Literacy Through Creative Writing

A review of Shelley Davidow’s writing workshop for the teachers of Mumbulla School during the Black Summer fires – Monique Watt, class 6 Teacher

She certainly had her job cut out for her. The staff training day had been booked long before the fires and now, Shelley Davidow was flying into ground zero, Bega Valley, to run a NESA accredited training day on ‘Literacy Through Creative Writing, Years 1-6’. The minds and hearts of the teachers were with their houses ringed by burning forest, their families in army-run evacuation shelters, their cars loaded with what they grabbed when door-knocked, their partners who’d stayed to fight… Tomorrow the children would arrive, the 2020 school year begin. Staff and students would be back in classrooms that some of them had lived in as evacuation shelters.
What could Shelley Davidow possibly offer these teachers?

Originally from South Africa, in addition to lecturing in curriculum and pedagogy in the School of Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Shelley Davidow is also a Restorative Practice Facilitator, well-versed in the language and reality of trauma, how to process, express and heal it. Her background in Steiner Education means she also keeps playfulness, creativity, imagination and feeling at the centre of educational practice. There could have been no better fit for our school and our story.
‘Everything. Everything is story.’ Brimming with empathy and intelligence, that is how Shelley began. She deftly guided us into authoring our own voices, by leaving the writing topics open but setting the forms. We were the children, our own students, and Shelley the teacher, modelling a sequence of developmental writing activities which were inspiring, attainable, practical and quick. They included whole class, group, partner & individual approaches as well as buddy-writing activities across grades. She demonstrated non-threatening and non-time-consuming methods of sharing written work post-task. These writing activities were just as enlivening for adult creatives as they were applicable to classroom teaching the very next day.

So, the very next day, that’s what we did, and continue to do. Armed with a new-found playfulness towards language and a lived understanding of the catharsis available by putting pen to paper, we share with our students the gift of writing, that Shelley shared with us, the healthful properties of creativity.

Arriving at school that Professional Development Day, through the heavy smoke, we found each other. Under Shelley’s tutelage, each of us was seen and heard. Each piece of writing we shared was a smoke signal, a message – I’m not okay, but I will be/ my summer was hell, but it will end/ my house is gone, but the valley is home/ everything is black, but green will bud soon/ threat is a lonely place, but we have each other.

Written by Monique Watt
Class 6 Teacher & College Chair
Mumbulla School for Rudolf Steiner Education