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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.

A bientot,


Categories: Writing and Poetry
  1. January 7, 2010 at 3:20 am

    What interesting food for thought. I’ve always loved words and writing feels like a completely natural process for me. Weirdly, although it didn’t happen, as a schoolgirl my career choice was teaching elementary, which is now the age group I write for.
    Maureen. http://www.thepizzagang.com

  2. Marie Elena
    January 7, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Astute observation, Clauds. I suppose I could say I’m in the ranks, although not professionally on either track. I teach fourth-grade Sunday school, and I take an ICL writing course. I write every day. It’s simply a “must do” for me. Given the opportunity, I fear it’s all I would do. Teaching the kids at church is just something I feel I can contribute. I genuinely love and enjoy them, which is something they all need.

  3. January 7, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Great questions, Clauds.

    I believe that Teachers are skilled at expressing thought, philosophy; ideology. What makes them so skilled is their capacity to step back see if the “message sinked in”. They continuously refine their skills of expression. Writing is one form of expressive medium. The printing press contributed heavily to widespread use of the writing medium. Before that, the teachers were Orators.

    Today there are other professions in which skills at expression and influence come into focus such activists, lobbyists, diplomats, strategy planners; whether they use a pen or a sword, they need to influence people. In some cases, imparting missing knowledge and educating the public.

    While I am enrolled in the ICL writing course, I count myself as neither a professional teacher nor professional writer. I do; however, consider myself as an aid in social reflection. My goal with my writing and poetry is reflect back the dimmer areas of our collective social ethos and encourage people to wonder.

  4. January 10, 2010 at 3:51 am

    I love the way you brought the idea of teaching and writing into a full-circle unit. I always planned on being an elementary school teacher, until very late in my high school education, when I was informed that I would never be able to handle such a task, emotionally. Then, I was not able to go to college and that sort of sealed the deal. I am happy to say that the information was wrong, as I have taught many classes and all ages (including adults) since graduating from high school and have been told that I was good at inspiring others to want to learn. That, to me, is what teaching is all about, so I do feel that I have been successful as a teacher. Naturally, all of my experiences have fed my writing desire and education, so it makes me feel that I am also successful, at least to some degree, as a writer.

    I am learning so much from your interviews and comments, Clauds. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Word Designer

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