A love-hate relationship: writing and teaching

A love-hate relationship: writing and teaching

By: Athambile Masola*

I wish I could have written this reflection before the 5th of December. If I had, there would have been no pressure to meet the expectation that I must have a profound reflection that relates to tat’uMadiba. I shan’t be writing about uTata. But the fact that I can write, that I am educated, that I can claim a voice has a lot to do with the icon’s life. It’s no mistake that I write. It’s no mistake that I’m a teacher, either, but 2013 has taught me that I may have chosen two passions that often send me to a dark place, an existential crisis.

The year has been long and tiring. I wish I could have written more. This must be the lament of every young, aspiring writer: I wish I had more time. The irony is that the reason I have not been able to write as much as I would have liked to, is one of the things that also brings me great joy: being a teacher. The will to write has been affected by my will to stay afloat in the business of being a teacher.

Writing and teaching are second cousins: teaching requires that one who wants to teach well be prepared to be depleted of energy at the end of a good day of teaching, the same way a writer might feel after they have written the story or essay they have been aching to write. Both tasks require an inner energy that is illusive and always leaves me wondering “Where does it come from?”.

Teaching teenagers has taught me many lessons about myself, the same way writing has become a tool for helping me understand myself and the world around me. I don’t write because I am a brilliant writer nor am I a teacher because I am the best teacher in the world. Both writing and teaching happen with great difficulty in my life. I approach both tasks with great anxiety. I am still trying to remind myself to be kind to myself when I approach either of these two tasks. And this year I have not been very kind to myself. I have hated teaching because I am often tired to the point where I think I can’t breathe. I have hated writing whenever I have started writing something but have left it incomplete because I can’t find the right words to complete it.

This level of self-flagellation cannot be healthy for one individual. But here it is. The truth about the two things I love the most. There’s no guarantee that things will be different in the new year, but as I glance back at the past year, I’m making peace with responsibility of attempting to put my life back together through writing so I can be a better person in my classroom next year.

*Athambile Masola is a regular Bokamoso Leadership Forum Contributor. Read her short biography and previous articles here.

Athambile Masola

Athambile Masola is a teacher at Claremont High School. She has a Masters in Education from Rhodes University. She was previously named one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans. She also writes for FeministsSa.com, the Mandela Rhodes Scholars Thought Leader page and on her blog: ixhantilam.

One Response to A love-hate relationship: writing and teaching

  1. Athambile Masola,

    Thank you for your genuine piece, you have nailed it. Writing comes with anxiety because it is also a responsibility. Beyond complying with mechanics and rules, choosing words, and finding the correct expressions, writing is relational. It is a way of relating and engaging with the other. It is also a way of representing the self. A constant and sometimes paralyzing question, in my case, is “am I being fair to myself and others?”

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