Reverb Broads 2011, December 21: If you returned (or went, if you’ve never been) to college to study anything you want, what would you major in, and why? (courtesy of Matt at http://thegeekygay.posterous.com) and December 23: If you could have any job, what would it be? (courtesy of Dana at http://simply-walking.com)
I am a teacher, simply put. Whatever I learn, I want to share with others–family and friends would probably agree that this happens whether they want it to or not. I wasn’t able to finish my doctorate at the university where I took my comprehensive exams, so if I could go back to college, my first priority would be completion of a degree to get me back into a classroom. I’ve been able to teach without the Ph.D., but adjunct teaching positions are both underpaid and insecure, and with so many Ph.D.s on the market right now, the few colleges hiring these days can choose applicants with doctorates, when previously they would have to offer a professorship to lure them in.
While the Ph.D. would be nice, because I really do prefer to teach at the college level, I’m not opposed to the idea of teaching high school, especially French. I substitute-taught for a few years, and I enjoyed those days in the French classroom far more than I expected to. My only reservation is whether my body could hack the physical demands of a schoolteacher’s schedule, but I’ve considered more than a few times the possibilities of getting certified. Honestly, it’s only the financial investment that’s prevented me from doing so.
I’m trained as a historian, and I love ferreting stories out of disparate records, but it’s all so I can tell those stories to others. Since the sources I’m most interested in are from other times and places, I think of languages as lock picks; the more tools I have, the more stories I can unlock. My B.A. is in French, which I’ve been learning since I was 11, and I’m still reasonably fluent despite the fifteen years since my last stay in a Francophone country. I also studied Latin for several years, a necessary exercise for any medievalist. Between those two and a good dictionary, I’ve got 50-75% comprehension of written or spoken Spanish and Italian, though I don’t have the grammar or vocab to form replies. Additionally, I can decipher texts in other languages I’ve studied: German, Anglo-Saxon, Old French (very different from the modern version), Old Irish, and Modern Welsh.
I could go to school from now until the day I die and not learn all the languages I would like to. I can’t be the only person with two wish lists of languages: the ones I want for study (Modern Irish, Scottish Gaelic, more Welsh, Old Norse, and Japanese), and the ones I want to learn for fun (Hindi, Arabic, more Italian, maybe Norwegian or Swedish).
Finally, every once in a while, I toss around the wild notion that it might be fun to go to seminary and get myself trained and ordained as at Unitarian Universalist minister. It’s not as disconnected from the rest of this as it may seem. World religions are an area of historical expertise for me, especially the connections among them–people tell the same kinds of stories, the world over, to explain the mysteries of life, which is what religion basically is. And UUs believe that there’s no One Right Path to truth, so all the linguistic and historical study I’ve already done gives me perspective on the variations of the human story, as well as its universality. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between lecturing and preaching, when it comes down to it, and I like to take care of people. Again, financial considerations keep me from really pursuing this, at least for the time being, but who knows? Whatever I end up doing, I’ll be the one behind the podium.