It’s not the money or the prestige. (Best read with irony.) I teach adults. I create the courses, and each time a class starts, I feel a surge of possibility.
Writing is a lifelong effort. No class can teach someone how to be a good writer in one day–the length of most of my business writing classes. I create tools that the participants can use to create simple, clear communication. But unless they use the tools, practice with them till the heft and force of the tools cuts out fatty words from sentences and strengthens the muscle, their writing won’t improve. Armed with the tools, participants have to figure out how to use them for their own purposes, how to hone them, how to make them work when the going gets tough. Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Many of the people I teach how to write have supervisors who know little about writing, but insist that good writing is doing it the way the supervisor has done it for years. “Pick your battles,” I say, knowing that a good writer can easily be swatted down by a threatened supervisor.
In the classroom they have permission to be good writers. Once they have tools, anything is possible. Here’s what I love most: students learning from each other. Seeing an “Aha!” travel around the room. It almost always happens student to student, a special connection that works when one student “gets it” and manages to express it so someone else catches the idea.
“Education” comes from the Latin word “educare.” It means “to pull out of,” rather than “to stuff into.” And it works every time.
—Quinn McDonald is a seminar leader and instructional designer. She teaches journal-writing courses and business courses.