I really thrive in an environment that promotes free thinking, conversation about books and ideas, subsidizes personal growth, and has a genuine sense of community. I want to create it in my own school one day. I'm currently a college senior considering whether I should apply for an English or folklore MA, a MAT, or 'other'. I'm still unsure about being a teacher, but time is almost nigh. Could use help structuring my options and the consequences.
posted by reenka to Education (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The thing is, I want a life that follows a vision, that isn't just a career or a path I might enjoy but a sort of creative enterprise, a world I want to inhabit. Being a writer on the side and tolerating cognitive dissonance every day at work would drive me nuts. I toyed around with calling it 'Romantic' or 'the cool factor', but it isn't, quite. It has to be inspiring, daring, meaningful. Something that won't drain me but sustain me even at its most challenging, and something that has a lot of room for potential, discovery and personal growth. On some level, I think any endeavor can have those qualities if you approach it right. However, the fact is that I need a sense of openness and potential, and currently, the state of the American public school system is such that a lot of limits and constraints and difficulties are in place, and are often beaurocratic nature.
I had been inspired a few years ago by the interdisciplinary, private Northwest School to try to become a HS English teacher in a similar school, one I'd approve of. This is a great leap for me, for all my former dreams were a lot less realistic and achievable for me (that is, I wanted to do things that weren't even possible or not very specific a lot of the time). I realize, however, that getting hired as a teacher is hard enough without specifying what kind of school you want. Further, being an independent operator to such a degree grates against my tolerating many 'compromises' I might otherwise make; that is, the current flow towards constant testing and beaurocratic oversight is unacceptable. However, it does seem like a grand adventure (done right and/or my way). I know I'd love talking to my students about literature, I know I'd be good at it, I know I understand people pretty well, and I know that if I believe in something, I give of myself 100% (ADD + idealism = mad engine of doom).
However, like I said: I don't know if I can have my preferred environment, which is a lot like a liberal arts college except in HS. I like HS because the students are more open to change, since they're just being introduced to a bunch of ideas and texts for the first time. I feel I can have more of a chance at an impact than your average college prof. I wouldn't count on it, but it's still better odds. I also am drawn to adolescence emotionally and artistically. It's meaningful to me (which is a big deal), and I am motivated to help, to reach out. Rather than being aghast at the sharp edges, frustrated by the difficulties, I am drawn to that difficulty. Adolescence is such a potent time, the time when literature was really life or death to me. That level of meaning really never returns. The right books are always meaningful, but never more than when you're 14-16.
Today I thought that it's a conflict between the chance for revolution-- that is, action and implementation goes with teaching HS, and a dialogue between peers if I taught in college. That does appeal to me: I love the mostly laid-back, intelligent, even-toned discussions we have in my college seminars. I know I can't quite expect the same from High Schoolers; I would need to take more control. That brings me to my final vision: my current dream is to actually create my own best destiny, to found a school that does all these things I'd like a school to do and to be. Wouldn't it be something if I could help make a school, a human institution, that was cool-- open to change, compassionate, founded on a love of learning and dialogue, dedicated to everyone's growth and individual agency. Truly radical without being irresponsible. That would be a very great adventure; I don't have any doubt that I'd be very happy if I get the chance to co-create this school with my partners and the students. But of course, I'm a shy girl who's currently a 33 year-old college senior, and I'm way more talk than action; even applying to grad school has me in dithers and tithers. And I'm aware I'd need experience teaching elsewhere first (though I'm good at tutoring, it's my comfort zone).
I don't know whether to go for an English MA (to get more of a grounding in the canon than I've had and also for fun, and to TA a bit), an English-and-myth MA, a folklore MA, or just go for a MAT degree. A part of me thinks an English/folklore degree isn't only wasting time, it's an actual tangent if I really want to be a teacher. Another part just likes to follow her desires and interests. I am strongly drawn to continue the study of literature. Then I remind myself I don't think it's all that cool, so what about biology? And I start running the inner little hamster wheel again. It seems that things that were clear back when I had lots of time grow fuzzy when deadlines to take action loom, plus I always thought it's highly unlikely I would succeed in a traditional HS setting (I reeeeally hated it as a student, and I don't think teaching would help that much). But being a scientist would, of course, be a bit of a turn-around and smells like stalling strategy a bit.
Help? My philosophy in life is to follow my bliss, and I'm not ready to give that up, but perhaps some things are more visible from outside.