We all have a story to tell

By Becky Swain, Head of Learning and Participation, Arvon 

It’s a phrase I hear often. We have certainly used that line at Arvon to advocate for the central mission of our work and how creative writing allows us to harness our imagination and find our voice.

As the teachers involved in our Teachers as Writers research project go back to school this term, I am reminded of how I felt as an English teacher in a busy secondary school at the start of a new term and a new year. I remember the size of the challenge of how best to support pupils to overcome the barriers to enable them to share their stories and writing with confidence.

In conversations with teaching colleagues this week, some are starting the term with a sense of trepidation at the weight of everything that their classes are expected to cover this term. Many are considering how they will be able to give pupils the time and space that they are asking for to write their own stories, poems, plays and develop their next draft. They are also considering the extra mile they will need to go with some pupils who struggle with writing – to support them, to motivate them, and to provide frameworks that help them hold onto their enjoyment of words.

In the English Department at the school where I worked we encouraged pupils to think about their goals for the coming year – personal goals as well as learning goals. We’d make time to find out what pupils might be excited about, or what was concerning them about life and being in the world, as well as with their writing. I remember having a few restless nights before the start of term ruminating on how best to support pupils to make progress with their writing, whatever their ability. Whilst all pupils have different motivations and needs, invariably many of the same challenges of how to engage individual pupils in writing, and how to stem the tide of their negative attitudes to writing or their lack of confidence, always came to the fore.

Many people have been in touch with us over the past year to ask how they can be involved in Teachers as Writers. It’s clear that many teachers are looking for new ideas on how to raise the profile of writing in their school and new ways to excite and enthuse pupils and foster a culture of writing for pleasure.

Bearing in mind these challenges, the Arvon team are planning our involvement as a partner in the new National Writing Day scheduled for 21 June 2017, a collaborative initiative between First Story and other arts and literacy organisations across the UK. ‘Everyone has a story to tell,’ is also the key message of this new initiative, which aims to inspire people to discover the pleasure and power of writing and to celebrate and promote writing in all its forms – from poems, stories and letters, to raps, songs, scripts and more. The day will provide a platform to showcase existing projects and will introduce a host of new events and activities aimed at getting people writing. If you want to highlight the power of creative writing in your school, you may want to get involved – why not subscribe for updates about ambassadors, partners, events and more: www.nationalwritingday.org.uk

Becky Swain
Head of Learning and Participation

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