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Teaching & Writing: Similarities

There are many similarities between teaching and writing. With my own writing activities being daily before me and being in the process of preparing workshops for next week's in-service training sessions, I've naturally been faced with several of those similarities.

First is the standards by which we hold students and ourselves accountable. Good teachers and good writers alike know that one must "set the standard high" because we tend to get from both others and ourselves what we expect.

The higher the expectation, whether of quality or quantity, the higher the achievement attained. Of course, the expectation must be achievable, not out of reach but requiring us to stretch if we are to learn and improve.

Another similarity is the need for focused attention. "Realizing that he cannot do everything, a good teacher focuses his attention on doing a few things well. He selects those few things with wisdom and insight into the needs of his students" (Teacher: Teaching and Being Taught, p. 29).

Likewise, a good writer limits her writing to the specific genre, topics, and audience that she is most equipped by knowledge, experience, and skill to address after studying the targeted market.

"Once a teacher sees the spark of motivation in the eye of the student, he must seize the initiative and take advantage of that 'teachable moment' by fanning the flame" (Teacher: Teaching and Being Taught, p. 89).

The writer must similarly seize a good idea when it comes to mind. He must then develop the idea, fanning the excitement while it is a spark and creating from it the flame that will become an article or a book. Many people have great ideas but never do anything with them. Don't be one of them!

Perhaps the greatest challenge for every teacher is getting her students to think. And thinking is hard work, especially if one has had little practice in doing it. That's why so many people can't--or simply don't--think. Students must be taught not only how to think but also what they are going to say or do about a topic, how best to express it, to whom they will say it, why they are saying it, and the desired end result of communicating their message.

William Zinsser, author of many books on writing (including the two pictured in this blog), declared, "Writing is thinking on paper." To write clearly, one must first think clearly. But so many writers have mixed-up thinking, and it shows in their writing. "Good writing is hard work. . . . It is hard primarily because it demands careful thinking, and nothing is more difficulty than mental work" (Teacher: Teaching and Being Taught, p. 231).

George Washington Carver, a worthy exemplar of good teaching, used to hammer into his students, "Prepare yourself to do something. Do the common things of life in an uncommon way."

Similarly, a teacher or a writer must recognize his or her divine calling, take it seriously, and grow and develop into a better teacher or writer every day. "It won't always be easy. Not everyone will appreciate all your efforts and what you put into your calling. But God knows, and He always rewards faithfulness among His laborers. Not always--in fact, seldom--monetarily or materially. But He always pays in the best way" (Teacher: Teaching and Being Taught, p. 306).

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