New Book – Write Your Own Adventure!

Take a look at this front cover, designed for me by Cheryl Adamos Noutch, my talented wife.  What a nice piece of work it is – I can’t wait to see this glossy and printed on the front of my new book, Write Your Own Adventure: Choice-Based Fiction in Schools.  My files are in process with the printer: I’ll be ordering the first proofs imminently.  Write Your Own Adventure is coming soon – very soon indeed!

If you’d like to see more of Cheryl’s work, have a look at encourageart.co.uk, her website.  You can also find her on instagram, where there’s lots more of her luscious, leaf-patterned calligraphy and textured landscapes.  And she is available for commissions, illustrations, design and school workshops!

 

Changing the World

I’ve been busy writing a new book: Write Your Own Adventure – Using Choice-Based Fiction in Schools.  It’s intended to be a teaching resource for educators who want to use the power of choice-based adventure stories to create a strong writing culture in their classes, to engage uninterested writers and to broaden children’s experience of writing.

And to change the world.

Maybe not all at once, but incrementally, in the same way that Dave Lowery changed the world when he taught me and my classmates how to write Choose-Your-Own-Adventures at Lynncroft Primary School in 1995.  Without his work, there would be no Steam Highwayman, no Words and Ideas nor any Mr Noutch in any of the schools I’ve taught in.

Teaching is a strange profession and at times it can be disappointing to see how pedestrian and predictable teachers are in their methods and philosophy.  I think this is essentially due to many of them reproducing their own schooling, which accounts for the inherent conservatism of the educational system as a whole.  But, wild-eyed and visionary though I am to many of my colleagues, I’m only trying to build a tower on a foundation that was laid in my own childhood.

Have you read Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed?  I think that’s largely to blame for my readiness to accept the responsibility, as a teacher, of changing the world by educating a new generation with a new set of values and interests – not just skills or knowledge.  It’s something I’ve played with exploring in fiction elsewhere in my Teacher on Mars novel – unfinished, obviously, or you’d see a banner atop this website urging you to go buy it online and in your local sci-fi section.

But I wish I heard more stories of teachers unafraid to do something different and to actively shape their students’ futures, rather than satisfy themselves doing a job and fulfilling someone else’s requirements, so I guess that producing this book is another part of that.

Finished date?  I’m aiming to have it done by Christmas.  Buy it for the Literacy Coordinator in your life.

Psalm 119 129-136

Your statutes are wonderful;

therefore I obey them.

God’s words are intended to provoke us to wonder: I say, what is this living voice, this guide, this life?  I cannot comprehend it with my mind, yet I love it – I love him!  I obey out of devoted wonder.  All of your laws are for my good – the prompting of the spirit will always bring good fruit, so do not fear it.

The unfolding of your words gives light,

it gives understanding to the simple.

The light of a clear day and joyful hope – all from an unfolded word.  But it is in unfolding – in the process – that at last I understand – not just knowing about God’s words, but knowing them, ‘gnawing’ them like Petersen, living them – and seeing them in Jesus in the Gospel.

I open my mouth and pant,

longing for your commands.

Yes Lord – the prompting of your spirit and the leading of other believers, I long for them.  Teach me to love your scriptures even more as well.

Turn to me and have mercy on me,

as you always do to those who call on your name.

Satisfy me, O Lord!  Give yourself to me!  I am hungry and I seek real bread.  I want to feast on you in my heart, Lord Jesus – to eat with rejoicing.

Direct my footsteps according to your word;

let no sin rule over me.

In every stepping place – every single footfall – I long to have your spirit close to me, empowering me, checking me, so that I am continually walking in your way.  Then let sin depart from my life, Lord, sanctified in you.

Redeem me from the oppression of men,

that I may obey your precepts.

Yes, God, you take nothing that is not already yours.  You made me, invented me, possessed me, so you can redeem me back.  I wouldn’t live in the worldliness of human culture, I’d rather be bought out placed somewhere I can obey.

Make your face shine upon your servant

and teach me your decrees.

This is the only way for me to learn, Lord – if I see you and experience you.  That is your teaching – the only real teaching – to expose yourself to us and to show us yourself.  Your servant is ready to look up during his labours when he hears his master’s voice.

Streams of tears fall from my eyes,

for your law is not obeyed.

Touch me, then Father, with sorrow for sin and ungodliness.  Let me have this full life that grieves deeply, hopes heartily and acts upon its intentions boldly and clearly.  Only you are God and in you is all life.  Amen.

Turn Around – Your Educational Paradigm is Dead

Our educational paradigm is now dead. So much we already know. Testing, benchmarking, comparison, standards, planning, schemes… All of these are the desperate attempt to control the uncontrollable, to cast a net over the diversity of the modern experience of Internet – enabled, poly lingual, unpredictable children.

We don’t know the destination.  We used to be able to pretend we did. We romanticise a time when we did.  The rhetorics of criticism or praise for the three tier grammar, modern and technical schools both try to say that teachers of the sixties knew where their children were going.  Where are those children now? Retired after five jobs, entrepreneurs with three businesses sold, two failed. They are in a hundred thousand different places, all of them unimagined by even the most visionary teacher.

That much will never change. Accelerando was always the norm.

But we’ve been looking in the wrong direction for too long. Some look to the East, where the totalitarian regime of a mega – industrialised empire plan to have every citizen fulfil a role – and those who cannot fit are dispensable.  Some look to the past, when they are privileged enough to write their own descriptions of their present, defining their own salaries, legality, and shoring up their own privilege.

But we need to look down at our feet, coolly, calmly, emotionally, thoughtfully.  We live in a world of economic instability, massive migration, changing definition.

A decade ago, curricula were fashionable if they were based on principles. Communication, integrity, and so on. Abstract. The problem with these is that they can be hijacked and redifined by any passing inspector or newly hired headteacher.

But try redefining this: I teach in Islington. This is a place with more than a thousand years of human history. That won’t change. I teach children who speak eighteen languages. That won’t change -not backwards. There is an awful arrogance in insisting that children should learn a modern language – usually a European one – when there have never been more poly lingual children in our schools.  We need to really appreciate the potential, the possibility, the starting place.

And once we take that long, cool, calm, compassionate look at the place where we are, we need to lift our eyes to the horizon and look at potential. We need to use our imagination and our personal experience and our professional expertise and dream new paths. But these aren’t the paths we will ever walk. We don’t, fundamentally, know where they lead. We don’t know how our children will earn their living. We don’t know how they will spend their time. We don’t have that right of control.

But we can choose our own.

Every teacher, assistant, manager and inspector needs to start an exercise of adult realism. Who am I? What do I have to give? To contribute? What can I imagine? How can I start something?

Because we won’t be there when our children reach the end.