How to Destroy a Student’s Creative Writing in One Technological Step

I’ve just come across a posting on Twitter where a teacher revels in [is loving] the ability to intervene in [to live edit] a student’s creative writing – as the student is writing! – using an iPad as a supervisory tool. I’m being polite with the term ‘supervisory’.

I want to say I can’t imagine anything worse for destroying a student’s confidence in and enthusiasm for and desire to continue with a piece of ongoing creative writing if you do this – but I suppose the teacher could walk over and remove the device from the student and throw it on the floor and stamp on the screen and then set the whole thing alight.

How appalling! I have been critical before [accepting this is opinion] of other published/advertised writing advice for students which I have found outrageous or just stupid, but in those cases and now I would not and am not seeking to embarrass the teacher, so I haven’t, for example, replied to the posting on Twitter.

Should I? Well I’m not. But I will comment here. This is the posting, with the student’s name removed [it isn’t removed on the posting!] as well as not referring to the teacher’s name:

creative writing tech

I’m not going to overdo this, but I’ll start with the comment ‘wrong word here’. This is a student in the process of writing so why/how would you contemplate ever interfering at all, let alone making a ‘correction’ at this stage? And who is to say, with writing not completed, that there is/can be a ‘wrong word’?

Perhaps the writer was being ironic… OK, unlikely, but there is a point here. And I shall cut to the chase as I don’t want to wind myself up for a long one: students as writers need the free space and time to write without interruption and to let thoughts and ideas flow as much as this is possible in the already alien environment of a classroom for writing creatively [though this will vary in the continuous and conscious efforts a teacher will make, immediately and over time, to establish some sense of a calm and creative-friendly aura, and so on].

Writing needs to be written first [I think that would get a ‘live correction’ from the Big Onlooker] and then the critical editing comes afterwards, by the student, or, in the varying positive mini-environments one can establish, paired and/or small group readings and suggestions.

Again, I’ll not go down another long road. But my goodness – to actually revel in and promote the instant ‘feedback’ of criticising made possible by ‘technology’ beggars belief.

One final observation: if this was – but I don’t think it is – some kind of exam practice scenario, I would still detest the notion of such an intervention. There is the obvious pragmatic advice about leaving time in an exam to re-read, check and edit. That said, as an examiner I would expect other examiners who read ‘mistakes/mishaps’ to do so as just that and not therefore penalise unnecessarily. But as I say, that is another longer discussion.


Monday Mornings with Stewart Lee

Two reasons: one, deferred gratification; two, there is plenty else to read on a Sunday, especially in The Observer: I obviously cover the news, then I like the music, TV and theatre reviews [this latter could seem overly cultured and/or pretentious, yet this is genuine and a more permanently deferred thingy in I can’t get to the plays easily, and I’d love to see a musical Twelfth Night].

So for Monday mornings I have saved Stewart Lee’s column to enjoy reading with my breakfast, yesterday’s [so today’s] Planet Earth calling the new Time Lady: save us here, not as brilliantly acerbic as it so often is but nonetheless brilliantly satirical, and on the same day The Guardian reports that President Trump has breezily announced on climate change ‘It’ll Change Back’ [his use of the contraction symptomatic of a more serious myopia], I too am now extra concerned at the potential demise of the Melton Mowbray pork pie along with the rest of the planet.

And it just occurred to me: all those zealous Brexiters wanting to further swell their hedge funds along with ‘saving’ the sovereign continuance of the British pork pie and British bangers have also overlooked the planet’s extinction as the greater threat. That personal apocalypse just after I finished today’s Danish bacon and reading Lee.

Erasure of Ofsted

As reported in The Guardian a couple of days ago, there is going to be a change in the way Ofsted inspects and reports on schools:

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, outlined details of the new inspection regime, with the current category of “outcomes for pupils” that includes exam performance to be dropped in Ofsted’s inspection reports.

“For a long time, our inspections have looked hardest at outcomes, placing too much weight on test and exam results when we consider the overall effectiveness of schools,” Spielman said in a speech to school leaders in Newcastle.

Concentrating on exam performance “has increased the pressure on school leaders, teachers and indirectly on pupils to deliver perfect data above all else,” she said.

When I first read this I was just angry, extremely so, and tweeted a couple of curt comments pointing out the irony of this coming from Ofsted, whatever one thinks is the genuine transformation through a change in leadership.

I have two calmer but no less angry observations to now make. Firstly, this is good news [relatively] to all those teachers who should no longer face the exams-focused, target setting agendas of Ofsted Inspections, and I realise I needed to acknowledge this contemporary context. Secondly, this incenses when I think of all the damage done because of this ‘previous’ regime of Inspecting to colleagues in the past, but not least to me.

I have written about this before [many times!], but I suffered genuinely diabolical Inspections in my lifetime as an English teacher and then Head of English, this latter putting me and the department under the most intense scrutiny, along with Maths in the whole school context. This without question sullied the job in my latter years. I also had to endure the scrutiny from those external ‘colleagues’ who should have known much better, influenced and prompted to do so by the shallowness of exam performance measurements, but this actually fuelling their small-minded and vindictive interventions. I will never forget nor forgive. Reflection has the potential to simply darken, but it has clarified so much for me, and those involved were lucky to get away with just chastisement and shedding some crocodile tears.

To this posting specifically – in a set of early retirement poems and stories for fellow staff 8+ years ago, I did subvert two Ofsted messages in my school, one from the Head as a memo about an Ofsted questionnaire and then that document itself. Small retrieval from the damages suffered, but a catharsis nonetheless.

These ‘erasures’ have become increasingly popular of late, and I welcome that development, but I still prefer to call them humuments which is the name given by their creator Tom Phillips. I will have written about this eleswhere on the site.

My two Ofsted humuments, erasing Ofsted in the way I hope Spielman’s promises actually realise – we shall see: