I have a horrible sleep schedule. I have a really, very horribly sleep schedule, and it often results in me lying in bed thinking about my life. These thoughts often go in one of two directions: working in Africa, and high school teaching. If you’ve ever looked at my About page above, you’ll notice that both of these feature as Things I Want to Do with My Life.
Junior year of high school, I started a class called Teacher Preparation. Comprised of one class, we were the de facto members of the Future Educators Association on campus and we learned about lesson planning, teaching practices, etc. I also spent two days a week at the elementary school across the street, first helping sixth graders with English and then helping Kindergartners do whatever it is Kindergartners do. I did the same my senior year, but led reading groups in a different sixth grade class and taught math to high school students who were falling behind.
Freshman year of college I spent fall break teaching kids in downtown Phoenix, and I jumped ahead in my major solely so that I could start sitting in on high school history classrooms a year early, and kept doing that right up until I student-taught history and government my senior year. And by student-taught I mean taught, since my mentor teacher got fired and a substitute sat in the corner while I did most of the work (and loved it). After failing to get that job, I long-term substituted a graphic design class most of my year after graduation, and then I decided to take a step away from secondary education and try my hand at becoming an academic. My About page says this might be a phase.
Each of the above sentences encapsulates at least a year of me doing something that I loved: teaching. 2013-2014 was the first academic year since being a high school sophomore that I didn’t do at least some teaching. That year was a weird time for me, also fraught with late night musings. Also probably term papers and grant proposals.
Throughout my college years, I had done a lot of self-teaching about Africa, and classroom-teaching about international affairs. I became interested in studying conflict and humanitarianism and advocacy, and that’s what drew me to the program I’m about to finish up. Coming to Yale was my chance to start the path towards higher education, test the waters of research, and focus on Africa – something I hadn’t had the chance to do in college.
Next week I’ll be graduating, with little clue what’s to become of me afterwards. After testing the waters of research and finding that I liked it, and going back to Uganda and confirming that I liked that, I realized that if this was a phase it was a nice one. But then, I didn’t get into any PhD programs this cycle, and I didn’t get any fellowships either. I even got denied by an MA program. I’m turning to the job-hunt now, that dreaded juggernaut of our present economy.
This isn’t a pity-me post, or at least it’s not supposed to be. It’s more a practice of being wide awake late at night and thinking only about my former students (many of whom may even be graduating this week from Arizona’s universities), good and bad lesson plans, time spent in Uganda and Congo, and the vague outlines of future research proposals. It’s also a post borne out of frustration at having been rejected to graduate programs three years after not getting the job that I had already done for four months for free.
It’s not a pity-post, because I will find work eventually. And I was privileged enough first to be able to commit my whole self to student teaching, perhaps the most amazing and most stressful/rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and again to devote myself to my program here and even carry out my own research. These experiences have been wonderful, and surely there will be more wonderful experiences ahead. I will apply to graduate school again. And eventually I’ll get in and do coursework and teach and do research and teach. With fingers crossed, I’ll be able to teach and write about Africa and America for many days thereafter. Alternatively, I would gladly return to high school classrooms and teach my heart out there.
Hopeful but frustrated, nostalgic but looking forward, and resolutely unable to sleep – here’s to the future.