OpinionTeacher's Desk

Op-Ed: Are all teachers secretly writers?

If you look up the biographies of authors, you will find that many are also teachers, or ex-teachers; Rachael Johns, Josephine Moon and John Marsden, to name a few.

While mingling at a writer’s retreat and meeting fellow authors, I lost count of how many times someone would respond with, ‘me too!’ when I told them I was a teacher. It made me wonder, why do so many teachers write?

I discovered my love of writing around the same time I started work as a fulltime teacher. I would take every opportunity I could to write, often late into the night. I loved creating the writing programs at my school and would enthusiastically lead narrative writing tasks. When I had my children and moved to part-time work, I took the opportunity to complete a Masters of Creative Arts and then took my commitment further by choosing to work casually as I pursued my writing career. So perhaps it is the flexibility of various teaching roles that explains why there are many writer-teachers. Being able to casually teach was certainly a financially viable way for me to have the time to take my writing seriously.

I feel the bigger reason there are so many writer-teachers though, is that the most important attributes of a writer; creativity and resilience, are also needed in teaching. Teachers are the most creative bunch of people you will meet. They must think on their feet, design lessons that suit an array of needs and figure out a way to fit an entire curriculum into those short school days. Teachers are also accustomed to working very hard, for often very little external recognition – but nevertheless, a level of personal reward, which is also the story of a writer’s life.

Every author has a different journey to publication, but for me, it was slow and very bumpy. There were many times that I felt like giving up, but each time it was my love of writing that kept me trying. The inevitable rejection and roadblocks along the way built my resilience and helped me to hone my writing skills. Upon publication of my first book, although there was a lot of joy, there was also criticism and vulnerability to cope with. Again, strengthening me as both a writer and person.

I feel the same about teaching in many ways. There are days when everything runs smoothly, and you see those aha moments in your students. But then there are days when nothing from the timetable is taught, and you’ve spent more time attending to discipline issues than actual teaching. This can lead to a feeling of hopelessness. Yet teachers get up the next morning, ready to face a fresh day with their students and try again. It is our love of working with children and seeing them progress that keeps us in the job. The challenges along the way make us wiser and more resilient teachers.

What I have discovered is that teachers can often feel a little stifled by what they have to teach and our creativity suffers. Our greatest attribute can become our biggest obstacle. A teacher’s creativity can be pushed aside to just get through the curriculum and that leaves us feeling flat and uninspired. Bringing focus to our own creativity and filling our cup is the perfect way to allow inspiration to flow again and find that balance of creativity in both our teaching and personal life.

Some simple ways to inject more creativity into your life is setting aside a short time each week to do a creative task, just for the enjoyment of it. For example, writing a short story, mindful colouring-in or designing a new garden-bed. Setting aside five to ten minutes a day for your students to also be creative just for the enjoyment of it, is just as beneficial – be sure to take part as well!

I hope to see the list of writer-teachers continue to grow. So, if there is a story idea that you have been thinking about, or a desire within you to try your hand at writing, I offer my full encouragement to give it a go! You may find that teaching and writing is the perfect combination for you also.

Karyn Sepulveda, author of The Women’s Circle and Letters To My Yesterday, is primary teacher and creativity mentor. She loves to help people connect to the power of their own creativity so they can transform their lives. Find out more at www.karynsepulveda.com or on Instagram @karyn_sep.

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