This is one of my favourite queries of the last Wadadli Pen season, because this is the kind of teacher who inspires us:
“I’m in dire need of some expert help with some students in my class. They are exceptionally good writers and I want them to get some exposure so they can develop even more.”
This teacher, I should add, went on to submit entries from students in her class, as in took the time to scan and submit the entries herself as well as all of the required information on each student. In addition to that, she also submitted entries of her own as a way she said of setting an example.
Kudos to her and here’s hoping she and her students are somehow rewarded for their efforts in this year’s challenge. The judging is blind of course so there are no guarantees but I wish them success.
I also wish to share (and expand upon) parts of my response as it may be of interest/use to other teachers out there and inspiration to potential patrons and partners.
One of the things I told her is, of course, to encourage her students to submit to the Wadadli Pen Challenge, letting her know as well that one of the things we do, particularly with the short listed writers, is provide feedback that should guide them in strengthening their entries. It’s part of our desire for this to be developmental and not just another contest; with Wadadli Pen writing (and building writing skills) is not just the medium but the message.
Meanwhile, I’ve visited many schools over the years (and so have my Wadadli Pen partners and associates) and, for me, time (and frankly funds to cover at least some of that time as writers don’t live in a bubble where bills don’t exist) is a constraint to doing so at this time but I’m hoping (and have hoped for a while) that we can attract the resources that will allow us to direct our attention to offering year round in-school, in-community workshops, and lay the ground work for the start of in-school reading and writing clubs, or do some kind of summer programme. Recently in conversation with a writer from another Caribbean country, I learned about how between the PTA and the cultural foundation (something lacking here in Antigua) they are actually able to fund writers going into the schools on a consistent basis. Had me wondering what is it they get that we don’t seem to get here in Antigua and Barbuda?
Wadadli Pen has been about finding a way to make a way and if we’re able to access the necessary funding, and it’s a big if, that’s the hope and the dream. At the moment, Wadadli Pen is all voluntary, all the time, and we are stretched pretty thin; but with more resources, more patronage, we could do more. Here’s hoping. #notgivingup
I should have mentioned the Cushion Club as well as I know from experience that one way to build writing skills is by reading and reading a lot, so for younger kids especially the Cushion Club is a great place to start. Plus, I’m pretty sure that our partner, the Best of Books has some kid programmes as well.
So, the moral of the story, I think, is you can start by reading to and with kids, in home in the school; encourage their writing however you can and, where possible, encourage them to particpate in the sparse opportunities that exist; and help us get the patronage we need to do more of what we do.