October 24, 2017
When my school system switched to an online grading system where parents could easily access their kids’ assignments, I was ecstatic…That euphoria lasted about three weeks… Soon thereafter, dread set in…
This excerpt from my article “Reviewing Kids Online Grades: 6 Keys to Success” illustrates how writers incorporate school themes into their work. The how-to article helped parents navigate new electronic grading systems that debuted around the time I wrote the piece. I sold it to several parenting publications. (A future post will focus on maximizing income through repeat/reprint sales.)
No School Blues
Many of our potential readers can relate to school-themed projects. Yet school is one of five sources of inspiration often overlooked. The others, as mentioned in other posts this week, are: community, home, work, and the Internet.
Of course, if you are an educator or current student you have valuable first-hand experiences.
But any writer interested in pursuing ideas with a school theme can do so effectively.
- As a sophomore college student I was invited to write an article for my college’s newsletter about my experiences as a freshman. It was a fun piece, and featured a picture of my bestie/roommate and I in our dorm room.
- My article “Teaching Special Needs Kids” appeared in Precepts for Living, a Bible commentary for Sunday School teachers. I drew from my experiences as a student with a disability; I was born with only seven fingers. The article helped teachers understand some of the do’s and don’t’s of working with kids with disabilities/limitations. That was a personally satisfying piece to write!
- My essay “Partners in Prayer” appeared in A Cup of Comfort Big Book of Prayer. It focused on how my friend’s prayers helped my son through a tough school year while inspiring his prayers for other people.
- In 2011 while pursuing my Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, I wrote a writing prompt and entered it into a contest. I won an opportunity to present it in a workshop with college professors during the annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. What an experience!
Where to Look
Your articles, short stories, devotionals, novels, or nonfiction books and other projects can focus on current issues, feelings, struggles or successes, or events. You may choose to write a nostalgia piece based on an experience you or a family member had that shaped your past or present. Or you may want to write for kids. Indeed, some popular kids’ book authors have prominently featured schools in their work.
Every school is different, but here are some common areas where ideas hide.
Classrooms. Some ideas: reasons why you love or hated a subject; tips for starting a new school year well; helping kids with learning disabilities succeed; parenting tips; bullying; tutoring; volunteerism (as a parent/guardian); returning to school to pursue a degree; pursuing a degree online; influential teachers.
Gym. Ideas include: championships won; students who have triumphed over adversity; noteworthy teachers; food disorders; bullying; raising fit teens; teamwork.
Cafeteria. Why you loved/hated school lunch; how to help kids avoid food fights; food allergies; choices for kids with food preferences; food scarcity. You can debunk the myth of bad cafeteria food, or share why it hasn’t improved in X number of years since you graduated.
Principal’s Office. Many people have negative thoughts about the principal’s office. If your experience is different you can share it in your writing. Or, you can turn those feelings into realistic, relatable prose for kids and adults. Some other ideas include tips for getting along with school administrators; the hidden hobbies/talents of your principal; what makes a great/horrible principal.
Auditorium. Your school’s arts programs may offer some interesting angles for your prose. You may choose to write reviews for a local paper about performances. Or you may want to interview special guests for feature articles or profiles for print publications. Or a talented student may be the inspiration for a character. Or you may want to share why arts education is still needed today.
Teacher’s Lounge. Many students wonder what really goes on in those areas where many students can’t enter – or at least that was the case when I was young. Meanwhile parents have many concerns about working well with educators. As a member of a school’s staff you can share information, inspiration, or advice that kids and adults want and need. Or, you can write for professional publications as an “expert” in a specific subject matter.
Library. Brainstorm ideas with a library theme. Kwame Alexander, for example, incorporates library themes and a memorable librarian in his award-wining verse novel Booked. Or use your library as a source for research material for your myriad projects. Also, inquire about literary events at your library. Many are free and open to the public, providing a valuable service to readers and writers!
Homeschool. Your homeschool successes, near-misses, and failures offer a wealth of ideas to draw from in your writing. So, don’t overlook it!
Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Connect with her on Facebook.