Writing workshops can be taught by anyone who has had experience participating in a writing workshop and is committed to popular education.
The key to being an effective writing workshop teacher is a deep respect for the dignity and experience of those participating in the workshop, the desire to learn from the writers as much as to teach them, and a mindfulness about how educational and literate activity can be a form of democratic praxis when the classroom models a better society.
The workshop teacher may also wish to participate in a CWP writing workshop teacher training. Recognizing that we learn best by doing, these trainings take trainees through an abbreviated process of participating in writing workshop over four to five weeks. Following the abbreviated workshop, training sessions address:
- Key components of the writing workshop method, pedagogy, and philosophy
- How to start a group
- How to prepare for and teach each session
- How to work with writers to prepare writing for a magazine
- How the writing workshop process is a form of education for liberation that models the new society
The workshop teacher has two primary facilitation roles:
- To contribute to group discussion, focusing on aspects of the writing that are compelling and perhaps linking story themes to broader social issues;
- To move the discussion along so that everyone who wants to has a chance to read and discuss their story.
Although reading aloud is voluntary, as the workshop progresses usually everyone becomes comfortable enough to share what they have written. If time runs out in a session, those who did not have a chance to share their story can do so at the following session. However, unless the group is large, it is best to give everyone who wants to a chance to read and engage in discussion about their writing.
If a group is so large that it is not possible for all writers to share their stories without cutting off meaningful conversation, there are several alternatives.
One possibility is to rotate who will read each week; another possibility is for the teacher to select excerpts from the stories for writers to share, perhaps by focusing on a writing component to discuss that week, such as dialogue or uses of imagery. The teacher and participants can discuss these options together to come to a decision that is amenable to everyone.