February 24, 2015

A Note to Middle and High School Teachers

This is a request for understanding and courtesy addressed to pre-secondary and secondary teachers.

Don’t assign projects requiring your students to contact creative professionals to ask for a chunk of their time. You don’t mean it to be, but this is presumptuous, and puts the kids in an awkward position. For creators, time is the precious resource we must all fight to preserve. I get more requests to give my time to academic projects than I can fulfill.  I do take part in a few of them but most have to go by the wayside because I barely have the time to complete my professional, paying work. The same holds true, I am sure, for experts or notables in any number of other fields. Even taking the time to say no without seeming to slap the inquiring student down can be taxing. When contacted by an adult academic or teacher at least my quick, polite refusal or failure to respond will be taken for what it’s worth.

In the case of younger students I’m surprised that school policies don’t prevent this on safety grounds. Having minors send their contact info to adults they don’t know is maybe not the greatest idea.

If you are a young student who has made an approach like this as part of an assignment, I don’t want you to feel bad about it. It’s the teacher who should know this, not you.

This happens often enough that I’m saving my latest reply to use as boilerplate. Fellow creators, feel free to protect your own time by clipping and saving for your own use.


One of the big facts about life as a professional creator is that you have to be very protective of your time, concentrating on paying work. I'm sorry to say that your teacher, I'm sure with the very best intentions, has put you in a bit of an unfair position by asking you to impose on people who work in a field that interests you. I'm sure I'm not the only creator who feels bad about having to turn these requests down, but has to nonetheless.

I'd be grateful if you could please forward this reply to your teacher.