Kate Clanchy is a poet and creative writing teacher, author of Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me and editor of the poetry collection England, Poems from a School. In 2018, she received an MBE for services to poetry.
Kate finds teaching fulfilling, regarding it as an important job of hers alongside writing. As she explains: "I really love teaching. You have to put in a lot, otherwise it’s no fun. You think about the students when you’re not in the room with them. You give time to them, even when you may not have time. You think about the most imaginative lesson that you can give. If you do all that, you get an enormous amount back.”
The benefits of creative writing
"Literature is a conversation - about what people are saying to each other, or the stories that they are telling. It's good to join in that conversation. It's empowering. It makes everything seem more alive. It's also fun and creative. You are getting to know your fellow students in a very intimate and creative way because you are getting to know what they imagine. We have some really, really fun times. The students laugh their heads off when they act out each other's plays."
"Everyone is entitled to write. I tell students to write the poem or story that only they can. Writing honestly about your own experience helps you to grow in confidence."
"Creative writing is an in-depth, 'inside out' approach to learning how to write. By creating your own metaphors, narratives and characters, and working to improve and hone them, you become a better writer. It sharpens your critical sense."
Small, supportive classes
In her classes, Kate organises students into small peer groups to work on their own writing. This helps them to form relationships and feel more confident about their work. Classes are divided between a creative enterprise and a workshop focusing on a piece written by a student. The emphasis is on making the classes interactive and democratic. As Kate says:
"I have taught students to shout me down or tell me that I'm wrong. They get the sense of it being a living text and me as the editor. It’s not about me knowing the right answer, but about showing them ways in which you can be brave with texts."
"It's brilliant to see how much students have learned when they read their work later in the year. They sound much more like themselves, and so different to each other. They also discover various directions and genres which suit them."
"One of the things that students most enjoy is the relationship they build with their peers. Classes here are multicultural – everyone is really open to bringing in their own ideas and experiences to share and support each other."
As a published author, Kate brings industry knowledge and experience to the classroom:
"The fact that I am connected to the world of publishing and books is important, as students feel that it is real and immediate. It’s important to know someone who is a published writer because then it makes you feel that you can be that.
There's an enormous amount of talent that's underused. What I am trying to do with students is to get them to feel more confident so they will express themselves more fully. That's when they arrive at something very original."
"I edit students' work in the same way that I am edited. I think that's important. The dialogue surrounding editing is productive and creative. It makes you a better writer."