Once A Teacher…
In her interview yesterday, Jan Fields talked about how working with her students took time and that she tended to “overhelp,” as she put it. She’s an admitted teacher from way back who taught collegiate level writing classes and continued by teaching at ICL.
I got to thinking about the writers that I know. I’d venture a guess that at least one-third to one half of all the writers I know have been teachers at one point or another and cover all grades. I’m included in that number, of course.
Now the question arises. Why is the number so high? I have a few thoughts on that for consideration.
I never wanted to teach, ever. My mother wanted me to take English degree for teaching. I fought that one tooth and claw. I tried during my first round of university studies to accommodate her wishes, but I just couldn’t put my heart into it. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the reality that a degree in English would help me along with that goal. Just call me young and naïve back then.
Now I look at my writer friends. There are former professors and those still teaching, current teachers of lower levels and those who’ve left the classroom for a number of reasons, those still in the classroom as students (some of which are training for teaching).
Are the two professions irrevocably linked? Do teachers experience a compulsion to write, or do natural writers experience the need to teach, regardless of student age, form, or subject?
My mother knew that I was a writer. She knew that I would make a good teacher. Do you think she’d figured out the connection? Sadly, I will never know. She died before I tried either professional track.
My love of language and it’s intricacies may be indicative of what drives many teachers to write. On the other hand, it may drive the writer to use his/her love of words and language in general as a teaching tool. What do you think? Isn’t it a matter of which came first — the writer or the teacher? Or is it a case of one masking the other from the world and them being one and the same creature?
All of the great teachers and philosophers taught what they knew or theorized. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Tao Tsu, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus. Hmm. Interesting. Did you catch that? Look at this timeline of teachers represented. Isn’t it amazing that they all lived and taught within such a narrow band of time? And before anyone can ask, I’ll add homer to the mix; my first acknowledged SF/Fantasy writer. And look what he taught!
Of course, we can’t forget Dante, Galileo, Euclid, or Ptolemy. And following them were such as Chaucer, Copernicus, and Madame Curie. All of these taught as much by example and influence as by standing in front of a classroom.
Whether writer or teacher, influence is the name of the game. Perhaps that is as much a connection between the two as needs be. We, as writers, influence those who read. Teachers bestow that skill upon the students. They must go hand in hand, for without the one (either one), the other must take up both jobs to fill the gap and keep things moving along. Both children and adults must be taught.
So, again I ask, “What do you think?” Do you wear both pairs of shoes?
Here’s hoping the rest of your week prospers and finds fulfillment.