Writing Tips for Teachers
by Joy Jones
It never fails
to happen. After a teacher training workshop, or at the
end of a book signing, there will be one woman who hangs
back, wanting to talk to me privately. "I like to write,
too," she'll say. "Can you help me?"
Interestingly, most teachers I talk to don't want to
write about education. Although some want to write
scholarly articles, many want to write personal essays
and experiences, and quite a few have a novel inside
that's waiting to be born.
Usually, the teachers I meet who want to write fall
into two categories: People in the first group tell me
"I know I have a story to tell, but how do I get
started?" Most of these people have the desire to write,
but can't find enough time, or face writer's block. The
second category of teachers are those who have already
written something and are looking for ways to get it
Let's tackle the first group. What are the obstacles
they need to overcome to become writers?
Finding time - this is the problem most frequently
voiced. I hear comments like, "Between teaching and
dealing with my own kids I never seem to have time." or
"Maybe when summer comes or after I retire I'll have the
chance to write. But do I have to wait that long?" These
protests about insufficient time are often the disguise
fear wears. The blank page can be formidable. My
suggestion is to approach the page, but do it gently.
You may not be able to devote long, lazy hours to
ruminate, meditate, and patiently wait on the Muse to
anoint you with a visitation, but you can find ten
minutes in your day to sit in front of the page and
write down your thoughts. And if ten minutes is too
ambitious, choose five minutes a day. Such a small chunk
of time seems inconsequential at first, especially since
when you begin, you may not be able to come up with one
thought. But keep at. Eventually, the words will come.
Consistency - it helps if you commit to keeping a
writing appointment with yourself. That appointment,
however, doesn't have to mean the same time, each time
(although that's good if you can manage it, I never
have.) Consistency means doing it on a regular basis,
not letting a week go by without at least the attempt to
tend to your writing.
Keep pen and paper handy - If you can't commit to a
regular schedule, then commit to keeping a small
notebook and a pen with you all the time to capture
ideas on the fly.
Question your kids - Is there a good creative writer in
your class? Children are often more intuitively in touch
with the creative process than we are. Ask one of your
students what he or she does to jump-start the creative
Don't talk - it's possible to talk about a story idea
so much that you talk away the energy needed to write it
down. Channel that urge into your own work. Mum's the
word until the words are captured on the page.
Okay. So now you've gotten something written and you're
looking for ways to get it published. How do you make
That'll be the subject
for next month's column. More tips for writers can be
found on my website: