"Those who can't do, teach. And those who can't teach, teach gym." --Woody Allen
I teach English. Not British, mind you, English. The language. You might have heard of it. Specifically, I teach two things: Screenwriting, at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and Expository Writing (known colloquially as "Expos") at Rutgers University in New Jersey. So while I admire the talents of Mr. Allen and even the joke quoted above, I have to take some umbrage (twice a day, as per doctor's orders) at the sentiment expressed.
Many of those who can, teach anyway. Many of those who can, can't necessarily sell enough to do just that and still keep the family in food, clothing, and shelter (the Big 3 in terms of expenses, unless you count tuition, which helps teach the children how to do stuff that they won't be able to make a living at, either, so they'll probably teach).
I can write, and do. I can sell some of what I write, and Josh does that. (Thanks, Josh!) But so far, it's not enough to be considered a living wage in my part of the galaxy, so teaching helps out nicely.
It's also something I would do anyway, to tell the truth.
The big cliche in the Ed Biz is "I learn more from my students than they learn from me." That's actually so self-effacing as to be laughable, since the students aren't the ones working out lesson plans, grading papers, and you know, knowing the subject matter ahead of time. If I learn more from my students than they learn from me, I am doing a lousy job for them.
But I do learn from teaching. I learn about what makes writing work and what doesn't by finding examples to assign them and analyzing those examples. I learn how to communicate ideas (the essence of writing), because if I say something and my students don't understand it, I have to assume it's the way I'm choosing to say it, and change that.
I do keep writing as I teach, and it's possible that some of the lessons I learn from myself while teaching creep into the writing process. Expect to see fewer repeated words and phrases in my work, because those drive me nuts when I'm grading papers. I'll try to catch them in my own writing, and if I don't, the exemplary Shannon Jamieson Vazquez is guaranteed to do so.
Teaching also can serve as an excellent activity for those who want to learn about keeping an audience interested in material. Some of the material I teach is, let's say, not designed to be especially entertaining. It's my job to provide that element, and the level of success I reach would best be assessed by my students, some of whom I'm sure would be brutal. (It's demoralizing to have students sit in the front row of your classroom and fall asleep before your eyes.) I do my best to keep the lectures I give at least interesting, but students' mileage will vary.
The thing I most dread about teaching is grading. That's not simply because it takes an enormous amount of time to do, although that does enter into it. I'm also queasy about grading, especially in Expos, because the students are usually new to college, and a bad grade in an introductory course can make them feel like college is just too hard. Sometimes it is (usually it's not), but I hate being the bearer of bad news.
Still, they're not going to learn if I tell them sub-par work is actually par work or better. And my job is to teach, not to encourage. They encourage themselves, I think, by doing the work conscientiously and then hopefully getting a decent grade. I try to keep the focus on the material, but students come in with grades in mind and generally leave the same way. It's been drummed into their heads.
The next eight weeks or so in American will be consumed with the campaign leading up to the presidential election. Hang on, I'm not getting political, although if you want to know my views, I'll be happy to tell you elsewhere. What I will urge you to do is find out what both candidates' policies on education are; they're no doubt stated on the appropriate web sites. Listen to the debates and wait for questions on education. Don't let it get lost in the sea of economic blather, talk about which candidate said what in an out-of-context slip that clearly doesn't mean what the opposition wants you to think it does, or who has the better taste in beer.
Education is the most important issue in every election, ever. Because the next generation is going to be faced with problems even more difficult than this one, and it would be nice if they knew what they were doing.
Take it from someone, who can, does, and teaches.
Self-promotion alert: First, the Aaron Tucker books are now available as audiobooks on Audible! Second, I'm one of 21 authors who tell you how to find and write your story in a new e-book called MAKING STORY: 21 Writers on How They Plot, edited by the energetic and talented Tim Hallinan! I make up only 1/21st of the book, so imagine how much knowledge you'll be getting (especially since I only make up 1/21st--you can ignore me and get some really good advice)! It's part of a new project that will launch a series of 21 Writers e-books on various writing topics. I'm very proud to have been included and look forward to more such titles! So far, available only for Kindle, but that will change shortly. Take a look!