Normally my posts focus on teaching resources, techniques or the holistic life of a teacher. This is a little more personal…
“Thank you for letting me live the dream.”
This was said by a colleague of mine when he left the school to retire two years ago, after 35 years of teaching. He was a great teacher, got excellent results, and continues to be a lovely man. But, can you pursue dreams outside of teaching whilst giving the job everything it deserves?
Firstly, let me get something clear, I love teaching. When you’ve thoroughly planned a lesson, it’s going well and the students are on board, there’s nothing better. This is not a post (the sort you sometimes see) by people jaded with the profession about a “plan B” or “getting out while you still can”. This is about being able to do something you really want to, as well as be a great teacher.
I often hear people talk about “when I’m retired I want to…”. I’m 32, so for me that’s not good enough. I want to be thinking about those dreams, for me, now!
One of those dreams I’ve always wanted to do is write a novel.
Ever since being a child I’ve loved stories, hearing them, reading them and telling them. It’s probably one of the things that lead me into teaching in the first place.
But how? Teaching is full on, intense, stressful and all-encompassing. So is it possible?
I’m giving it a go!
I’ve had the idea for a novel for a couple of years and started writing it over the Christmas holidays. By the time we went back to school I had 14,000 words and a basic outline (which has since changed many times). I was worried however, that in the thrust of the term it wouldn’t happen. The idea would get lost and forgotten and by the time the next holiday came around the inspiration would be gone.
So far, I’m pleased to say that hasn’t happened.
I’m now on 25,000 (very rough and probably awful) words. I plan it to be around 60-70,000 when it’s finished.
Here’s some of the things I’ve been doing to try to keep focus on writing as well as my classes. So far it’s gone OK!
Use my journal daily (at an absolute push every other day) to stay focused on the things I want. This ten minutes allows me to think about whether I’m moving in the right direction. If you’ve not already seen it I wrote about how to do this here.
Listen to podcasts. I’ve found these really useful. My commute to work is about 20 minutes each way. I’ve found a range of writing based podcasts which I’ve been listening to. They’ve helped me stay focused and keep the excitement as they interview successful authors and talk about the struggles of creativity. Here’s three I can recommend if writing is your thing:
The Creative Penn
The Bestseller Experiment
The Self Publishing Formula
The Write Now Podcast
Engage in online communities. Communicating with other people doing the same thing, some of whom are also in similar situations, has been brilliant. It’s so useful and has only taken a few minutes each day. I suppose the world is full of people struggling towards one dream or another!
Find a course on whatever your dream is. Learning something new on your own is really hard. I’ve been attending an evening class on writing, it’s been great to discuss ideas with others. It is a big time commitment though, and possibly not so easy if you live further from where the course is held.
Appreciate the parts of the job that link to the dream. I suppose for me this is easier as I’m an English teacher trying to write a novel. There is a fair amount of cross over. For example, my personal writing process has helped me teach creative writing, and teaching creative writing has helped my personal writing process. I also do a job where there’s a lot of reading – which is great.
Commit a little bit of time each day. This is key to keep moving towards what you want. It’s really easy to get stuck and spend that time chilling – let’s face it, no one would blame you after a day’s teaching. But in my case that isn’t going to get my novel written. For the last two weeks I’ve got up 45 minutes earlier and spent that time writing in the morning.
Give yourself some grace. You can’t always make progress on this. Sometimes you do need to chill – or more realistically get that pile of year 11 assessments marked. And, of course, that’s OK – that’s life. I appreciate other peoples’ lives may be busier than mine – I don’t have children, I don’t lead a department or run the school – but, don’t beat yourself up about it. Rome wasn’t built in a day…
Remember to enjoy both parts of your life (I manage it most days!). They both bring something different and exciting to you as a teacher, a friend, a parent and whatever other dream you are following!