With many young people in the arts choosing to boost their income by working in education, Maddie York wonders if “teach second” is an emerging lifestyle for a generation of young creatives – and whether teaching might end up taking over...
I don’t know why I didn’t think of taking up English teaching ages ago as a way to boost my income. I’m a writer; I love books and am embarrassingly passionate about punctuation. Why not share that with children, earning some cash while I’m at it? Much of the writing I do is unpaid. I’m not here to whine about that; it’s the way journalism, along with most creative professions, generally works at the early stages.
I’ve now established a freelance lifestyle that leaves enough space for all the writing I want to do – and must do, if I intend to get anywhere – plus one or two private English lessons a day. Teaching ticks along until my writing takes off properly; it’s a related discipline, and keeps me in gin and tonic – ahem, bread and butter. I’m living a “teach second” lifestyle, and I’m not the only one.
In my circle of friends and contacts, I have a couple of concert pianists who are earning money by teaching piano, an artist who gives workshops, an author and academic who teaches English, and a playwright who works in an inflatable planetarium presenting science shows to children.
Bea Roberts is a focused playwright and has her plays performed often, mostly at the Canal Cafe Theatre, where she’s Writer in Residence. Writing is unquestionably her vocation, but her day-to-day earnings come from working for the travelling science education company Explorer Dome. “I was drawn to the job because it was performance related,” she tells me. “I’d previously done drama work with children, and my bosses value my theatre background. Plus, children are hilarious and I can steal ideas from their fertile little imaginations.”
Bea makes a good point there. As a creative type, if you spend a lot of time alone, at a desk, piano or canvas, there is hardly anything better for freeing up the imagination than spending time with children. It’s no wonder that there’s a temptation to take on more and more teaching. And it’s easy to set up as a private tutor, by signing up to a local tuition agency, or striking out alone by placing adverts on online noticeboards.
The only hurdle – and it’s a small one – is that you have an Enhanced CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) disclosure, because you’ll be working with children. As a freelancer, you’ll foot the bill for that yourself, but once you have it under your belt, you’re off and away.
Is there a danger that teaching will take over and push the core creative profession to one side? I worry about that myself – I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it, often getting carried away with ideas of training as an English teacher proper. But then some writing work comes along, and I remember what I’m working towards.
Bea says it’s the same for her. “Writing is such an unstable and difficult career path to take. There are days when I’ve been struggling with money and nothing seems to progress and I think ‘I’ll just be a primary school teacher’. But I don’t consider myself a teacher; I’m a playwright who enjoys working with kids and telling stories. Whatever my anxieties are about the financial side of my career, there’s nothing that compares with the excitement I feel when I’m writing or in a theatre.”
For advice on setting up as a tutor, visit The Tutor Pages.
Image courtesy of cityyear on Flickr.