I’m going to be using this blog as a kind of diary and a place to keep notes about my work as a Writer in Residence at St Gregory’s Catholic College in Bath. I won’t use students’ real names or photographs and I won’t do or say anything which would put any young person at risk. I’ll use the pronoun ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ to respect students’ privacy.
My first week involved safeguarding training, learning to use the school email system, familiarising myself with the school campus and working out the quickest way to travel to and from the school. I’d really hoped to be able to use public transport – always my favoured mode of journeying – but a train and a bus are prohibitively expensive, not to say time-consuming, so I’ve decided to take my car. At some point in the future, I may well rant about the cost of public transport in West Wiltshire and North East Somerset. It’s especially ridiculous and unfair that students aged 16+ cannot use their Young Person’s Railcard during peak times so have to pay full fare to travel to their place of study! But that’s for another post.
I talk about my ‘first weeks’ but, as I’m only in school once a week, it has only been two days, so far (I admit to being keen and coming in for two Teacher Training days so that I wouldn’t look completely idiotic and clueless when I first started to meet students).
Gradually, gradually, students are learning where I am and have started to email me and pop in to see me. One Year 7 emailed me a poem they wrote, one Year 13 asked me for help with their Personal Statement for a UCAS form, another student wanted to quiz me about writing scripts, another about short fiction, and two more joined in with a free writing exercise.
Today I looked at the school register with one of the English teachers and we’ve worked out a plan for me to run some poetry writing workshops with a selection of students next week.
At the moment, I’m in school but I’m hovering around its edges. I don’t have my own classroom, I don’t have playground duties, I don’t spend a lot of time in the staff room. I sit in a study area in a busy corridor. I watch students changing classrooms, moving around the school on their way to lessons and break. I eavesdrop on chatter, I say hello.
“Are you the writing person?” a student asked. “Yes! Hello!” “Hello!” and then they were gone, into the classroom to start a lesson.
At the moment, I’m with the English Department. Everyone is friendly and kind. I’ve been offered cake, biscuits, fudge, cups of tea, coffee, help with using the printer and photocopier, help with knowing who to send an email to. Between lessons and at break, teachers flurry by, collecting papers, gathering teacups, handling piles of books, smiling, admonishing, laughing, weaving in and out of streams of students. Somehow, nobody collides with anyone else.
Sometimes students stop to talk to me and work with me. I hope this happens more and more.
When it’s quiet, between lessons, I make notes in my notebook – I’m thinking about the theme of ‘Freedom’ for National Poetry Day and trying to write some new poems. I’m also reading The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, as it’s one of the set texts for English Literature and Language ‘A’ level and I hope to be able to help students when they come to write their creative responses to this.
The Motorcycle Diaries are Che Guevara’s notes and diaries from the 1952 journey across South America he and his friend Alberto Grenado undertook in 1952, eight years before the Cuban revolution.
So sometimes I’m in Bath, sometimes I’m on the road with Che and Alberto, thinking about my next meal, hoping I don’t lose my balance and crash headlong down a narrow mountain path.
Adios amigos, until next time.