Why do teachers make such great writers?
Updated: Jul 10, 2021
Some of our biggest names in children's publishing started in teaching - Philip Pullman, David Almond, Michael Morpurgo, even J K Rowling dabbled. So what is it about teaching that makes the step into writing so seamless?
The practical advantages
◊ A teacher really knows children - the experience of working in class on a daily basis gives the teacher-writer extraordinary insight into children's interests, their curiosity, their potential, their struggles. ◊ It can't be denied that teachers have long holidays - this can give a potential writer that elusive paid time to write without suffering too much for his or her art. ◊ Time in the classroom allows teachers the opportunity to experiment and try out new ideas directly with their audience.
The learning process
◊ Teachers watch children grow up. A great children's writer will know instinctively how to show the developmental stages in a child's life and can create authentic children's voices in their work. ◊ If you teach, you learn. This openness to learning gives a teacher-writer the freedom to experiment and the desire to self-edit - invaluable skills in a writer. ◊ An English teacher understands and supports the creative struggle, as they help children to write often under hugely pressured time constraints. A really interesting exercise I used to do in class was to write with the children when timed - it is not easy.
◊ Primary school and English teachers are immersed in children's literature everyday - their knowledge of the craft of writing will inform their own work. They tend to be widely read and will not be afraid of using other works to influence their imaginations, providing richness and depth to their writing.
◊ This final point is a really crucial one: teachers read aloud to children. This wonderfully simple act teaches the teacher so much about writing - from the picture book, where each turn of the page exposes a new secret, to the middle grade novel when the pace of writing keeps the audience (reader) on tenterhooks and the descriptions fill their minds with vivid imagery.
Not all great writers are teachers and not all teachers are great writers, but if you talk to any writer who has taught they will tell you the experience was invaluable.