As written by Celia S, who previously taught Creative Writing at St Paul’s Girls’ School
~Celia has over 20 years’ teaching experience in UK independent schools and international schools such as St Paul’s Girls’ School, Charterhouse and Dulwich College Shanghai. She offers online tuition in IGCSE English (CIE and Edexcel), IGCSE World Literature, A Level English Literature (OCR, Edexcel, AQA) and IB SL and HL (English Language and Literature, and English Lit). She can also assist with English and Film Extended Essays. As a former Head of English and Head of Year 14, Celia has marked Common Entrance, set and marked 11+ and 13+ entrance exams and assisted with Oxbridge ELAT preparation. She has significant experience of UCAS applications and personal statement support. To engage Celia’s tutoring services, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
I was fortunate enough to be responsible for creative writing at St Paul’s Girls’ School, London and it taught me the importance of nurturing creativity in all subjects, not just English. This is both a deeply held vocational instinct and the view of the World Economic Forum which cited creativity as one of the top 10 skills required in the future.
After 20 years’ teaching in top UK independent schools (Charterhouse, Abingdon, Manchester Grammar School and Royal Grammar School Newcastle) and international schools (Dulwich College Shanghai and Repton Dubai) I have been able to experience the range of creativity and creative approaches in a diverse range of settings, including A Level and IB. I believe that it is never too soon to value the role of creativity within education because it is one of the most meaningful and rewarding ways of building confidence, personal voice and pride in the craft of writing. In more pragmatic terms, creativity will always support student success be it the creative writing element of entrance exams; IGCSE creative writing coursework and the descriptive/narrative question; thinking like a writer to demystify the unseen elements of Literature examinations; as well as the creative responses required by American university prompts or the creative non-fiction of the UCAS personal statement.
As a former Head of Year 13 with responsibility for Oxbridge applications I have been struck by how difficult students find it to do justice to their ability and to write beyond cliches, as well as how incredibly rewarding the 1:1 dialogue with students can be in terms of coaxing out their qualities and achievements. Helping students to shape and craft their applications can be a key moment when they understand the joy of writing. I have had the privilege of exploring the dynamic between metaphors and science; mathematics and creativity; engineering and the structures of literary texts; drawing on my own travels to over 120 countries to support a student’s aeronautical science application; co-curating reading lists to support emotional intelligence and empathy for intending medical applicants; as well as persuading law applicants that poetry matters as both lawyers and poets care about language. The originality, clarity and spark demanded at this crucial time for students can be built in an enjoyable and slow burning way through sustained development of creativity.
As a former Head of English I actively set entrance exams which probed a student’s creativity and originality, as well as richly rewarded it when marking papers. I was always looking for a sense of a sparkling mind, teachability and caring about writing. I have seen first-hand how creative writing mentoring can lead to incredible progress, for example one student in China was an exceptionally talented pianist but was struggling in English, so we agreed to devote a year to building a collection of poems inspired by Chopin. Handing the student and his parents his published collection of poems at the end of the year was one of the most moving moments in my teaching career so far. He talked with pride about himself as a writer and in doing so secured an academic scholarship to a top global school. At IGCSE I feel that English teachers have a responsibility to tether creative writing assignments to individual student enthusiasms and ambitions. I relish the opportunity to have my own lateral thinking and creativity tested as I collaborate with students to devise bespoke creative writing coursework tasks. To date I have had incredible fun working on the following topics: water polo, football, rowing, rugby, ballet, cycling, computer games; descriptions of China, Hong Kong, Russia and London; responses to a student’s own paintings or musical compositions; pieces exploring medicine, law, history and architecture.
I hope I have convinced you of the importance of all students valuing creativity through creative writing, as well as the related skills of emotional intelligence, lateral thinking and originality. It just remains for me to consider the link between tutoring and the development of creativity, and why I am so convinced of the link that I have made the decision to move to tutoring full-time. Quite simply, I love my subject, I love puzzling over how to convey my commitment to creativity and I love helping people. Tutoring intensively distils all the rewards of teaching. With global pressure to catch up on core content the fun and creativity of subjects could be lost and 1:1 tutoring guards against this. Moreover, in the brave new world of Teams and Zoom, I’ve seen introverts thrive in ways that would delight Susan Cain, and 1:1 tutoring helps to cherish this new-found voice for students.