Let’s Teach the Authors
I recently heard a TED talk by a man named Ken Robinson about how our schools should hold creativity (the arts) as high as they do, say, Mathematics. This idea hit home for me and compelled me to write the following. I hope you share the idea with your schools, your friends, and your children.
I decided late in life to write. It occurred to me rather randomly as I was reading another novel. It was sort of like, “I think I could do that.” But I did initially approach it tentatively. I thought back through my own early education—middle school and high school. I used to write in journals, I’d describe the way the sun came in through the window or how I’d lie on the floor while holding the phone to my ear, the cord wrapped around me.
But here’s the thing: in those years, I’d never had anyone offer me a creative writing course. Never. So in my mind, being an author couldn’t really happen—not to “regular people”—or we’d have classes on that. And by the time I got to college, I had spent every single year of my formative years finding something to do as a “real job” and I became a teacher, those old journals so far out of my consciousness that I didn’t even remember what was in them.
I spent 18 years doing a job that was honorable and rewarding and difficult and delightful, but it wasn’t what was meant for me.
I always ask myself, what if I hadn’t acted on that impulse to start writing? So it’s fair to say, and I’m saddened to say that I am an author not because of school but despite it. Yet we’ve deemed success in our current curriculum to be the indicator of who will succeed in life. Years ago, as a fourth grade teacher, with not enough time in the day, I had a measly 30 minutes for writing but the grade level constantly squeezed minutes from it because Social Studies was tested that year by the state, and it was a heavy curriculum, so we often used bits of our writing instructional time to teach Social Studies.
How many authors did we lose? How many beautiful stories will go untold?
To quote a character in my tenth book, which will be out in May, “All we can do in life is try.” If we can hold up the arts to the best of our ability with what we’re given to work with in our own circumstances, to give them as much significance as everything else, and to teach the whole child, that’s trying. Our future authors—and dancers, and musicians, and artists—depend on it. Those little authors sitting in classrooms right now–I hope they make it. I can’t wait to read their books!