At secondary school I was one of the unusual breed of students who loved doing exams. Certainly there were the nerves and the stress, which was not something I enjoyed, but I also got an immense amount of satisfaction from sitting down in a really focused place and exploring my ideas in an extended way. I remember in my GCSE history exam writing almost 12 pages of extended thoughts about the American West and loving every minute. However, I never thought of myself as a writer, and I didn’t really do any extended writing outside of what was required for school work.
At A level and University I regularly thought it was such a shame we never got out exam scripts back afterwards. At the time I felt like I came up with some amazing stuff in the exam halls; somehow when I sat down and wrote in an extended way under pressure my thoughts crystallised, and I made the connections between areas of knowledge where the most persuasive arguments lie, and the real learning is demonstrated. But I never thought I was a writer, and only ever did this when faced with an external assessment.
It is only recently, since I started a blog that people read and get something from that I have realised I am a writer. Without an audience the pleasure I got from writing was just a beneficial side effect of the writing I had to do to get on in life. I knew I was quite good at it as I always got good grades, but I never saw it as something worth doing outside of when I was required to. It always amazes me how we expect children to just innately see the reason to be writers.
It amazes me even more that many of the more motivated ones actually apply themselves so much during their primary years to something that is often given no context and no meaning. It is little surprise that by their later childhood and teenage years many of them are turned off by the process and difficult to motivate. I wonder how many adults would put a lot of effort into something that has an audience of 1. I don’t understand why anyone would think children don’t need an audience, or indeed that they do not have a potential audience in anything other than a contrived way.
Children have a lot to say, or write. The writing of children in my class often surprises and delights me, and they deserve to be helped to find a wider audience that feels the same way. My biggest hope for children I teach in terms of writing is that it doesn’t take them until they are 25 to realise they are writers.