Friday, July 30, 2010

Teaching Creativity is like Learning it all Over Again

Going back to college was nostalgic.  From a student of Psychology, Literature and Journalism, I was returning  as  the Creative Writing Teacher.  The moment I agreed to take on the job six months back,  I was attacked by anxiety and doubts. I had never taught anyone anything before.  Would I be able to teach?  Would the students be interested?  Did I have the patience to teach? What would I teach?  Oh boy, I had more questions than answers.

Though I had mentally decided what I would  teach from March,  I hesitated to put it down on paper.  Maybe that particular course may be scrapped said a voice inside my head. Maybe no one will sign up for it, said another voice. But when things were confirmed by  March end,  I started planning for the  course.

Words of caution poured in from  family and friends. “The students are terrors, they will bully you,” said one friend. “You don’t look like a teacher,” said an aunt. “Trust me, no one will pay attention,” said another  pessimistic aunt. “How will you manage to write your books as well as teach,” asked my concerned best friend. “ Can’t imagine you as a teacher,” laughed my college  friend.

The  words of caution turned me into a mass of quivering jelly.  But as the day of joining college drew near, I relaxed. I would manage. Either I would suck as a teacher, or,  be able to teach well. I decided to judge for myself. I would  first get to know my students during the initial  session and then proceed after that.

It has been  22 days and I can say with a certainty that I am enjoying  every moment of teaching. The students are an enthusiastic bunch and whatever else we can fake, one can’t fake enthusiasm. That’s half the battle won. They are  polite,  respectful and behave like angels.  

An advantage I have is that they are quick learners. When I taught them the different  styles of narratives, I was astonished by their rapid grasp ( it took me longer to master it). And so were the amazing  descriptions they wrote when I taught them descriptive writing. I explained  Descriptive Writing as using the five senses to describe an object, person, event or  a place. Most of the students went beyond my expectation. Their descriptions gave me a peep into what went inside their heads. They created vivid images. Their essays on  ‘My  Favourite Childhood Memory’ were wonderful. Okay, there were some grammatical errors (but that’s my job to teach them proper grammar as well how to enhance their creativity).

The art and craft of short story writing saw the most participation. Each one is eager to write an amazing story. And the tough topics they have chosen make me   fear for their sanity as its their first  attempt at  short story writing. The mental and detailed images of the  protagonists they have narrated to me,  have made me eager to read their short stories.  

Sometimes SMS lingo does creep into their writing. But I know it will take me time to wean them away from that style. Their enthusiasm is  child like. Slowly  they are shedding their shyness and sharing their  creative thoughts and eagerly doing the creative tasks I set for each session.

Teaching them is making me more perceptive to my own mistakes whenever I write nowadays. It’s like I am learning the basics of writing all over again. And  brushing up on the basics is not  a bad thing. We tend to forget the simplest rules while struggling to master the more difficult ones.

What is your opinion about teaching? Do you think teachers learn as much as they teach? Any teaching advice  for a newbie like me?   


  1. Wow! You teach Creative Writing. Thats cool! No wonder you write such thought provoking posts!

  2. I volunteer each year to teach a subject through a co-op school we attend. I find the older the kids the more difficult the task! I'm teach 3rd-5th graders this fall and I think it will be that bad.

  3. All I can say is that teachers amaze me! Their patience, organization skills...all of it.

  4. I do a bit of teaching (mind you, of older students--med students and young docs) and I do really enjoy it, especially when they're motivated to learn.
    Keep up the great work! Sounds like you have a wonderful teaching thing going on!

  5. I'm glad you did this, Rachna. Good for you!

    I'll be teaching Journalism to high school kids at our home-school co-op twice a month starting in early September. YIKES! Jitter, jitter.

    You go girl! Have a wonderful weekend. I loves you. *hugs*

  6. I think it is so cool that you did this! I'd be scared to death but would really enjoy the opportunity, Glad they are good to you!

  7. Anonymous, thanks for your sweet words!

    Anne, my students really make my work easy.

    Julie, before I started teaching, I too was amazed by the amount of patience teachers had. Writing has taught me lots of patience. And teaching is adding to it.

    Lydia, when students are enthusiastic and motivated, teaching them becomes easy.

    Robyn, I am sure you will make a wonderful teacher for the high school kids.

    Terri...Initially I was scared too, but not anymore.

  8. I am into engineering but now I came to know that I love literature and want to study Creative Writing. May be you should put up some lessons here for people like us who aspire to write well. Am glad to stumble across your blog. Will be a regular visitor :)

  9. Teaching is so scarey because of the responsibility to get it right. But yes, teachers probably learn more than their students precisely because of that responisbility.

    W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

  10. Ajay, will surely try to do that. You can go through some of the older posts where I have shared what I have learnt in my writing Journey. I will be glad if it could be of help to you.

    Lynda, I am perpetually scared that I may not get it right. Because of that fear and responsibility I do extensive research for each session.

  11. Yes, we learn so much by teaching others! Congrats to you; it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job.

    I've been teaching students, young and old, for a while and I think maybe I've learned more than my students:) I find that gentle and kind constructive comments go a long way. I also try and make it fun when I can. Writing can seem less intimidating when it is fun.
    Have a wonderful week,