By Ulvi Pepinova, CYW founder
To me, parenthood is more about solicitude than anything else. Are we rightly motivated to enthuse and throw our children into any imaginable or unimaginable activities? Should we carry on with an old classic formula by (what we think is) the right academic push? Or, should we become more alert following uneasy forecasts on children’s future jobs being swooped away by software and robotic creatures ironically loved so much by children. Will The Conqueror tech-world dismantle and reinstall our mind-set, and will all we think of be how to pump up inter-disciplinary skills credentials on CVs, and how to stay up to date with a constantly changing skillset?
Despite the fact that the creativity topic is in the limelight on all frontiers, seeing through CYW I still come across some parents for whom creativity is still a vague concept: something innate that you are born with or not, something very flowery in language or eye-pleasing in artistic burst-outs. A non-transferrable, non acquired skill, basically.
At Chelsea Young Writers we believe that creativity is something that can be nurtured and developed, as can any other discipline, by engaging children to think independently and creatively, to swirl in the world of own ideas and creations. Today, in their short stories, tomorrow in creating apps, and later in whichever job path they will be embarking on – regardless of the ever-changing hunted skillset we’ll see in days to come.
What stuck me first as a newly-wedded parent about London schools was their exorbitantly competitive atmospheres. School placement, school record in academic/sports/music, a collection of exam grades or stars of the week – this all leaves children and parents, if not emotionally drained, somewhat insecure and not totally satisfied with their so-far achievements. Because it’s never enough, and the next target is always on your list.
Competition as a tool is perhaps not to blame. It is a healthy stimulus, specifically for children, embraced by schools and extrapolated further elsewhere. But what is hidden for us here are those muted side effects (which we don’t tend to regard much when reading the medicine prescription) and their impact on children’s mental strength. Competition winners thrive and boost their self-confidence, while the less highly achieving are vigorously reminded on perseverance and carrying on hard work towards their goal, no matter how many times they fail on your way. But what if a child is not resilient enough to endure this whole process of perseverance and falls half-way through? And how does this all affect children’s communication and emotional intelligence when being put on a mission to constantly compete with their peers to be top of the top?
In the meantime, the real world is shifting towards soft skills, with independent critical thinking, team-work, empathy, and collaboration being front runners & long-term winners in the work environment. Soft channels of communication are at the heart of our club. I would stress that such approach may not show you instant results – not in a school term, or in a one-day holiday workshop. Rather, it’s the moment that the children stop feeling anxious and openly and willingly share their story plans and narratives; when they are prompted to analyse a story they hear from their peers; when they respectfully construct their feedback to show compassion but not stiffness; when sharing and exchange is not intimidating but a helpful tool to broaden your world of ideas and fantasies – then we consider our sessions a joy and accomplishment. And that is why at CYW we wholeheartedly believe in the benefit of club format.
When first founded it in 2013, I envisaged CYW as an intellectually stimulating yet relaxing and intimate space for avid readers and writers. Over the years to come, we have seen a growing interest from those who just look for 7+/11+ exam booster courses, and those who need more encouragement in their writing. As a result, our portfolio of courses and our team of creatives and educators has been expanding ever since by embracing children’s interests and needs, and our ongoing dialogue with schools. But what remains absolutely untacked is the intimate environment and an empathetic relationship between a course leader and the children.
No matter which course you choose, our vision is to make creativity blossom without neglecting the good old academic safeguards, to provide a stimulating environment for children, and to be friendly with a pencil and paper.
Ulvi is the founder of Chelsea Young Writers. Ulvi holds BA from RGGU (Moscow, Russia) & MSc from UCL (London, UK).