Is Gaiman A Teacher?

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Sep
  • 20
  • 2008

From a Goodreads interview with Neil Gaiman:

Normally, in anything I do, I’m fairly miserable. I do it, and I get grumpy because there is a huge, vast gulf, this aching disparity, between the Platonic ideal of the project that was living in my head, and the small, sad, wizened, shaking, squeaking thing that I actually produce.

Does that only sound like my teaching career? How often are you satisfied with the execution of that brilliant idea you had? What do you do to keep track of how to improve it next time? I don’t have a reliable method, but this blog needs to become it.

Teachers everywhere need to blog as a way of improving our craft. Every teacher-in-training needs to use a blog while in any credential program. At first, this blog contains all ed block assignments: lesson plans, reflections, reactions to readings, etc. Our professors read the blog instead of a binder to keep track of our assignments, all the while ingraining the idea that this helps us keep track of what we did right and wrong.

Once you get in the classroom full time, that blog will still be there, waiting for you to write more. And having come through a year of doing exactly that, you’ll be more likely to use noted observations to improve delivery. As soon as you get the lesson dialed in, make that entry public through some widely-available and commonly-used resource to centralize the ideas we all have.

My blog is just about as precious a resource as my lesson plan book. “Didn’t I write about how that sucked and what I might do to improve it?” The search starts and (hopefully) I avoid the mistakes of last time.

It’s like shuffling sideways toward that Platonic vision, but at least it’s movement in the right direction.


1. Dina says:

[9/21/2008 - 7:32 am]

Annie Dillard, on writing (or teaching?):

The line of words is a hammer. You hammer against the walls of your house. You tap the walls, lightly, everywhere. After giving many years’ attention to these things, you know what to listen for. Some of the walls are bearing walls; they have to stay, or everything will fall down. Other walls can go with impunity; you can hear the difference. Unfortunately, it is often a bearing wall that has to go. It cannot be helped. There is only one solution, which appalls you, but there it is. Knock it out. Duck.

“Courage utterly opposes the bold hope that this [writing] is such fine stuff the work [at large] needs it, or the world. Courage, exhausted, stands on bare reality; this writing weakens the work. You must demolish the work and start over. You can save some of your sentences, like bricks. It will be a miracle if you can save some of the paragraphs, no matter how excellent in themselves or hard-won. You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now.”

2. Todd says:

[9/21/2008 - 8:50 pm]

That’s advice for just about any situation: get it over with! Often it’s more difficult to begin that process than the actual process itself.

Though I’ve never read more than a few scattered essays, I love Annie Dillard. A section from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is in our English 3 text and I really enjoy teaching it.

3. Mr. Spurlin » Blog Archive » Blogging and Mistakes says:

[9/23/2008 - 4:24 pm]

[…] days ago and already I’ve been served up a warm plate of good writing.  Todd’s post, Is Gaiman A Teacher? elucidates exactly what I’m trying to do with this blog.  “Didn’t I write about how that […]

4. Sam says:

[9/23/2008 - 4:28 pm]

I loved this post. I think you’ve captured my thought process almost perfectly. I can’t believe my certification program doesn’t require us to create and maintain professional blogs. It’s a shame that it’s considered unusual for someone in my program to register a domain name or actually even start a blog (God knows we talk about Web 2.0 in the classroom enough!).

Thanks for the good read.