Tag Archives: teaching Language Arts

Let’s Talk Money: Part One

After my hiatus, I’m back. So let’s talk money as it relates to artists and school programs. Although we are nearing the end of the school year for students, teachers are already planning for next year. In fact, school bookings for artists available during the fall Taleblazers festival of the Young Alberta Book Society (YABS) have opened, making this a great time for clarifications.

Certainly, it’s wonderful to have authors as visitors in schools, but should they be considered volunteers or paid professionals? Without a doubt, artists and teachers both need to know how professionalism and finances relate to artistic expertise, program expectations and school budgets.

Financial details are very different Writers in Schools Program (WISP) sponsored by the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Authors Association and for the touring programs offered by Young Albert Book Society (YABS). In fact, writers and other artists who visit schools sometimes have very different views regarding issues of payment.

Some novice writers simply want to go into schools and share their work with the kids. Perhaps they have one book, a couple of short stories or a few poems published or self-published, but they have no intention of generating a reasonable income from writing.  Many professional writers and their organizations believe that, because of those volunteers, teachers may assume they can invite artists into their classrooms and not be expected to pay fees. Although the arrangement might be agreeable to a particular teacher or author, it creates problems for professionals who have committed much of their lives to developing their art and their public programs.

Personally, I believe that, if a parent or grandparent wants to go into a classroom and read or share their work with students in their child’s classroom, such dedicated support for reading and writing is to be appreciated. However, to confuse this personal option with the programs and services offered by professionals would be unfortunate.

Admittedly, writers who have not presented in schools need to make sure they have created school and student friendly programs.  Such learning is a process that takes time, and just as some teachers are “naturals,” a few writers seem to be “born” teachers, too.  Some are outstanding communicators and even talented “entertainers.” However, others may have written fabulous work, but they are shy and uncomfortable in classrooms. As a result, teachers need to understand there will be differences and so choose their guests carefully.

Whatever the priorities and approaches for teachers and artists, everyone wants what’s best for students. As well as prioritizing what is best for students, WISP and YABS pay writers or artists as professionals, and next week, I’ll tell you more about how fees works within those programs.


Calling Writers and Language Arts Teachers

I feel fortunate to be one of the guest authors presenting workshops at the Calgary Young Writers’ Conference (CYWC) on April 21. This very special full-day event is in its 29th year and is offered by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) for hundreds of Grades 4-8 students who love to write. Dedicated volunteers have spent months organizing the 40 guest speakers who will address students and the six of us who will share ideas with the teachers and other adults in attendance. In order to celebrate home-grown talent and “writing in our own back yard,” the 2012 conference features Alberta writers only. With keynote speakers Jacqueline Guest and Michele Martin Bossley, as well as dozens of other well-known Alberta writers who will offer small group workshops to the students, the CBE and volunteers deserve thanks and credit for what is certain to be a memorable day.

In the past, my CYWC workshops were dedicated to motivating and encouraging student writers, but this year, while presenting to the teachers, volunteers and parents, I will suggest how a humanities approach to reading and writing is a great option. That approach does not have to be offered within an official humanities program. Rather, the approach is a very contemporary method of interesting and supporting all language arts students, whether their preferred learning mode is print, visual, tactile or auditory and whether they love English, social studies, science, art or other subject matter.

Also, I’ll reveal how my own attitudes about writing instruction have been dramatically changed with my increased awareness concerning what brings on writer’s block for me and what helps me pursue my own writing goals and interests.

Lastly, I’ll explain and recommend reading/writing-related options developed to facilitate visits by Alberta writers to schools. I believe that it is mutually beneficial for teachers and writers to work together in their efforts to encourage reading and writing among today’s busy, high-tech kids. So, I will highlight what is available throughout Alberta. However, details concerning such programs offer writers and teachers in other locations useful information and ideas for setting up their own programs or improving existing ones.

Whether you are a writer or teacher in Alberta or elsewhere, stay tuned. Discover available options, and decide what is right for you.