The Writer as Teacher

Today, two of my students decided to be clever with me. Yep, that’s never a good thing. One of my extracurricular duties at work is leading an Improv comedy club, and before our meeting one of my students asked if we’d be doing anything with props. The conversation went something like this:

  • Student: I have the perfect prop to use. It’s going to be a book!
  • Me: Okay, we’ll see. (wondering why he seemed so excited)
  • Student: I have so many ideas for this book. It’s like a tide of possibilities.
  • Me: (confused pause) Right. Okay, I’ll see you there.

The reason for my pause was because Tides of Possibility is an anthology I was published in a couple months ago. I found out shortly after that my students had heard I was a writer and immediately Googled me. They then spent the entire Improv meeting inserting carefully-selected lines that referenced some of my public works. Which I found hilarious. And a bit embarrassing.

(Sidebar: Attention, my students. Yes, you. Don’t get too excited about the fact that I’m talking about you on my blog. Not many people read this thing. At least not yet!)

So far in my teaching career, my second life as a writer hasn’t come up much. I’ve had a couple students follow me on Twitter, and students will ask me about what I do, but the conversations are short and are rarely addressed again. Today reminded me, though, about the very careful line that I’m forced to walk, simply because I’m both a high school teacher and a writer.

While I don’t let the fact that I’m a teacher affect the content of my short fiction, I do need to carefully consider what I talk about here, on a blog that is very much my voice. That’s because in Ontario, and I think across much of the world, teachers are held to a higher standard than a lot of other people. For example, if I were at a bar and I bumped into my students (more likely for me, due to the age demographic at my school) it’s generally understood that I should leave. Why? Because if it were found out that I was at a bar within the vicinity of my students – even though I don’t drink – there might be a few raised eyebrows. As a teacher, I’ve been told at various times that my desk at work should always be visible from the doorway, that there should be no online photos of me anywhere near a tame party, that I shouldn’t even have a Facebook account, and that I shouldn’t discuss anything about my life or my past with my students. And while I would love to write an entire series of posts just about that, I know better.

As a result, my voice here on this site is affected. I cuss a little less than I might (not that I cuss that much). Some writers will talk about their day jobs on their blog, but with the exception of today, I don’t think I ever have except for the occasional sentence. I triple check that anything I say here can’t be taken the wrong way, not just because every writer should do that, but because I work for a school board that might view these posts when I’m up for a contract. Teachers have gotten in trouble for a lot less, and just the thought of something being misconstrued has always made me nervous, as I know it does with some of my friends in the profession.

With that in mind, let me make something perfectly clear: I love being a teacher. Even when I have had the worst possible day, dealing with an unending supply of issues and crises, I still look forward to waking up the next morning and doing it all again. If I ever make it big in writing, I would never give up teaching entirely; it’s just too much damn fun (sorry, I cussed). And it’s precisely because of students like the two that were razzing me today that I got into this profession, and will stay in it for the next four decades, or more. It’s just interesting to reflect on the ways that my particular job intersect with my writing, and the things a teacher needs to consider that other people don’t need to worry about. This blog is titled “Teacher, Writer, Human” for a reason – no matter where I go, I’m always a teacher first. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

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2 thoughts on “The Writer as Teacher

    • Yep, I’d agree with all of those. It still amazes me how many excellent writers started out (or still work) in office buildings. When I was working in a government office, sitting at a desk all day, I barely got any writing done – partly because of most of my job was typing. Fun fact: the job was writing abstracts for a new database, and they somehow hired two science fiction writers. Go figure.

      Thanks for posting this, Tim!

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