This last week has been one of the most stressful of my professional life, with not enough hours in the day to do everything. As usual, First Story came to my rescue, offering me a moment of respite following a long hard day in the Library.
Last week, a number of students were absent from school to celebrate Eid, so this week the group felt pretty large. (I know - it seems just moments ago we were worried that we would not have enough students attending!)
Kate has been encouraging us all to start to develop a short story, drawing inspiration from Katherine Mansfield's 'The Wind Blows'. With a focus on setting and atmosphere, she gave us a place (fairground, bedroom, bus) and a feeling (hope, grief, boredom) and we created vivid characters within just a few hundred words.
We have a nice mix in our after-school First Story group: some sixth formers who have been attending for years, now published in several First Story anthologies; some new sixth formers, enticed by the achievements of their classmates; and key stage four students who Kate has attracted in the past through special groups, such as a group she led with girls from other countries.
Kate and Miss Woolley (our Head of English Specialism) have introduced an AS in Creative Writing. The reason we wanted to incorporate the AS into her sessions was because we thought it would be incredibly easy for students who had already attended the First Story sessions for some time to get the qualification. They had already shown raw talent, the ability to make revisions and develop their writing, and a reasonably sized, good-quality portfolio of work.
This week's development task was targeted at them, in order to produce work for their portfolios; but it also proved an interesting challenge for some of the younger students. With creative writing, work produced can be very personal, so sometimes it is hard for students to accept feedback and make changes. (I think a whole blog post might have to be dedicated to my own issues with constructive critisicm...)
Over the last few weeks, I have been hugely impressed by all the students, but our group definitely feels a little too big, especially following the great session we had last week with fewer present. Sometimes, we can't fit all the students around the big central table in the library, and we struggle to give each student the attention they deserve. Kate and I were simply not expecting such a brilliant uptake!
Click here to see my work inspired by Katherine Mansfield.