The Joy of Teaching
By Christina Katz
One of the greatest joys in my life over the past eight years has been teaching writers. For me, teaching and writing are inextricably connected and they are both organic, creative processes that can't be and shouldn't be rushed.
What I have done as a teacher is simple: I've learned for myself and then taught what I've learned to others. Sure, I've offered options and expanded on my own limited ideas. But ultimately, all I've done is try and share my success with others in an orderly, structured way.
I am not special. Anyone can do this. In fact, I teach others how to write about what they know in my writing classes. And now, beginning May 6th, I'll be teaching writers how to share what they've learned as teachers. I love that we are becoming a society of creators and I truly cannot wait to help writers expand their professionalism through teaching.
The combination of the writing and teaching have essentially given me the career that I enjoy today, which is the same career I have been enjoying steadily for the past eight years. Here are a few ways to identify a body of material you might teach on:
Just Got the Hang of It: Often the best teachers don't have the most years of experience in the topic they teach. Maybe this is because after a while anyone can become bored of just about any topic. So don't go that way. Choose something fresh for you instead. And then dive into your experience as a source of teaching material.
Muscle Memory: What do you know how to do so well that's it's become habitual? You might take this topic for granted but don't underestimate how your mastery can be tapped for teaching material.
Be Specific: You want your teaching topic to be specific enough to make the most of your unique expertise without being so specific that your class becomes esoteric to the masses. Think this is an easy balance? Nah. You might find that you find your niche as you teach. So give your topic your best guess and then get started. You'll learn as you go.
Or Generalize: If you already have very specific experience or expertise, you might find that it makes more sense to generalize it to appeal to the audience right in front of you. Consider whether your audience is international (this will lead to a more specific teaching topic) or more localized (this will lead to a more generalized topic) so as to appeal to the people who will show up.
When Stumped, Just Ask: With years of teaching and writing under my belt, I have gotten pretty good at identifying what topics are of interest to my audiences, writers and writer mamas. However, at the outset you will benefit from working with someone who has the experience that can help you make important decisions about what to include and what not to include in your classes. Feel free to check out my upcoming class, Turn Your Specialty Into Course Curriculum.
Teaching offers something that writing will never be able to offer. Teaching offers an alchemical process among a group of people in real time. I love the context of my teaching experience as much as I enjoy developing curriculum.
If you are going to take the time and energy to teach, make it a process that grows your mind as much as it grows your students' minds. And you will always prosper.
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer's Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.