Hey cHEwY gum gums

Every school holidays, I catch up with my old teaching-degree friends and hear about their latest school adventures.

It makes me wish I was a teacher again…until they mention the reports, meetings and other things in between. They deserve those extra holidays. People ask me if I do miss teaching. While I do miss having my own class, I’m lucky to still be an educator, as an author doing writing workshops.

While most of my school author visits are to inspire and rev kids to read (my books if they can of course hahahahaha), I run writing workshops to either kick-start reluctant writers or to inject some humour into students’ own stories. But I’m not there just to help the kids, it’s the teachers too.

Last week, I attended a PETAA (which stands for Primary English Teaching Association Australia) information meeting with other authors to discuss their special delivery author program. It’s where an author comes to a school for 3 days, with a pizza box of resources and hands-on time with kids and teachers. All of this can be tailored to meet the school’s needs. This program was formed to address one of the teacher’s most requested aims, for kids to write like writers. Why is this important? Because as one of the PETAA staff pointed out, the one thing that teachers feel that they lack when it comes to teaching writing skills is confidence.

I get it because I was in the same boat, but with different subjects. When I was a classroom teacher, I really sucked with arts, like painting and sculptures…I wanted to follow the syllabus and do these lessons where my students would produce some long-lasting and satisfying artworks, but I didn’t want to model something that looked lame (especially in front of a year 5 and 6 class). So I picked lessons that didn’t require too much skills, like pen and paper sketching stuff instead of the meatier time-consuming lessons. It was the same thing with Science. I just didn’t have the confidence (or passion to be honest) to do anything exciting, so we did some simple experiments or stencil sheets. Yes, I taught before the i-pad era haha.

As teachers, we all have our strengths and weaknesses in subjects. These days, there are ways around this such as collaborative teaching so teachers can swap around and learn from one another.

When it comes to my writing workshops, I want kids to walk away with one thing: confidence. I want them to realise that anything can happen in the story and they make it happen, simply by writing it down. But I also want teachers to be confident too. I’m there to validate what they’ve been teaching. I reveal my magic writing tricks to show it’s still a lot of hard work and the only superpower I have is just the guts to write about weird things. I admit that I’m no expert on grammar. I stumble over spelling words and just ‘have a go.’ Kids are astonished to discover that authors have to edit and go through countless drafts. There’s nothing special about my hints and tips. Basically, I’m just saying what the teachers have been saying all along. Isn’t it funny how that works haha. I’m happy for the teachers to say ‘remember what Oliver P said…’ because I’m on their side.

I’m looking forward to seeing where PETAA will deliver me later in the year. Best thing about programs like this is that I’m doing something more than just an one-off writing workshop. There’s a purpose behind my visit, an learning goal, an aim that I’m working towards with the kids. Plus I get to see their work at the end too. In other words, I get to wear my teacher’s hat too, which for me, is the best of both worlds.

O.W

About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree