First, the confessional: it’s been over five months since I last clicked ‘Add New’ on the drop-down menu under ‘Posts’ on this site’s Dashboard.
I’ve either been too busy (Really? Then how come…):
Or too tired (Ditto).
Okay, you get the picture(s).
Whatever I’ve not been doing, I have been reading. Lots. I’ve made real inroads into that To Read jenga tower. Here’s a just small selection of recent poetry reads:
I have subscribed to Magma for years; I consider it to be one of the best ‘shop windows’ for the breadth and the best of contemporary poetry. Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth both shocked and enthralled; compelling reading. Annette Boehm’s The Knowledge Weapon is Bare Fiction’s newest pamphlet publication. I bought this online after Boehm’s reading of poems from the pamphlet, with introductions, on Transatlantic Poetry. You can watch the podcast, including Victoria Kennefick’s fine reading, here.
Add to these several novels and the odd fashion/lifestyle mag (all now shared/re-homed via the staff room coffee table), links to articles and other ‘stuff’ on Twitter and Facebook plus a growing number of blogs I follow and – well, you get the picture.
In the spirit of catching up, I’ve just unearthed four unread copies of NAWE Writing in Education periodicals from my Writing-Stuff-(Not)-On-The-Go bag after the latest issue landing on the hall floor with this morning’s post:
The focus of the current issue is Teaching Creativity, a subject close to my heart, both as a writer and as a Primary Teacher. In fact, it is Robert Hull’s article, Testing Times for Schoolchildren, that has prompted this post. From a Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, ‘Where go the boats?’ being washed up on the barren shores of comprehension testing in a KS1 Reading test to test rehearsal and time devoted to wrestling with grammatical concepts like ‘cohesion’ and ‘fronted adverbial’ in primary classrooms across the land at the expense of a creative, integrated narrative of reading and writing. Hell, yes, I’m right with you, Mr Hull.
I must add, at this point, that the ‘Poetry By Numbers’ and end-of-year league-table-posted-on-the-form-room-wall of exam results approach of my 1970’s ‘Girls’ High Schooling’ was not dissimilar to the current regime.
Nevertheless, teachers then, as now, did/do succeed in fostering a love of words/books/reading and in enriching children’s lives in spite of national legislation by politicians in ivory towers and ‘education professionals’ with vested interests (oh, yes, ye pedlars of products). I don’t remember her name but I do remember the A’level English teacher who brought to life Cantos I to IV of Byron’s Don Juan as if it was a pop-up book. And there were other inspiring teachers, too.
And poetry worked its own magic: the vivid, shocking imagery of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est and Mental Cases brought home the horrors of trench warfare better than any History lesson ever could; the sound echoes of W H Auden’s On This Island led me to rediscover the poem forty-odd years after studying it, when I could only remember the pluck/and knock of the tide and the shingle scrambles after the suck/-ing surf.
There are many talented writers and artists in education who inspire creativity. Last October, poet David Harmer got ‘down with the kids’ from Nursery to our uber-cool Year 6s for Whole School Reading Day during Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading week. (He came highly recommended by Year 5 pupils and their previous teachers who’d attended his workshop session funded by Whatever it Takes during Author Week). He engaged and involved every pupil with his lively and comical performance of poems about space aliens, pirates, parents and teachers. In writer-led creative writing workshops, Years 2 and 6 wrote their own class poems which they performed to the rest of the school before our visiting poet presented each class with a set of signed copies of his poetry books.
And the legacy, minister? Since then, poetry has appeared regularly throughout the school in displays of pupils’ creative writing; a Year 5 pupil gave me a personal performance of her ‘latest poem’; an increasing number of poetry book loans from our KS1 and KS2 libraries appear as ‘table top’ reads or go home in book bags. And, in a post-SATs teacher swap, our Literacy Coordinator was treated to an impromptu rendition of Harmer’s ‘Mr Moore’ poem as their own Mr W retreated down the corridor.
As More Able, Gifted & Talented coordinator, I’ve another To Read pile:
Whatever you’re reading this summer, may the power of words continue to delight/surprise/shock/educate/inspire/transport/transform.