like these corridors – have their fair share of texts which have lost their power, written in a language which exerts no pull or push of influence. And whilst they might not be chronologically out of date (where they might advertise an up and coming Senior Managment meeting for example) they can be ignored through over exposure (keep left!).

We talk about whether anyone reads these notices and figure probably not; and so see how writing in this school offers some dreary role model examples to work from. No wonder that, according to Chris, reading is sometime seen as a chore; writing is limited with little spark; there’s little ‘natural’ interest.

Chris wants children ‘to fall in love with writing’ and wanted them to care about how they express themselves; especially those who he thought didn’t have that culture at home. Not that the school doesn’t focus on writing at all. Chris feels that it was the kind of writing that was the issue here: there is sometimes a habit of concentrating on writing with style as opposed to content.

Not that this means that the project has to become overly serious or academic : we want to inject fun and enthusiasm into literacy, he added as we continued our tour of the school. He also was intent on exploring the possibilities of new, original writing through this process, and thought that by dedicating future CPD sessions to the theme of original writing, the project’s possibilities could be communicated and extended to a wider staff grouping. According to Chris, schools are sources of certainty and not so much of possibility:

Schools are very much about what is certain, you know, about passing exams, about repeating facts and knowing that you can jump through those hoops – in some respects. What we need to do more is explore creativity, possibility. What you’ve been doing is discovering what is possible; you’ve come out with knowledge that you didn’t go in expecting, you’ve suddenly learnt things that you didn’t know you were going to learn in terms of the creative process.

The importance of heightening possibility, as opposed to the desire for probable, pre-determined outcomes is an important contributing factor to the work of the writer in residence at this school: and the stories of the writers working here are stories of the tension between the worlds of the possible and the worlds of the pragmatic.

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