I’ve never really left school. There have been very few years in my life in which I was not involved in some capacity with education. I finished high school in 1993, and after four years of working dead-end minimum wage jobs, I started community college in 1997. I had no plan, no idea about a major or a possible career. I just started taking classes. After the first year I had to pick a major, so I chose music. I chose it because I could play the piano and sing, and it seemed like a challenging but fun choice.
As a performing arts major I became heavily involved in the department. I acted in plays and worked in the costume shop, all while maintaining stellar grades. Music theory was difficult at first but after a while I was an expert at it. Unfortunately, what I didn’t excel in was performance. I was horrible at sight reading and could never manage to play a piece of music that was set before me with any degree of confidence and ease. In both Chamber Choir and piano I was expected to read or sing the notes off a page and I was just so bad at it. I had always previously learned through memorization and repetition.
You see, when I became a music major, I thought I was pretty good musician, but it turned out that I was actually mediocre. I wasn’t terrible. I wasn’t that good either. So I sold my piano, decided to drop music and work on getting a transfer degree to the local university.
I started university in 1999 as a junior English Literature major, but almost immediately changed my major to Humanities. English Lit was too confining. I wanted to read other subjects, like History, and Art History, and Classics, and Philosophy. There’s only so much you can do with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, so when I got my B.A. I decided to keep right on studying. Graduate studies are generally more specialized so I chose English Literature for my graduate major. This wasn’t as fun as Humanities. Graduate seminars are long and intense, but at least this program didn’t require a master’s thesis. It required twelve seminars and accompanying papers.
There was the option of skipping one seminar and doing a thesis instead, but I chose not to do this. Instead, I began to prepare myself for a teaching career and enrolled in the GTF training program. All of the undergraduate English classes at my university were taught by GTFs (Graduate Teaching Fellows). The training consisted of one term of theory, one term of internship, and a final term of teaching and theory combined. This was a paid position at the university, and they offered a tuition waiver as well. So while I was working on my graduate degree, I was also studying teaching, and eventually I was studying and teaching.
When I finished my graduate degree, I didn’t get a career-type job right away. I didn’t even start looking for about six months. I quit the office job I had while I was studying, and worked for a few months for an online clothing retailer. Then I decided it was time to get serious. I had a master’s degree. It was time to get a real job.
The only “real job” in which I had any experience was teaching, so I focused my search on that. About a year prior to finishing my studies, my ex-boyfriend and I had gone to Japan for a week. It occurred to me that there were lots of openings for English teachers in Japan. I applied to about a half a dozen schools and was eventually hired at one of them. On February 4, 2004, I boarded an airplane for Tokyo where I would truly start my teaching career.
It has been fifteen years since I taught my first undergrad English 101 class at my university. Since then I have moved countries twice. I have worked at secondary schools and upper-secondary schools. I’ve worked at international schools and after-school programs. I have worked as a Business English consultant for corporations.
And now, it’s time for a change. I’ve gone back to school, although, as I mentioned, I never really left. I am a young-looking 42 year-old professional enrolled in university classes 20 years after I first started college. And just like then, I have no plan. I’m just taking classes. And it’s so. Much. Fun! I’d forgotten how much I’d enjoyed being a student. I’m not stressing over getting a degree or a job. Those things will sort themselves out later. For now, I’m just enjoying every minute of it.