Nobody ever said to me that teaching was going to be an easy job. In fact, during my training two years ago over half of my peers decided to jump ship and swim to safety in what I can only assume was clear water towards another career. The sharks, in fact, were already on board, chomping at my heels rather than infesting the surrounding water and picking off my scaredy peers. And so two years later, into my third year of teaching, I’m still aboard the profession, although I must admit that on occasions, like the poet Stevie Smith pre-empted, I’m not waving but drowning.
Hi my name is Luke. I’m an English Literature and Creative Writing lecturer and I teach A Levels here at Halesowen College. I have to admit that English was always my speciality and is actually what a little piece of paper from the University of Worcester says I’m best at. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love Creative Writing though. Teaching novels like ‘Jane Eyre’, a 521-page whacker of a Victorian novel, is always ‘academically challenging’. I’ve had to re-teach myself some of the fundamentals about the text over the last year or so, but teaching within such strict time restraints, to an examining board specification, can shift the focus from relishing a text to panicking that you’re not quite going to finish it in time for Christmas.
Creative Writing, however, is pretty much the polar opposite. The freedom that the subject offers is not just liberating for students, but for teachers too. Choosing an extract from a favourite novel, poem or script can really bring the best out of you and your teaching – I’m not someone that can put on a façade and dress up a novel that I really dislike, and in all honesty, you’re never faced with that problem in Creative Writing. This year I’ve even tried my hand at some creative theory and development of writer’s techniques which seems to have gone down well and, I think, perhaps have given the subject a little more substance and academic discipline – perhaps my A2 students will disagree?
So how’s this year been going, I hear you ask? Well, the first half-term is always a difficult few weeks: Lots of new faces, lots of new texts, lots of new marking and lots of new paperwork. Personally, I wouldn’t give it up for the world, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t challenging – it’s just that sometimes, when you get that light bulb moment with a student who’s perhaps struggled with a writing style or text, it makes every moment worthwhile. That’s super cheesy, I know, and as a Creative Writing teacher I will give myself a figurative and linguistic slap on the wrist. “Practice what you preach” and all that jazz.
Well, I should probably wrap things up for the first month as I’m starting to re-discover the fear of impending word counts – I can already feel the itch of the editor inside, trying to claw his way out, like a blog-i-fied Mr Hyde. Here’s to another crazy year of teaching with ever greying hair, stacks of marking, hours of planning and magical moments in the classroom both embraced and appreciated because, hey, who wants a 9-5?