Time and Teaching

Once, when I was in teacher-training school, my class had to read an article about English teachers and writing. This article expressed the belief that such teachers should not pursue their own writing projects, because any time spent on self-centered expression was time taken away from lesson planning and grading, the true purposes of life for any educator. My classmates and I condemned this concept vociferously, both from a personal sanity perspective and from an educational perspective. For how does one teach a process that s/he does not experience? How can adults model a literary life they do not have?

Alas, now that I am a teacher, I understand the article’s perspective, even as I disagree with it. Teaching is a time-consuming job. In the current environment we are asked to do more work with less funding and less time, and the powers that be would rather we think of every moment we are not teaching or preparing to teach as a moment stolen from the kids. Several educational consultants have even suggested that if we do ever go on vacation, we must record the vacation and turn it into a lesson for the kids. Of course the kids deserve the best education I can possibly offer them. But it’s easy to start thinking of myself purely as a work machine, here to revise lessons endlessly and integrate new technologies seamlessly and innovate constantly to improve. The constant admonishments from the media and neoliberal organizations about the dangers of bad teachers ring in my ears every time I sit down with a book, every time I pull out my keyboard, every time I journal rather than grade.

But it is because of this shaming, and not in spite of it, that I must make time to write. For I don’t envision my students’ future as a place where they must work fourteen hours a day for the Man. I don’t want my students to suppress their personal interests to pursue the concerns of their employers every day. And so I must snatch time from my career to write and read, if only to help create a world where adults don’t stop creating the instant they get a job.

I write on Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons. I try to write at least once a week during the school year. The Confabulator Cafe and our writing group really helps me stay accountable to this schedule, too–being with other adults who believe creativity is too important to sublimate is a wonderful inspiration. It is not enough time; I should write every day, I should journal more, I should update my blog more often. But this time I can steal from the margins is valuable, a statement of hope that I can still be a Writer and continue a literary life past graduate school.

I still feel guilt sometimes over the time spent writing things that will probably never be published, that will never turn a profit, that will never benefit my students. But snatching that time from the crevices of a workaholic society lets me prepare for a world where all humans can embrace their creativity. I write for me, but I also write for a different world, where all humans can snatch time to do what they love.

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