Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, October 11, 2015

There and Back Again

A few weeks ago I had an interview for a fellowship and the Dean asked me why I was interested in teaching at a small liberal arts college (SLAC). The (unplanned) answer I gave clarified some things for me:
When I graduate Professor will be my title, but if you asked me what I was I would tell you I was a teacher.
And that's what I am. I am a teacher. I like researching. I like presenting at conferences. I like sharing my work and being published. But I am a teacher.
In the last year or so I've reflected a lot of what it means to be a teacher.
  • For me, it means being a social activist.
  • Being a part of the community you teach in so you know how best to serve your students, what tools they need.
  • Staying on top of news, but also technology, so you can not only present the content, but do it in the best way possible.

I was not happy when I taught high school in NC. I did not feel as though my work was appreciated, or that I was valued. But I think that had very little to do with my teaching and my students and everything to do with the environment. A small, rural, conservative Southern town was also not a great fit.

I was happy teaching in Brooklyn. I liked living in the neighborhood I taught. I loved my students. I knew my work, showing up every day, mattered and made an impact.

Every Friday I have set aside for applying to whatever new academic jobs have posted. This past Friday I applied to English Education jobs because my teaching experience makes me uniquely qualified to teach future English teachers.
It meant revising, and rethinking my application materials.
And I started thinking of other back up plans. And back up plan is the wrong phrase. It's more like alternate lives. Paths to take.
I've spent a lot of time on my runs with Nehi thinking about what happens next. Imagining our lives in a year. Where will we be? What will we be doing? Am I this person? That person? It's interesting to try on the imagining of a life and walk around in it, see if it fits.

Am I the type of person that could be happy working for the federal government?
Would I be happy working for the National Park Service?
What do these day to day lives look like?
Which road am I on?

And then I circle back to what I am. I am many things, but I am at heart I am a teacher. Have been since making my sister sit still so I can "teach" her through the McGuffey readers we had.

So I did some more research today, in between reading Old English scholarship, on teaching certification for high school in Albuquerque.
This plan has many benefits.
  1. My National Board teaching certification is recognized in New Mexico, so once I apply I'm automatically certified.
  2. It would be a salaried, benefited job.
  3. New Mexico has posted record teaching shortages, so I'm pretty sure I could get a job without a problem.
  4. It would mean saving money (as I'm currently living on $14,400 a year and student loans).
  5. It would mean no moving expenses, because my landlord loves me and I would just stay here.
I don't know if this would be a permanent solution. I'm at the point where I don't know a whole lot at this point. But it's something I could be happy doing.

It's not without issues, mainly Nehi. She's used to me being home. And she's crate trained. Eight hours is the limit of her crate, and a school day is usually longer than that. Yet I know people have dogs they leave longer than that for when they're at work, so I imagine we could work it out.

So, that's where we are today.
Me returning to high school teaching is back on the table. So I guess I need to start practicing not swearing again.
I've gotten a lot of snarky, condescending, comments about my posts of back up plans, alternate paths. Been told I'm giving up, that getting my PhD has been a waste of time, along those lines. The thing is, after Mom died, I needed something different. I wanted to see if I could do this, spread my wings some.
So no matter what happens, I don't think this is a waste of time. It has ensured I can do more than I could three years ago. That I had more opportunities. Which I do. So I wouldn't trade it.

I still want to be a unicorn. I still want an academic job as a professor.
But we'll see...


  1. Keep everything on the table and know that no single job choice forcloses future options ... even better would be to do all sorts of things: teach teachers, teach literature, teach writing, teach theatre/drama, and find jobs that let you play, that let you research what you like, that let you take some evenings to play in the theatre again ... You have so many talents, I really hope you'll have spaces over the years to exercise any number of them ... :-) The best part, though, is being open. Too many new and/or soon-to-be PhDs think that those letters limit them to only one sort of thing ... and may be for some, it does, but I don't think it does for you. :-)