• Ungroovy teachers!!

    22 July 2011

    I received the following email from a fan in Canada:


    It has always been my dream to write books. Since I could write I would write picture books. As my age progressed I started writing novels. My teachers would always get mad at me because they would only want a 2 paged story and I would hand in 12 paged doubled sided stories, which weren't even double spaced. I gave up on my dream because my high school teachers told me that my imagination is too childish, and that I won't get far if I try. This year in English class my teacher failed me on opinionated writing assignments, because they were unrealistic to what other peoples opinions might be. Overall I've had a tough time with writing. I love it so much and my life time dream is to publish a book. Your books give me hope. You are my favorite author. Your a role model to me. I wish I could write as good as you . Your imagination is amazing, and the way you describe the demon in the books is great. It really gives me the chills. I normally imagine them and the characters in my head as I read. Overall I really look up to you and after all the pressure that my teachers and after all the times I've been told that I should forget my dream, I don't want to give up. What should I do?


    I got quite angry reading this!! I don't think any teacher should ever be THAT negative!! Sure, they're there to instruct and guide, to correct mistakes and offer constructive criticism where needed. Everyone needs to be told at times that they need to work harder and improve in certain areas. To grow and mature in life, you often have to be told what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. But no child should be told that there's no chance of them making their dream come true. Nobody should be discouraged completelf from chasing their dream. Life is about aiming for the stars. Very few of us have what it takes to reach them, but every single one of us can have the dream of flying high, and I despise people who try and take those dreams away from others, especially from the young.


    Maybe these teachers were bitter about not realising their own dreams. There are many great, passionate teachers out there who got into teaching because they love shaping the minds of the young and steering them through their difficult early years. But there are also plenty who ended up teaching because they failed to follow their hearts and go after their dreams. I think all of us have encountered at least a few of these grumbling, pessimistic teachers over the years, and some of us are more unfortunate than others in the number of them that we get exposed to. (I was pretty lucky on this front -- I had really good teachers for the most part.)


    Then again, maybe the teachers were simply being boringly pragmatic. Writing IS a very difficult profession to get ahead in, and very few writers ever make enough money to be able to write full-time. Even very good writers can struggle. Many adults have given up on dreams and have come to focus exclusively on the practicalities of everydaying living, on paying the bills and providing for your family.  I can understand that. Your views of the world do change as you get older. It isn't always possible to live in dreamland as much of the time as an adult as you can when you're a child and teenager. We all have to grow up to one extent or another and deal with the irksome problems of day-to-day life.


    Either way, I don't think any child or teenager should be discouraged from dreaming. There's nothing wrong with a few words of friendly caution -- I think every would-be writer needs to know about the obstacles that they will have to face -- but no teacher should try to wipe out a studen't dreams entirely, if for no other reason that most teachers don't actually know what it takes to achieve those dreams. As I told the young dreamer in my reply, if her teachers REALLY knew what it took to be a writer, then they would be writers, not teachers!! Students who make their dreams come true end up overtaking their teachers in certain areas, learning things that their teachers could never come close to knowing. I think most teachers (even good ones) are surprised when their students go on to be high achievers in areas of the extraordinary, because it's very hard to measure that sort of talent, to know which minds will flourish and which will flounder in the creative fields.


    In short, my advice to any would-be writer is to never pay too much attention to negative feedback. If you have a dream, it's up to you to overcome the odds, ignore the naysayers, and go in full-blooded pursuit of it. We all face obstacles along the way. We've all had people tell us to be wary, to be cautious, to take the easier, more assured path. But to make your dream come true, you've got to take risks and ignore the chances of failure. In my opinion, even if you don't succeed, you live a richer life just by chasing a dream. Certain teachers obviously don't see the world the same way I do, but hey, that's the thing about being a dreamer -- you see things that others cannot...

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