This weekend I graduate from Marquette University with a Master’s degree in English literature, and my feelings are bittersweet. I decided not to pursue a PhD for several reasons. The idea of spending another five years in school is daunting. The competition for jobs is fierce, especially for someone my age. I need to stop living a Peter Pan existence and get out and work! And most importantly, I fell in love with teaching.
The last two years have been…I don’t even know what to say…exhausting, exhilarating, disappointing, frightening, grounding, growing, worth it. I feel in many ways I lost my life and gained another. I have always felt an affinity with butterflies, and I think the chrysalis is finally opening. Finally.
They say (who is “they” anyway?) that the Master’s degree portion of academia is the most soul-sucking of all three levels, and I agree. I am not used to a learning style that is more of a “trial by fire” or “hazing” experience. I’m pretty straight forward…teach me something, and then hold me responsible for that information through assessment. I have been told to figure it out for myself, I was told when asking for help with my first seminar paper that, “Writing is a promise. You make a promise, and then you keep it.” Huh?
My entire degree was based on a written exam (something that the department is, thankfully, trying to change) on material I had to learn on my own. Taken from memory. Historical time lines from about 500 A.D. to the present, literary movements and periods, authors, works, close readings, essays,you name it! And I PASSED it, people! It cost me about nine months of my life studying and 15 pounds, but I did it!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some wonderful and supportive professors along the way, and some great survey-type classes that did help me pass my exam, but I found academia to still be a bit of a good-old-boys club that I discovered I didn’t want to be a part of. And don’t get me started on campus politics!
What I DID take away is that I love teaching, and what I DID learn was what kind of teacher I want to be. The caring kind. The helpful kind. The kind that serves her students and institution. A team player out for the greater good. Someone who puts her students and their education first. Not a complainer. Not an elitist. Too idealistic? Unrealistic? Perhaps. But I’m going to try, because this is important to me.
So I’ve applied at several area parochial high schools in order to give myself a gentle start to this new career of mine, and I think I’ve found just the place! Small, nice kids, super-supportive and serving staff. They really seem to want me, and I want them too. I’ll know for sure tomorrow. Stay tuned!