A professional learning workshop at VATE in mid-January?! You’re kidding me.

No, no, it’s true. On Wednesday 20 January, 25 English teachers, pre-service teachers and teacher educators gathered at VATE for the second in the series of stella2.0 workshops.

The topic of the workshop was ‘English teachers as writers’.

In other parts of the world, professional communities of English teacher writers have operated for decades. Some are short-lived. Some are driven by particular writing outcomes: like lesson plans, or student reports, or job applications, or an article for professional publication. Some take the form of PD ‘events’, where teachers write with a view to improving their teaching of writing. Others like the National Writing Project (NWP) in the US have diverse purposes, and have continued in various guises for over 40 years.

The first stella2.0 workshop for 2016 began with participants identifying the many reasons they write in their everyday work. There is writing they feel is required, and writing they choose to do. Then there’s writing which appears to be tightly prescribed, but where they feel they can still creative and distinctive. We wondered about the conditions that support and / or constrain the different writing that English teachers do.

In small groups, we talked about our varied experiences as English teacher writers: from writing units of work with our colleagues (or not!), to writing with our students in classrooms. There were stories of robust email debates between school colleagues about text choices, and one participant talked about department meetings in her school where all teachers in teaching teams write a short reflective piece at the conclusion of significant units, in the same way teachers have been asking students to reflect on units for many years now. There was even a long forgotten memory of participating in a writing workshop with the much loved Australian author, Elizabeth Jolley, in the 1990s.

As always, there was an extended period of time when the room hushed (apart from productive keyboarding sounds) as people settled down to write. Amongst the writing produced was a poem about David Bowie, the first poem written by this teacher for about a year.  Another teacher reflected on how her participation in adult creative writing courses some years ago had revitalised her interest in English teaching. And much much more.

What else did participants write about? Take a look at the stella2.0 forum and read the wonderful variety of writing that was generated during and after the workshop. Feel free to exercise the writer in you and respond to one or two of these posts yourself. If you were at the workshop, we look forward to seeing your posting on the forum in the near future.

The next stella2.0 workshop is on Wednesday 24 February. The topic will be ‘English standards: 50 years on from the Dartmouth conference’.

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