Meet our Cohort 2017-18Back
Michael Mann: Primary Teacher and Published Author
From Harris ITE to Children’s Author
I trained with Harris ITE in September 2017 in the brilliant Harris Primary Academy Coleraine Park (HPACP) in Tottenham. Little did I know I was also starting my journey towards being an author and writing my first children’s book, Ghostcloud.
From the start, I loved the Harris ITE course structure – the four days in class plus one day training worked brilliantly for me. The lecture days gave you the theory and chance to share ideas with fellow trainees, then you got the chance to put it into practice in the classroom, under the supervision of your mentor.
The English sessions were my favourite. I remember the unbridled enthusiasm with which Rachel Lim and Dil Dias in the central team, and my school mentor, Melisa Akis, was the English lead. HPACP also had a brilliant reading ethos: story time daily, great class libraries, and a giant ‘reading challenge’ poster took pride of place in the classroom, with a row for each child, where they put a sticker each time they finished a set books.
Altogether it was a transformative environment for children. What I didn’t realise, however, is that it’d transform me too.
It started with a challenge from a child – why should they read a book a week, if I wasn’t going to? Alright, I said. I’ll do the reading challenge too. So I did, slightly nervous at the extra work, but instead of drudgery, it proved a relief, an escape, as reading often is.
I began to learn too. To see why the kids whizzed through some stories and why others slowed them like treacle. Or which chapter they’d stop at because it was slow, too descriptive. And through reading aloud at story time, how even some of the classic stories I loved – Tom’s Midnight Garden, for example – didn’t seem to hold the interest of the boys who needed it most.
I decided something. There was no point writing beautiful words, if the kids didn’t keep turning the page. You needed to do both. So I began to rework a story I’d started before teaching. At first in the weekends, then the holidays, and then I did an evening course, more as a hobby than anything. But armed with all the stories I encountered in school, the story began to came together.
It took three more years, little by little, but over lockdown 1 I finally sent my manuscript off. Within weeks I had a two-book deal with my publisher Hachette. I was over the moon!
I kept teaching, but was able to move to three days a week and used the other two days to work on the sequel. My first book, Ghostlcoud, is out next month – a magical adventure for children 8+, and I’m working on book 2, but I know I never would have published if it weren’t the literacy-rich training and teaching in Harris and Coleraine Park, and all invaluable things I learned from the children I taught there.