Whilst interviewing for Head of English at a Mid North Coast High School a few years back the principal asked about my Masters in Writing. Instead of simply filing it in her memory she challenged me with a simple, yet long overdue question: “How do you use it?”
The teaching fraternity is not unlike other professions where qualifications are currency. Many degrees, teaching included, attach a 5th year Masters (Education) option that is completed immediately after graduating with a Bachelor. Often it is loaded with ‘leadership’ and ‘mastery’ of pedagogy (big word for ‘how we teach’) in a field that many teachers have not yet set foot. Many will never see leadership, nor apply the theory as they struggle with three million curriculum outcomes. This was upfront, honest, and really asking “so what?”
Before I respond, my question for the entire education system is “Why did you stop me becoming a better teacher?”. When I studied a combined Arts/Teaching degree with an English major I only needed a set number of specialist subjects. There were another 20-30 possible subjects depending on the institution. Where was my film study? Creative Writing? If not for having such a great mentor at my first school, I would never have had the depth of knowledge needed. That is what I wanted to keep learning about, not stuck in a week of PD that ticks the NESA boxes and drowns us in legislation. Expensive yes, but at least incentivise the individual pursuit of deeper knowledge.
Having been a Detective for nearly 15 years in my first career I was a bit more mature (hmmm…) than most graduates and understood myself, my students and professional life. I knew that if I was to thrive in this environment, I needed to do things my way. At further expense to myself I pursued a Masters – not in educational leadership or pedagogy, but in what inspired me. Writing. Creative writing, children’s literature, YAF, crime genre, professional writing, editing…That is what makes me a better teacher. One who can’t wait to throw open the door each day, walk the school grounds just talking to my students, getting to know them and what makes them tick. It works for us; it works for them. The more time I spend in my passion the better I feel and allows my brain to work creatively with my students. Knowing how energized I feel about my interest allows my students to feed off my enthusiasm and we look for their passion together. Dare I say scaffolding? ZPD?
I avoid buzzwords with my students…as they learn about themselves and me there is NO WAY, I will call them a ‘lifelong learner’. No, they are just having fun, nailing it, and just enjoying coming into the classroom. Learning almost feels incidental. I once had a year 10 student score over 80% in their final exam, a great improvement over her usual 50%. Open mouthed and eyes like dinner plates she didn’t ask how she did it, only the need to point out “…but Sir, you don’t actually teach us anything!”
And that was the start of my response to my prospective employer. Engage. Inspire. Create. The art of narrative is putting YOU in the driver’s seat. It is not about me, or the school, or Uni. It’s not always about classic literature. Narrative is a RPG, 1st Person shooter, Comic, Graphic Novel, Picture Book, Film, Drama script, song…For me, it is all of these media, depending on what YOU want. The underlying principles are the same, just “trust me to get you there”. I use Crime Story because it is what I know, what I love. It is the biggest genre, year in year out. It is also the basis for ALL genre. Every genre, every story, every game, every film…it is a question and an attempt to find answers. Who is the killer? Will they survive the alien attack? Will true love survive a miscommunication that send her into another man’s arms? Questions, questions, and more questions, all of which are intended for the ‘responder’ to solve before the text reveals the answer. The Crime Story workshops take this journey of promoting questions rather than answers. Hands on, working a crime scene, observing, thinking, solving real life situations.
Leading accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) hired an Arts graduate whose research thesis investigated creative writing for autistic children. Far afield from the usual mathematicians in accountancy, PwC realised the [...]