My name is Allie and I am an English major that University of Arkansas who loves reading and writing and wants to be a teacher. That is how I would have introduced myself prior to this class. My goals were incredibly linear. I took twelve hours this summer so I will be able to graduate in the fall. I knew that in order to eventually become a teacher, my next step was graduate school. I had heard about a couple different programs, but with an interest in creative writing was leaning towards applying for an MFA program. I would somehow get accepted to an awesome school who would pay me to teach while simultaneously writing a book. After finishing my masters I would continue with my schooling, receive a PhD and get a tenure track job as a professor. I would live in a quaint college town with my husband who would also be an English professor. We would start a vegetable garden and a family, and I would become a yoga instructor and write more books on my nights off. It all sounds perfect. And I don’t want to say that there is no way it could happen, but life isn’t so linear. I should know that as my dad has been relocated six different times throughout his career and recently lost his job at a company that he worked at for 25 years. Things don’t always work out as planned. I was signed up to take a course on Samuel Beckett this semester, and when the teacher had forgotten to notify the English department he wasn’t going to be teaching the course and the class was canceled last minute (literally), I enrolled in the only other English course that was open. Now, here I am rethinking my current linear path and possibly my entire future.
Not really though. With all the Alt Ac options we have discussed throughout this class (that is primarily focused on Alt Ac), I still am going to work towards my goal of becoming a teacher. That said, I have begun to let go of the perfect plan I recently conducted for my life with my knew knowledge of careers in academia, careers outside academia, and that I am so much more than “an English major at the University of Arkansas who loves reading and writing and wants to be a teacher.” Moving away from my “no crap” realization that life is beyond predictable, I am going to speak more specifically to my current experience as an undergraduate humanities major, and the lack of conversation in the classroom about life after graduation. Does my ‘plan’ to become a teacher only exist because that is what I think the only career option is for someone with an English major? No. After reflecting on my life and examining my strengths, I realize that I do want to be an educator because it is something I am passionate about. But if I didn’t want to be an educator, what else could I really do? This was something I truly didn’t know the answer to before taking this class.
Most students don’t declare a major in the humanities with goals of becoming engineers, business owners, and stock brokers. If those where their ultimate goals, they would major in engineering or business. That said, I think that the stigma that a degree in the humanities limits one form a job outside of teaching is wrong. People with degrees in the humanities are just as able to hold a job outside of academia as anyone else. Stigma or no stigma, as a current undergraduate English major, any conversation surrounding life after graduation DOES NOT EXIST in the classroom setting. You leave the classroom and all you hear from the outside world is “What are you studying in school?” “Oh yea, what are you going to do with that?” In class we talk about Beowulf, Hamlet, Godot, Stella and Stanley, power dynamics, symbols, evidence, and form. That is wonderful to me of course. I love it all because I am an English major. But we come to college for reasons beyond an understanding of these literary conventions. We are in college because ultimately, we want to find a job.
I know that I am not alone in my lack of knowledge about life after graduation with a degree in the humanities (lack of knowledge before I took this class that is). I have this idea of what I want my future life and career to look like, but how do I actually obtain that? What steps do I need to take to get into graduate school? What if I don’t go to graduate school? What are my other options? Universities are supposed to serve to prepare their students for their futures. Although I have experienced great professors who have taught me so much about different books and the larger topics that those books speak to, until I enrolled in this class I can honestly say I have not had a single professor who has talked about how to use the knowledge we are gaining at the university after words, be it teaching or not. When I really think about it that seems so crazy to me! In high school English classes teachers help students work on their writing skills so they can pass their exams and get into college. Moving from high school to college and moving from college into the beginning of your life in the real world are two completely different steps, nonetheless the principle of preparation and education should be the same. I think that just as secondary educators at the high school level hold the responsibility of preparing their students for college, professors teaching higher education should hold the responsibility of preparing their students for life after graduation (in the humanities specifically).
There is so much conversation circulating about individuals investing in a higher education, obtaining a masters and a PhD in the humanities, and not being able to find a job inside of academia. This is something that is incredibly important for undergraduate students to know as they begin to decide what the next step for them is going to be. Jobs for humanities majors exist in other areas besides academia. This is also something that is incredibly important for students to know. Professors should be dedicated to more than just their research and their specific area of study. As educators, they should be diverse in their knowledge of the options for the students they are teaching. Because lets be real, not everyone in a World Epics class is going to dedicate the rest of their career to World Epics.
I am sure that there are many professors out there that could care less about this conversation and are perfectly content in their tenure track job teaching and researching what interests them. But in my opinion, it is their duty as educators to have an interest in preparing their students for more than just the term paper they have to write for the class. So although my goals are still currently centered on teaching, I feel like my mind has been opened up to what it takes to become a teacher in secondary education and higher education, and the other options I have to look at if teaching doesn’t work out for me or even if I change my mind. I am beginning to realize my strengths and look at myself as an individual capable of doing great things in the world and not just a student. Although reading and writing are two of my biggest passions, they don’t define who I am. The fact that these things weren’t brought to my attention earlier makes me feel as if something is missing in the classrooms that are studying the humanities.
I am sure that at some point I would have figured some of this out on my own, but taking a class focused on Alt Ac and career options for humanities majors has given me the tools, information, and confidence to succeed when I graduate this spring. Even if my path is far from linear or anywhere close to what I had originally planned, I know that my degree will not fail me but rather lead me to success. This conversation has now become something that I find incredibly important and hope to share with fellow English majors at my university from just talking about it in between class to looking for ways to help shed light on it in administration. Maybe now I will be an English professor living in a quaint town, with a vegetable garden, teaching yoga, and mentoring students like myself on career options for humanities majors. Or maybe not.