Welcome to School

Monday, January 02, 2012

With the new year comes resolutions. Most of our resolutions are to change bad habits, but they can also be to try something new. For the longest time I thought being a writer was restricted to putting words on paper (or a computer screen). I didn't think about one of the most obvious things writers can do...teach.

Before you shake your head, let me assure you that I don't have an MFA. I am not on the tenure track teaching Creative Writing classes at a university. But I have found plenty of rewarding opportunities to share what I know about writing with others.


What can you teach? Naturally, think of what you've had success with in your writing career first. Do you write children's books, personal essays, advertising copy? Can you think of a group that would want your insider tips? But don't stop there--just because you don't get paid for a specific type of writing doesn't mean you can't be an expert. Do you journal, blog, write poetry for fun? You've just found more ideal class subjects. Then there are writing-related topics--writer's block, setting up a blog, book marketing, finding an agent. Make a list of what you know and then decide which additions could be a teaching opportunity. I've found plenty of ideas from writer's conference workshops or brochures for already established classes such as Gotham Writers Workshops. Remember, teaching could mean a one afternoon workshop or a several week class.


Who should you teach? Seems like a no-brainer, right? Writers! Yes, the folks that show up at your writer's group are one great group to target with classes. But there are also several other natural groups. Moms who are considering the idea of being a writer (hello, have we heard of Christina Katz whose first book was Writer Mama: How To Raise a Career Alongside Your Kids?), teen/tween writers, seniors, even business owners. Many classes, such as journaling or blogging, can be adapted for several different groups.


Where will you teach? Well, you could just plaster your neighborhood with flyers and set up a casual classroom in your own living room. I have to admit, I've never gone this route and prefer to work with groups already in the "class" business. Many local colleges have "lifestyle" or "personal enrichment" classes that don't offer college credits and aren't taught by people with advanced degrees. They are "fun classes" and range from handwriting analysis to planning a trip to Disney World to a smattering of writing classes. If your area has a local art center, church, senior or community center they may also offer a variety of classes. Don't let the fact that they've never offered a writing class stop you, maybe no one ever suggested it before. You can also go online, teaching through an established system like WOW classrooms or by offering classes through your own website or blog. The advantage of online classes is that you aren't limited to just the people in your own neighborhood and your hours are VERY flexible, a definite plus if you also have a 9 to 5 job.


When should you teach? Well, it depends on the class. Some business organizations such as a local Chamber of Commerce will hire you to teach a business-related class such as marketing or business blogging in conjunction with their monthly meeting. Each summer countless schools and other organizations offer fun classes for kids as an alternate to kids staying home alone or going to a babysitter. I teach classes for a senior organization all year round but avoid winter classes. Our winters are snowy and cold and most seniors (most everyone) avoids commitments that may demand that they drive in the snow or miss classes due to bad weather. In the same way I usually avoid November-December classes since so many people are caught up in holiday celebrations. When booking classes consider not only your schedule but the needs of your students, other local activities, and pesky things like the weather.


Why should you teach? Of course there is payment (normally a flat fee from an organization or a per-student fee) but I find that teaching offers so much more. Enthusiastic students always get my creative juices flowing. In fact, just the process of planning a class, deciding what to teach them and which anecdotes to tell can give me countless ideas for my own writing career. It can also give you free publicity if you have your own book or business to promote. And who doesn't? Teaching classes to business people gives you the opportunity to network with those who might need your writing services. Don't miss this chance to have business cards and brochures available for your students.

Jodi Webb spends her days organizing WOW Blog Tours, her nights writing a YA novel and any extra time teaching writing classes. You can learn more about her at Words by Webb.


Cresta McGowan said...

Teaching is a noble activity. I teach for a living, but I've never considered branching out of my high school classroom. I've had some success with writing and this is a great idea!

LuAnn Schindler said...

While I think teaching is an option worth exploring, I also think you miss the mark a bit. I've sat through hundreds of writing workshops and classes taught by writers and many of them simply do not know HOW to teach. They may be writing experts and well respected in their genre,but I've left multiple presentations shaking my head, wondering why I paid money to sit through a class that's unorganized and lacking in depth.There's a huge difference between being an expert and knowing how to impart that information to a class in an effective manner.

I've spent close to 25 years in the classroom at both the high school and college level and am comfortable teaching what I know about writing, freelancing, and the industry. Not everyone is cut out to teach. Huge difference between the creative process and teaching the creative process.

Beth said...


I must admit you are right. I too taught for several years and come from a teaching family so I mistakenly assume that everyone can teach!

Robyn Chausse said...

It's true, not everyone can teach. For those who have the knack for instruction though, this is a great idea!
For instance, I'd like to write How To's for children's mags but don't have any children to test the material on--I might be able to get together with the local home-schooling group and plan some free "classes" to test my material.
Another idea-- crafters interested in writing a book on their craft can not only test the clarity of their instructions but also gain a nice following by offering classes either through adult ed or a local or community center.
Thanks for the nudge Jodi, I never would have thought of this if not for this post.

Gabriela Pereira said...

Love this post! I teach writing on a freelance basis and I love the flexibility it affords me. I also love being able to mold the curriculum to each particular class and being able to have complete creative control over the material I teach.

I also have found that the church/community outreach method really works for me. I've been teaching writing for a local church community for almost 2 years now and it's by far one of my favorite teaching gigs. I won't lie, having to wear all the multiple hats (teacher, marketer, administrator, etc.) is hard work, but in the end it's worth it. I'm able to influence all aspects of the course (not just the classroom part) and I love that this class has become an integral part of the local church community.

There are also some amazing volunteer opportunities for writing teachers that can be super-rewarding and great fun (not to mention, great opportunities to try out an experimental lesson plan or new teaching technique). My personal favorite is 826 National, which has branches at various major cities throughout the USA. It's a great way to give back to the writing community by teaching writing to kids in fun and innovative ways. I've taught several workshops in the NYC branch and highly recommend it!

Great post!

Lynette Benton said...

You've got so many excellent blog posts here. Consider adding a Share button so I can let the world know about them. Tx.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top