Mt St Michael’s College teacher Juliette Bentley has a passion for the written word – a passion she is passing onto students through a writing club connected with the global Write the World online community.
THE writing club at Mt St Michaels College started with 5 students in the first week, growing to more than 20 the week after. Now, 50 students regularly attend for two hours after school every Friday.
Ms Bentley is a firm believer in giving young people rich, interactive experiences which allow them to share their words on a regular basis outside the rigorous school curriculum.
“Anyone who writes knows the importance of having an audience; being able to move them, to evoke images and have them suspend disbelief as our words weave new worlds around them,” Ms Bentley said.
“It is this pleasure in, and passion for words, that we are systematically crushing through an overfilled curriculum.”
“We need a blend of functional and creative writing. We cannot anticipate that our students will enter the workforce as creative, collaborative problem solvers if we do not give them the space to be creative without having a rubric to confine them to, or a timeline for that matter,” she said.
Once students began sharing their work with the group, the peer feedback became a collaborative effort and students were more invested in carefully editing their writing with dramatic changes in writing ability, editing, grammar and public speaking skills.
“Yes, my writers develop an authorial voice and passion for writing and sharing but better yet is the self-confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy and social-capital that is almost incidentally developed,” said Ms Bentley.
“They learn to be considered in their constructive criticism. They learn that with writing, and all creative exploits really, you accept that productive failure is part of the same coin. The writers learn about trusting one another and accepting advice.”
The Write the World program is an international community that provides students a platform to share their work with a wider audience, where they are critiqued by not only their peers but professionals in the industry.
“The benefits are enormous. My girls have been published in both of their annual journals, and with the help of apps called Aurasma, and Adobe Spark, you can hear them reading their works by hovering your phone over the page,” Ms Bentley said.
“The greatest gifts go beyond the words. They exist in the relationships and interpersonal skills that are a by-product of their engagement.
I have learned that weekly writing to a stimulus of ten images, words, videos, prepares them for thinking quickly, starting their writing and preparing it for an audience. Writing and the creative thought behind it becomes muscle memory.”
Ms Bentley has created resources for other teachers interested in starting their own writing club and encourages schools and state departments to start a writing co-curricular initiative.
“I think all schools should have a writers club to give the observers, creatives, a place to safely find themselves, their tribe, their confidence and their voice. These are the creative problem solvers of the future, creating solutions by thinking outside of the box,” she said.