Is there time to write? 

By Teresa Cremin, Professor of Literacy in Education, The Open University 

Schools are busy places, the timetable is jam packed, lessons are pacy, and time to breathe, ponder and think is at a premium. There is considerable pressure on teachers to cover the curriculum, demonstrate set objectives have been worked on and assess what has been achieved in the given time frame. This can create a ‘hurry up and move on’ culture in the classroom, a sense of teachers and students feeling hurried and harried which is hardly conducive to learning. Where is the time to explore ideas as a writer? To engage playfully with texts and to revisit possibilities and select ideas and themes which might be worth pursuing? Continue reading “Is there time to write? “

Call yourself a writer?

By Ian Eyres, Senior Lecturer, The Open University

Mostly, it seems to me, that people don’t. Those who earn a living from writing are generally more than happy to claim the title, but others, including many who teach writing, even if they do a lot of writing themselves, prefer not to make that claim. They might be willing to admit ‘dabbling’ or to being a ‘dormant writer’ or that they’d like to write a novel ‘one day’, if they get the chance. Some are prepared to count themselves as writers in the past. But maybe because it feels like a demand to be counted alongside Shakespeare, Dickens and J.K. Rowling, most resist any invitation to count themselves as currently among their number. Continue reading “Call yourself a writer?”

The Alan Booth method

Dr Anthony Wilson, Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter

I have been thinking a lot recently about Alan Booth, my English teacher from the ages of 11 to 13. He strode into the suburban prep school I attended, cigarette ash on his sleeve, dandruff on his collar, with a kind of defiant panache born out of the twin engines of his craft: exceptional knowledge and razor-sharp command of the classroom. He was not the first teacher to teach me something, but he was the first teacher I encountered for whom teaching was a calling, not just something to be tolerated before leaving to do something else, or a backstop career choice having failed at other things, like the other ‘masters’. Continue reading “The Alan Booth method”

Where’s your plan?

By Professor Debra Myhill, Director of the Centre for Research in Writing, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, The University of Exeter

I remember my A level English Literature teacher well.  She bubbled with eccentricity, a non-standard teacher in a girls’ grammar school of very standard girls.  Like so many of my teachers, she was a spinster, but unlike them, many of whom had lost fiancés during the Second World War, she quite simply had not found the right man.  She was a somewhat gawky figure with a bouffant of white hair, desperately short-sighted and always slightly bent in her efforts to see.  But she knew her literature and taught it with a passion that eclipsed the more nonchalant attitude of my class. Continue reading “Where’s your plan?”

Taking the author’s chair


By Lucy Oliver, Research Fellow, University of Exeter

Amidst the hype and celebration of Booker Prize week we learn that Paul Beatty was told by his teacher to quit writing because he was no good at it. Not a recollection, one imagines, that has sustained him through his darker writing hours since. I wonder what alternative source of feedback and encouragement enabled him to keep going when many young writers would surely have thrown in the towel. Continue reading “Taking the author’s chair”