Make writing part of your teaching story

3rd August 2012 at 01:00

The list of names is impressive. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are on it, as are Michael Morpurgo and Nick Hornby.

From those names alone, it could just be a list of famous authors (who, in their cases, have all made fortunes selling the film rights to their books). But they have something else in common, which you may already have clocked. They are all successful writers who previously worked as teachers.

Every few months another former teacher seems to be added to the list, whether it is Madeline Miller, who wrote this year's Orange Prize winner The Song of Achilles, or Steven Moffat, a screenwriter who has finally become a household name for his fresh takes on Doctor Who and Sherlock.

Teaching is clearly an attractive job for writers. It may well be the holidays, which some imagine will give them plenty of time to get chapters finished. Or it could be the fact that teaching looks more creatively stimulating than working in an office. You can certainly encounter a greater range of human life in one parents' evening than you might behind a desk in a management consultancy.

Then there's the fact that all teachers, even if they are not English specialists, are expected to imbue their pupils with a care for words.

Of course, you may not be one of those daydreaming in the staffroom about your best-selling novel. But as Francis Gilbert explains (pages 4-7), flexing your writing muscles can have plenty of other benefits for teachers. Writing can give you a fresh perspective on your practice in the classroom, bring clarity to your work and provide a new way to connect with your pupils. It can even be cathartic if you find the job stressful (though, as someone who receives a lot of submissions from teachers, my key tip would be to resist writing a 600-page semi-autobiographical rant against Ofsted when you retire, especially if you intend to title it An Inspector Calls).

So do get out your pen or fire up the word processor. And if today's special report puts you on the path to writing a best-seller, we'll be happy with an acknowledgment or - better still - a percentage.

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw.

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