Teacher or writer?

This weekend marked two writing milestones for me:

  1. On Friday, this DP English assessment prep book was released in the UK (US release is planned for late February).
  2. Today, my co-author Laura England and I submitted the draft manuscript for the second edition of the MYP Personal Project book. We have updated it to align with the new PP guide and are thrilled to play a role in supporting students (and teachers!) on their Personal Project journeys. Due for publication on 27 August!

Call me crazy, but I love the rush that comes with a deadline — and the slow build up towards and eventual satisfaction of publication. I’m not so sure my own students (nor some of my colleagues) feel the same way about deadlines…

I won’t use the cliche of many a writer (“I have wanted to tell stories from the moment I first picked up a pen”) or bore you with my own backstory. But it is true that, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. The funny thing is, it took a long time for me to identify as a practicing writer — and even now I feel like a bit of an impostor. You see, I thought a writer was synonymous with someone’s favourite novelist or that inspirational poet with a dozen literary accolades. Not someone like me. And I thought it was an either/or: either I could be a teacher or I could be a writer. That false dichotomy was a real hindrance to me for a long time — and took a toll on my self-confidence.

A few years ago, I kind of fell into textbook writing. It was never an intentional move as a writer, more of a natural evolution of my practice as an educator. One book turned into two, two turned into four, and now I’ve just submitted the draft of the seventh. I have benefitted from a really positive and supportive relationship with my publisher — and I’ve had the ongoing opportunity for deliberate practise and reflection. This is partly the reason for this blog, to expand on those ideas that don’t fit into a certain box.

I don’t really talk much with my students about my writing (this may be the British habit of self-deprecation I have picked up over the past 15 years in the UK), but I probably should. Students need to see their teachers as active practitioners of their disciplines, not just passive deliverers of content. They need to see that writing is relevant to all disciplines and something that people do “in the real world” (a phrase that I have come to hate; hello, students live in the real world, and never has that been more apparent than in the last year).

Teaching and writing can exist in harmony. Both are creative endeavours; there is real craft involved in teaching, and there is learning inherent in writing. Writing is not hierarchical and no one form is superior to another; I know that statement will raise a few eyebrows, but I think it is true. All writing serves a need for someone somewhere, and stories can be told in multiple ways. I’ve got loads of ideas brewing, including some for a teacher audience. And there’s still a novel in there just waiting for the right moment to come together. But for now I am completely comfortable with my place in the teaching and writing communities. And those communities are big; there’s room for lots of different voices. I’ve been inspired by many of them myself.

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