Friday, 13 July 2012
Why do I tutor courses on writing children’s books? by Paeony Lewis
Is it just for the money?
No way! Adult education is appallingly paid. It may appear OK, but that’s before the time-sucking, soul-bruising paperwork that takes longer than the courses.
Aren’t writers recluses? Do I teach as a way of meeting people?
No. If you write picture books of 500 words, you don’t have to chain yourself to a computer for months. It’s those that live in an imaginary world of 150,000 words who most need to hide away. However, I’m still a writer and most writers are nosy and like meeting people.
Maybe I teach because I have a fetish for scrawling on white boards and flip charts?
Nope. Do I need to expand on this, or will you take my word for it?
Then do I teach because I pick up lots of ideas from student’s stories?
Incredibly, that has been suggested. The answer is NO. Utterly, totally NO! Sometimes I need to tell a student I’ve already written a story based around what they think is their new idea. I also stress that this shouldn’t stop them writing their own story because you can’t copyright ideas and we all bring our own style, interpretation and experience to a story. Nuff said.
Ah, so it’s probably because, “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”
That condescending quote originally came from a George Bernard Shaw play. It always irritates me when used to squash teachers. What’s wrong with enjoying both? If you have a passion for something it can be fun to share. Grrr…
So, do I teach simply because I enjoy teaching?
Well, I wouldn’t do it for free. However, I did a BBC personality test and it seems I’m a ‘nurturer’. Does that explain why I enjoy teaching? Not sure. And I’m not sure about personality tests. Though it may explain why I ‘nurture’ too many pets.
Then maybe I teach because I also learn?
In a weird way, that’s sometimes true. Having to articulate how I do something reminds me of how I should be doing it. Does that make sense? I can’t teach others if I don’t understand it myself. Therefore I have to analyse what makes a successful picture book story. Although, of course, there isn’t a magic formula and sometimes ‘knowing stuff’ is most useful when analysing why a story isn't working.
Finally, does teaching inspire me to write?
Oh yes, it provides a good kick in the bum! By encouraging others to write, I’m also encouraging myself. Plus teaching reminds me how much I know. Oh, and how much I‘ve forgotten.
So I’ll keep on tutoring classes, because even with appalling pay, frustrations with Adult Education, gratuitous paperwork, and very occasionally a student I’d like to gag, I still enjoy teaching something I’m passionate about: picture books and children’s books. Hope students enjoy it too! And as for how much can be learnt on a course; that's another blog...