I’m working with another extension writing class at school, an older group of Grade Six students this time, and I can’t help thinking that I’m learning more from the experience than they are. Teaching kids in a formal setting (as opposed to teaching my own kids something at home, or delivering the curriculum that the teachers have set for me) makes me nervous, for several reasons; except for some units of early childhood education that I completed in my Playcentre days in New Zealand, I have no formal teacher training. I’ve learned a few things, both formally and informally, over the years about writing, but I’m never sure at what level to pitch my lessons to the students. On the days I run the class, the kids can’t get out of the classroom and into our little learning space fast enough, which should be (and is) gratifying to me. But that leads me to another worry; what if the class I run is altogether too much fun, and they’re not learning anything from me at all?
On the other hand…what if they are learning things, but they’re the wrong things? One thing I have learned is that almostevery ‘rule’ of writing can be broken, and with great effect, if you know what you are doing. What if I tell them a rule, and they stick to it slavishly, only to have it stifle their writing careers in adulthood because they’ve trained themselves to write only in a certain way? For example, can they never, EVER start a story with a description of the weather? What if the weather is really, really important to the plot? Writers’ blogs abound with examples of classic novels breaking this rule, George Orwell’s “1984” being an oft-cited example.
Or maybe I just worry too much.
It’s not all stress and worry and second-guessing myself, though; there are moments of magic too. Hearing one student explain perfectly a new concept to another student who’d missed that particular mini-lesson. Having one student approach me with a book in hand, point to a spot on the page, and say, “This word here – I like this word. I want to use it in my story. Is this the right way to do that?” Giving them, not strictures on their use of language, but license to use it with constructive creativity, and seeing their look of surprise: “You can do that?” Some days I think I should be paying the school for the privilege.
Just don’t tell the principal…