What does it mean to be a teacher?

I’ve been struggling the past few years, and particularly the last nine months or so, as I’ve been going through a pretty intensive process of business analysis.

The problem is that I’ve built two, full-time businesses alongside each other, by mistake – children’s author and illustrator (that’s actually two jobs already) and YouTube Drawing Instructor. Obviously I only really have time for one of these jobs.

I contemplated giving one or other up for good, but I’m vocationally drawn to both, which is why I’m in this position in the first place!

I love to create illustrated children’s books. I also love to teach drawing and have found a whole new demographic in, how shall I put this, more mature students.

My Problem is the term Teacher. I hold that word and position, unlike many do these days, in some reverence. I feel that a teacher has a responsibility to their students beyond just showing and telling. Apart from setting work, marking it and feeding back, there is the element of pastoral care too. With 300,000 subscribers on YouTube I can’t do that!

If I look after my students as best I can, that leaves no time for creating and very little income. It just doesn’t work.

So I enrolled on a business course and have learned a huge amount about business. I’ve accepted that I am a business and need to be business-like to earn enough to achieve my goals, and have learned a huge amount about myself and what those goals are in the process.

My aim is to be a successful self-published picture book author and to continue teaching drawing skills. To do this, I’ve committed myself to building a membership on Patreon.com. I’ve arrived at a formula of words that satisfies me:

By sharing my practice and process as an independent creator of picture books, I help my patrons/members/students/followers to learn to draw and illustrate, then to design and ultimately publish their own picturebooks.

But that doesn’t quite work! It’s so much easier to say:

I teach drawing, illustration, design and picture book publishing skills.

It all comes down to this word, Teacher. Am I being too hard on myself? Can I call myself a drawing teacher without setting homework, marking it and reflecting back to students. Are there levels of responsibility available to a teacher – especially a teacher of adults, who are working at their own pace.

Hang on… in writing this, I think I may have got it!

I create drawing, illustration and self-publishing tutorials by sharing my practice and process and life as a children’s author and illustrator.

Wow! That is pretty clear and simple. I cannot tell you how many times I have written and re-written a pitch to clarify to my self who I am and what I do.

I was going to ask advice of those reading this post, but I think I may have found the answer! I’d still be interested in knowing what you think.

6 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a teacher?

  1. AmyGiglioArt (@AmyGiglioArt)

    I think you have finally hit the nail on the head with this! So bravo for that! It has been a tricky road and I know that life is a continual evolution or work in progress but I feel like this is a turning point.
    You seem to have attached a very specific meaning to the word “teacher” and yes, from my perspective, its possible you are getting a bit caught up in semantics (I am often guilty of this too! lol). That aside, it all comes down to how YOU want to define yourself and if you aren’t comfortable with the word “teacher” then there are plenty of other words you can use instead (as you have aptly demonstrated).
    Just for fun I Googled “teacher” and this is what Wikipedia said, “A teacher is a person who helps others to acquire knowledge”. By that definition I think we are both teachers but not in the same sense as a schoolteacher, which comes with a whole load of other responsibilities. Anyways, I am happy you have found some clarity!

  2. Shoo Rayner Post author

    Thanks Amy, and thanks for putting up with all my prevarication! Yes, helping others to acquire knowledge.I goes there are many kinds of teachers, who all have their own way. Maybe a schoolteacher is educating – an active process – where as a teacher is helping others to acquire knowledge, as you say. I’m getting there an hope I may have helped you get there too! lol

  3. Sonya Paterson

    Hi Shoo,
    I have a few decades teaching experience, both formal and informal. A fair chunk of that was as a secondary school maths teacher.
    I absolutely agree with the Wikipedia definition AmyGiglioArt quoted. A teacher is someone who helps people learn. That’s it. Full stop.
    When Dad taught me how to tie my shoelaces, he was the teacher and I was the learner (there’s a clue there in the word ‘taught’).
    When I taught students how to develop their mathematical skills, I was the (professional) teacher and they were the learners.
    But when they helped me deepen my understanding of the various problems students face in learning mathemtics, they were my teachers.
    I think making video tutorials definitely qualifies as teaching. Your videos help all sorts of us learn and develop our drawing and illustrating skills, knowledge and understanding.
    Different teachers have different roles and responsibilities. You don’t have to do everything a school teacher does to be a teacher.
    By all means, write what you want to write in your self-descriptions, but have no doubt: you are definitely a teacher.

  4. Sonya Paterson

    By the way, it’s not just school teachers who educate. Check this out:
    Craft (1984) noted that there are two different Latin roots of the English word “education.” They are “educare,” which means to train or to mold, and “educere,” meaning to lead out. While the two meanings are quite different, they are both represented in the word “education.”

    from Bass, Randall V.; Good, J. W. (2004). Educare and Educere: Is a Balance Possible in the Educational System? The Educational Forum, v68 n2 p161-168. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ724880

  5. Shoo Rayner Post author

    Thanks for this – it’s really helpful. I think I’ve got through one block to be able to see clearly that my main problem is responsibility for pastoral care. When it comes to adults I suppose that really means not leading students wilfully down the wrong path and to be on hand at moments of crisis. Otherwise, adult students should really be responsible for doing the work and organising their own time. Probably I just simply over thinking it all! But that’s me 🙂

  6. Sonya Paterson

    Differrent teaching contexts lead to different pastoral care responsibilities.
    In this context, I think your pastoral care responsibility would be limited to the way you respond to comments on your posts. And I think you exercise these responsibilities effectively.

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