You're a Teacher

Summer is over.  I start my job as a school music teacher again this week. And no, my colleagues and students have no idea that I'm a singer/songwriter with tunes like "George R.R. Martin Is Not Your Bitch" and "Pr0nbot" to his credit. 

Teachers continuously evaluate a student's understanding of the material.  Mastery occurs when a student can take what they know and teach it to another student. So, one of the most effective ways to improve your skills is to teach.


Teaching forces you to examine every aspect of your craft.  Clear articulation of the subject matter is crucial.  And once you do that, you then have to find ten more ways to explain it.  You can't learn something from a single exposure.  Students need multiple auditory, visual and kinesthetic experiences in order to truly understand.  

Devising a lesson plan exposes the gaps in your knowledge, and you better fill those gaps because students will ask you about the shit you don't know.  That being said, saying "I don't know" may be one of the most powerful things you can say as a teacher. You aren't infallible.  Say: "I don't know," research that shit after class and work your new knowledge into your next lesson.  

Which is my entire point.  Good teachers are constantly expanding their knowledge base. Which is why the: "Those who can't do, teach" expression is such a colossal pile of festering dog shit.  

Now, becoming a school teacher isn't for everybody.  But, there are so many ways that you can incorporate teaching into your creative life:
  • Write a blog
  • Record a podcast
  • Create an instructional YouTube video
  • Teach a "How-To" course at your local library
Through educationally focused blogging and podcasting, Chuck Wendig and Mur Lafferty have become two of the best genre fiction writing teachers out there.  

Don't think that improved their writing?

They were both nominated for the Campbell Award (best new science fiction/fantasy writer) this year.  


Do You Teach?

How Does Teaching Help You As a Creator?

Let me know by replying in the comments below.

Have a great week!
John Anealio


  1. You know the saying, teaching is the best way to learn.

    I'm also a teacher (drawing mainly) and what I love about it is that sometimes I feel that I'm the one who's doing the learning.

  2. I think I told you that I went down the path of being an elementary school teacher...until I learned it was not for me.

    Teaching in general, though, helps firm up things in my own head. And its a way to connect to people.

    1. I didn't know that Paul. And you're right, teaching is a great way to firm things up in your head and connect with others.

  3. I teach physics and chemistry, and I'm also a writer for Crash Course Chemistry on YouTube (and my students and colleagues don't know about it either, even though I blatantly use the videos in class!*). Obviously my teaching experience makes writing Crash Course a lot easier. I generally know the chemistry, I know how to explain things clearly, and I have a large mental file of analogies and examples.

    But my experience with CC has also had a positive impact on my teaching. Because most of the team doesn't have a science background, they ask a lot of questions, many of them difficult to answer, and they offer highly unusual suggestions for illustrations. Both types of conversation help me clarify my thinking. I can then transfer that fresh perspective to my classroom, and it's invariably helpful to students.

    Of course, it's partly just that I'm teaching chemistry to the CC team and thereby learning it better myself. But it's more than that, too. Writing for CC is FAR more of a creative endeavor than classroom teaching ever could be (watch a video or two and you'll see why! and I think the creativity that I'm forced to employ there has infused my classroom teaching with more depth and color than it's ever had before.

    So yeah, my creative work has definitely improved my teaching, and my teaching has improved my creative work, too. I think I was pretty good at both teaching and writing before I went to work for CC, but I guarantee I'm even better at both things now as a result of the symbiotic relationship between them.

    * I get by with it by not showing the credits because they're "a waste of time". :-)

    1. Thank you for sharing. That's so funny that they don't realize that you are the one in the videos.

      Glad to hear you echo some of these ideas about teaching reinforcing the creative process and vice versa. Credits are never a waste of time! :-)

      Thanks again

  4. Coincidentally, I was listening to a recent episode of the Sporkfull podcast while reading this - the guest was Weird Al. He has a new kids book called "My New Teacher and Me." There are promo videos on Youtube.

    1. Very cool. Thanks for the heads up Matthew.

  5. Great article, John. I feel the same. I'm not sure I could hang as a full-time teacher with younger kids, but I teach several creative writing courses at an art high school and two college level writing courses (i.e. full-time hours, part-time pay!) and I find it to be very invigorating to my creativity. In addition to all the positives you mention, one nice perk at the art high school is I get to create new classes of my choosing. This semester I'm doing a fantasy writing class. In years past I've done zombies in film and lit, dystopian lit, post-apocalyptic lit, comic book and video game writing... It's a great way to educate myself and do some reading on a subject I otherwise wouldn't have time for.

    1. Very cool Garrett. That sounds like an ideal teaching gig. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. I love to teach. I definitely think you're right that the process of figuring out how to teach something helps you to learn it better yourself. That's one of the reasons I write instructional posts about the things I'm doing with editing and writing my novels on my blog. It forces me to think things through and come up with better ways to do it - and more streamlined ways to think about it.

    1. Exactly Jessica. That's what I've discovered. Teaching something forces you to find the most efficient way to do something. The extra details always confuse the matter.