Ice rinks, endless laughter and more. In this episode Andy, Emily and Adam advise on whether teachers should write their own novels. Is it a yes or a no? Is Emily still on the fence? Plus, advice on what kinds of writing is okay to display to students.
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Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hello, I'm Emily Guille-Marrett.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School podcast. Welcome to the School of School podcast.
Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us today. Today, we are talking about, should teachers write their own novels for their students to study? Go on Emily.
No, teachers shouldn't write their own-
If you're wondering why we're laughing so much, you have to listen to the previous podcast. Go on Emily. Why not?
You've gone off the theme Emily, I like it. This is good stuff. Carry on.
No.Teachers should not write their own novels to teach children. However, that's because they're teaching children. However, should share their writing in story time, or when it's relevant with children to expose themselves to the journey of writing, because techniques of writing I think is really important. And I think being a writer is something that children need to see and they need to hear teachers experience of it. And actually they, children are great at how having an opinion on other people's writing. And so yeah, I think in that context, it's a good thing.
Well, no, I think that I've been as a trainee teacher, some of my elective subjects revolved around literature. So I did a couple of years looking at New Zealand literature, not solely, but as an elective as part of my teacher training and also did creative writing for a couple of years of my degree. Now, of course, when I was doing my creative writing and it was flowing really well, did I think that I could produce world class novels? Without a shadow of a doubt. I thought it was just waiting to come out on paper. However, when I handed these in and got a bit of a critique back, there were people who suggested that perhaps I wasn't quite ready for that. It's easy if you are writing and I suppose for a lot of writing, it's a solitary experience.
I understand that we can write in groups. And I understand that there's lots of practices that we can share, but ultimately when we're writing, getting our thoughts down on page, it's a solitary experience. And if I'm looking at mine, I think it's really, really good. What's one of the things I want to do? I want to share it with other people. I want to share it because I want them to think it's as good as what I think it is, because that makes me feel good. Yeah?
Now I'm going to go into deeper waters here and say, I know as a classroom teacher that I have a far more captive audience, so who am I likely to share my writing with, a group of seven year olds who might go, "Anything you do is great, Mr. Gifford." Or am I likely to share it with my colleagues in the staff room? I can guarantee you that I will pick the children in the class every time, because I'll probably receive less of a critique. So I think that we just need to be careful that when we're producing our own work, I'm not saying everyone's fantasist like I am when it came to writing, I think that I got enough critique to realize perhaps it's not your forte. Enjoy it, do it. Go for it.
Yeah, do it for sure. Do it and ship it and try to find a publisher and follow your passion. But don't use the students as your experiment of your skillset.
No, I'm going to let you speak, Emily. You look really, really pissed off now, but let me give you a story, okay? And I'm just going to follow up on what Adam said. I remember being about 16 years old, right? And I used to play a lot of ice hockey and actually I grew up in Montreal and there was an ice rink right outside my house that was maintained by the city outside. Every day after school, I was on an ice rink. Every day for hours, right? I was pretty good. I was better than almost everybody I knew at playing hockey.
Okay. I thought I was great. There was a guy who played for the Montreal Canadians who lived in our neighborhood. And one day he laced up and came on that ice rink. And he played with us kids, right? Now, I'm kid. I was like 16 or 17 years old, right? Like if I was going to play professional hockey, I would be on that track already. He laced up and played with us out on the ice. And he wasn't even a particularly good player on the NHL. He was just like mediocre-average player. He was so much better than any of us, like so much better. Like you couldn't even describe how much better he was than any of us. Like none of us could get anywhere near him or ever get the puck off him.
And every time he shot, he always scored, right? Like he was so much better than any of us. That was a reality check for me, right? And this is true for everything. I will never be that good. And it doesn't matter. I played hours every day, struggled, and I was on teams and I had good coaches and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, great mentors. I watched hockey all the time. I knew the sport and I was never going to be that good. Who are you going to study? Right? By all means. I still play hockey. I love it. Okay. I haven't played for a while. I was coaching a team when I lived in of roller hockey kids. I loved it. It was passionate.I loved that. I absolutely loved the sport. Never going to be that good though.
One of the little ingredients that perhaps we've not talked about is with whether it be writing or ice hockey or whatever it is, I think one of the things that children pick up on immensely is if you're passionate about something and am I stealing your thunder, Emily? So you're about to say, but I think that's the thing. I think there's nothing wrong with me sharing with the children that I aspire to be a novelist one day and look at the writing in front of you. Now, if I could even write half as well as that, wouldn't that be something else? That's not missed. Children respond to that. And so I think that we can still be aspirational and no one takes that away from anyone. We can still try our hardest.
We may need to accept that we are not going to be the Gretzky's or the Lemieux's of the world or whatever. But I think that if children see that you are trying, you are aspiring to it and it doesn't matter whether you get there or not, because I'm trying to do it. I love it. And by the way, when you watch hockey on TV or when you read this novel, check out how good they are, like can you even imagine that? That is something else. And I think that that's what we can share. You don't want to be the bitter novelist and go in and say.
That's the level that I'm talking about.
I guess maybe my story came out wrong. Maybe it's up for interpretation in a bad way. I think that the essence to the point is this. If you want to be an author, then devote your life to it and do a great job, right? But if you're a teacher and you want to write on the side, by all means, do that, right? But just be mindful that if there's something that's more appropriate or better for those kids, for their learning, and you choose to put your stuff in front of them, why are you doing it? Are you doing it for them? Or are you doing it for you?
And that's what you have to understand. I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't write books. I think all teachers should write books. Everybody should try to write a book, right? But don't inflict your hobby into your profession. You're a teacher.
Spend your time being the best possible teacher you can be. And that part of that responsibility means choose and pick the best questions and the best lessons for your kids. And don't be so arrogant to believe that you are the only person who can write that because at heart that is just plain arrogance, right?
There are some great contemporary writers. I was thinking of Lucy Strange, who is a writer and a teacher. You can be both. In fact, lucky children to have her.
The best authors come from a teaching background. I don't think you can be a great author for learning materials if you haven't been a teacher. I don't think you can, because you need, you need to empathize with the teacher.
Yeah, totally. That was the best words of advice I was ever given. My absolute person that I look up to more than anyone in the world in education, woman called Sheena Herley. Hi Sheena, if you're listening. I said to her on my graduation day, because she did all sorts and she was amazing. She actually was the head of the New Zealand Readings Association for a long time and passionate, all sorts of things. And I said to her, "How do you get to do what you do, Sheena? You have done all these different things." She's worked around the world, she's done everything. And the words that I think have never been truer is she said, "Just concentrate on being a good teacher." That's it. And I think that, yeah, if you do that, then yeah, you can't go too far wrong, no matter how long you've been in the game.
So should you write your own novels, Emily? Yes or no. For the kids to learn from.
For the kids to learn from, for literature, no. For the kids to learn from the behaviors of being a writer and it's like draws and the experience, yes.
That's different though, you're teaching writing, of course you have to.
Yeah. Yeah. But no, but this is important because I think it has a place in the right moment. So for me, one of the reasons teachers doing right being writers, even if they're not necessarily good at it, they can talk to the children about that process. And I think showing them your work because there's this obsession that everything has to look neat. Straight off, no writer, go and get really famous author's work and it's scribble all over and we don't give children that chance and actually teachers doing that is a really good experience. So there you go. I guess children's literature and what you're trying to get from it, no. But there's a benefit to having teachers who are engaged in the writing process themselves.
Did I ask you Adam? What do you think?
No, but it's a simple answer for me. Unless you've been published and unless you've gone through all the checks and balances that a professional writer will do and it's been critiqued at that level and has been accepted as literature that there's an incredibly good and helpful model for children, no.
I'm not even going to say what I think. All right. Thanks for joining us, everyone.
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