Last week, The Quirky Teacher published a blog about boys’ writing skills, exploring the idea that we are socialising boys to be poor writers. To some extent, I agree: if I think about my own class, the most able writers are predominantly (but not exclusively) female, whereas the least able are mostly male. The reasons behind this I am not sure of; I’m not qualified to even try and give reasons why, and I disagree with some of the points made by the Quirky Teacher, but discussing these is not the purpose of this blog.
The reason I am writing is to share the pride I felt on spending the day with my 10 year old Godson, H. Today, after a busy day out, we sat down in a pub to order some dinner, and he proudly placed a notebook and pen on the table. While we ordered our food, and while we waited for it to arrive, H wrote. He chatted to us too, but his conversations were punctuated with silence while he jotted down ideas. The content of his notebook was private: when I asked what he wrote, the answer was “stuff”, but his current “stuff” consists of the development of a superhero character. I could see that he was carefully planning out his character; he’d already planned the subheadings of his superhero characteristics, and was gradually padding them out with detail. H didn’t know where he was going with his character; we talked about ideas and he suggested a comic book, playscripts for the character to be made into a film, stories, but for the time being, he was completely absorbed in the development.
Becoming engrossed in his writing isn’t unusual for H: his desk is covered with stories and pieces he has written. He has an extensive collection of notebooks (today’s Marvel Superhero one was his favourite!) and he was writing with his special pen from India. We chatted about the pens he liked to use, the joy of starting a new notebook and the excitement of beginning a new project. Writing is a pure passion for H. He’s had other interests: he loves swimming, does karate, plays the piano, has been a huge lego enthusiast for years and loves playing computer games. Some of these are lone activities, others involve co-operation but not conversation: activities which The Quirky Teacher claims would inhibit conversational language and vocabulary development, therefore putting him at a disadvantage when it comes to writing. He’s had these interests and more, but he’s loved reading for as long as I can remember. He devours books. His mum had bought One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) for research for school. H read it in two days. He used what he had read to write an Arabian Nights inspired story for school, which he then turned into a play: he was thrilled when his story was chosen for some of the children to act out. He’s intelligent and articulate and I’ve no doubt that he’s got the skill to write as a career if that’s what he chooses. He’s challenged in school, and his parents have been supportive too, enrolling him in Able Writers Workshops and spending days with authors, but ultimately, H’s success comes from his enthusiasm and drive. I know that all children are not like H, he may even be an exception to a rule. I’ve met other extraordinary boy writers, and some very poor writers too, but H does show that boys can do it all.
H inspired me today. I write regularly, but always on a laptop. I make notes for my blog on my phone. I contact friends, but via text or email. With the exception of marking school books and jotting down things from meetings or in my diary, I never commit pen to paper. As I talked to H about how much I love writing in notebooks, I felt quite sad: I’m always buying new ones, but always for staff meetings or assessment meetings or for making notes at school. Never for pleasure. A very good friend of mine told me at the weekend about a writing course she’s going on soon. More jealousy – and more notebook envy. Well, thanks to the two of them, I’m going to get me a notebook. And I’m going to write in it for me. Maybe just blog notes, maybe ideas and observations. Supposedly, everyone has one book in them. Well, maybe my journal could be the start of mine.
There are three things I’m going to do as a result of this blog:
- Go shopping for the BEST notebook and pen;
- Start writing; and finally,
- Give a message to my Godson: H, you’re an inspiration xxx