I have over twenty years of teaching experience, most of it as a high school and middle school social studies teacher, but I also taught music, darkroom photography and health. Many days, I have come home from work and, after eating a snack and rifling through the mail, I’ve sat down to anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours worth of school-related work. Marking essays and tests, crafting lesson plans and weekly planners, and finishing up miscellaneous paperwork and college recommendation letters: these are necessary tasks that I sometimes had to haul home.
But many days (and especially on weekends and during vacations), I find time to pursue my love for writing. And on several occasions, I have written about classroom teaching, educational topics, and other related issues. Often, these opportunities were profitable…at others, less so but these writing credits have overall helped me to establish a solid reputation as an author, as well as enriched and aided my reputation as an educator.
A few of my educational writing opportunities were actually “in house” projects. At Manhattan Comprehensive Night High School, I was tapped to write parts of a social studies curriculum package for the school. I wrote lessons and background material for courses in United States History and Government, and was paid the “per session” rate (a set hourly fee). It was also a positive thing to add to my resume.
As a member of the UFT, the United Federation of Teachers, I contributed five pieces to their newspaper, New York Teacher. They had a few columns that solicited freelance pieces from teachers and other staff. I wrote pieces about topics such as ways to use newspapers in the classroom; how to integrate geography into all different courses and grade levels; knowing an Academy Award winner (Marisa Tomei) as a student and then speaking about her to my own students; about working at a night high school; and more. The New York Teacher paid for each piece and ran my headshot. At Murry Bergtraum High School in lower Manhattan, a school librarian liked one of my essays so much that she photocopied it and gave a copy to each teacher in the school.
Although most of my pieces have been about teaching in general, I also reflect upon particular people I have known as a teacher. Just this year, I wrote a piece for a spirituality and faith website titled “A Letter to a Former Student: When Our Views Diverge,” about social media discussions I have had (at times tense) with a student I used to teach.
And years ago, I used to write book reviews for a journal called the Academic Library Book Review. The editor often sent me books about teaching and education, as well as history and economics, knowing that it was my forte. I even shared some of these books with my colleagues.
Teachers can find a variety of outlets for writing about their field. Getting published can mean more money in a teacher’s pocket, as well as building a stronger resume and career platform. And, of course, it feels very good to see one’s words in print.
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Ellen Levitt is a veteran New York City teacher. She has written six books, four of which are still in print; seen here is the cover of her book WALKING MANHATTAN (Wilderness Press, 2015). Her freelance pieces have appeared in dozens of print and online sources. She actually does like to write lesson plans (much of the time).