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Learning at its Best

More Like a Hobby

I just finished re-writing the first half of Keeper of the Creatures, a book that I’ve been writing for my kids. I’m enjoying the process as much as the final product. True, I have deadlines that I set up for myself. However, these deadlines are flexible. Yes, I’m held “accountable” to someone, but it’s an audience of three (though a demanding one at that). 

Someone asked me the other day if writing was a hobby for me. The word jarred me for a moment. I wanted writing to be more than that. Somehow the term “hobby” conjured up something juvenile. Was that it? Was I simply a guy who liked writing the way other people like Fantasy Football? 
But then I thought about the hobby label. It works. This has been my favorite thing I’ve ever written and that is due, in large part, to the fact that there is no pressure. I don’t have to worry if it’s too whimsical or if it’s too deep or if my faith somehow colors a part of a chapter. I’m not writing like my life depends on it. 
The end result is something that is different than what I would have written if I had been a professional. It is far more quirky, creative, deep and fun than if I had been thinking about data and audiences and numbers. As long as writing is a hobby, I can relax a little. 
So, it has me think about the classroom. I am quick to point out that we are professionals. And yet . . . I wonder how I would teach if it were more like a hobby. Maybe it would be horrible. Maybe I wouldn’t take things seriously enough. Maybe I’d walk away in moments when my professional duty keeps me there. 
But maybe not. 
Maybe approaching teaching in a way that is more like a hobby would allow me to relax. I know that I teach best in subjects that are untested, free of the pressures of high test scores. I know that I have developed the most positive classroom communities when I taught computers. I could be wrong on this. It’s why I am reluctant to press the publish button. But, like writing fiction, blogging is a hobby and being a hobby, I’ll take my chances. 

About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


4 thoughts on “More Like a Hobby

  1. …some of the greatest teachers were “storytellers”…

    Posted by Brent Snavely | January 28, 2013, 7:45 am
    • I think the beauty of story-telling (at least when it is done well) is that the intention isn’t to teach. Bad stories have hollow plots and boring characters in an effort to push a preachy theme. But good stories instruct in that gentle way, in that way that raises questions. I wish teaching was a little more like that.

      Posted by John T. Spencer | January 28, 2013, 10:36 am
  2. Thanks as always for writing your thoughts John. I like your “teaching as hobby” approach because when I was in the classroom that’s what it was for me. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. If I didn’t enjoy it, there was no way my students would either. Somehow through grace, my crazy antics and approach allowed me to experience success (test scores that demonstrateed growth) at the end of the year.

    The part of this entry I’m most thankful is your description of this particular work you’ve just finished; how you aren’t as worried about output, deadlines, and things like our faith that might color the story too much (is that possible?). Having just finished a first draft of a story I’ve been writing for my own children, I’m doing my first re-read to fix issues. Faith comes on pretty heavy in the early stages and I’m wondering whether I need to dial it back. Glad to see I’m not the only one who faces that struggle.

    Posted by Matt Guthrie | January 28, 2013, 1:55 pm
  3. Thanks for this, John. Its message came at a good time.

    We are starting our annual round of testing. Half of me wants to blow it off entirely, half of me knows that the scores the kids get will make a difference in their lives (Never good, always not-so-good.) And the last half, the part that lives in a narrow space without “real” estate for the next week, wants to just teach as if it were a hobby and learning was magnificent.

    Posted by Steve Peterson | January 28, 2013, 10:46 pm

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