How to choose a visiting creative writing facilitator for your school, by Dave Lordan

Creative Writing is enormously popular with school children and a visit from a professional creative writing facilitator can be a valuable educational experience as well as boosting the creative confidence of the young people involved. Like everything else of value in education however, creative writing workshops require planning and preparation to work out well for all involved.  I have been visiting schools all over Ireland – and beyond – for over a decade and below is a summary of what I have learned about how schools can play their part.

* Choose a creative writing teacher with a good reputation as a facilitator and plenty of experience working with young people. Always ask for a couple of references from other schools.

* Take a child-centred approach and choose a facilitator whose work is accessible to the young people in your school and is relevant to their lives and interests.

* Choose someone with a reputable publication and or performance history. Someone who hasn’t proven through reputable publication or performance that they can write a poem/story/play etc can hardly be expected to teach anyone else how to do it.

* As in all other walks of life you get what you pay for. The professional rate for school workshops is 400euro per day, or 250 euro per half day visit, inclusive of taxes and expenses. Pay less than the professional rate and get less than a professional job. Consider how fortunate teachers are to have strong unions and fixed rates of pay – no such luck for creative writing facilitators, so we rely on schools to treat us collegiately and with respect when it comes to pay.

* Always make the facilitator aware well in advance of any special requirements the school has for the workshop e.g that it be themed around mental health, that it be adjusted to suit low literacy etc etc. It’s too late to ask the facilitator to incorporate special requirements into their lesson plan on the morning of the visit.

* Always inform the facilitator in advance of any special needs students requiring extra attention, behavioural issues, literacy difficulties etc.

* Discuss in advance what outcomes you would like from the workshop – e.g whether you would like each student to have completed a story or poem, whether you would like a video or audio record etc etc

* Be sure to have a teacher lined up to meet with and brief the visiting facilitator on the morning of the visit and to liaise with the facilitator throughout the day.

Who am I to talk? I have many years experience partnering with numerous libraries, schools, youth clubs, arts centres, festivals….to provide tailored workshops for young people of all backgrounds and abilities. I am the founder and co-director of Dublin Young Authors, Ireland’s only dedicated school for talented literary teens. I also run Ireland’s only training courses for teachers and others interested in facilitating creative writing. I have written three books of poetry, one book of short fiction, and edited two anthologies, all of them critically acclaimed, and I have won many prizes for my creative writing. I also have songwriting, playwrighting, and short film credits to my name. At present I am the researcher for the new and revived RTE Poetry Programme, presented by Rick O Shea, and am working on a how-to book about facilitating multimedia creativity in young people.

If you’d like to talk to me about coming into your school to give one of my high energy, inclusive, and productive creative writing workshops give me a call at 0870921117 or email dlordan@hotmail.com. Check out my linkedin profile for more detail.

Other Creative Writing Facilitators I can recommend:

Stephen Murray, specialising in performance poetry/slam. He runs the enormously popular Youthspeaks programme and is available nationwide.

Karl Parkinson, specialising in working with inner-city, low literacy, DEIS etc, available in Dublin and Leinster.

Claire Hennessy, my Co-Director at DYA, specialising in fiction.

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