In 2012, I got a Visiting Assistant Professor position for two years at Hamilton College, and went on the academic job market for three years in total. When I was on the market, I had everything I was told I needed to get a job (a top PhD, several publications, teaching experience). I got great interviews every time I went on the market, but in three years searching no permanent job offer. When I was at Hamilton, I met people who had been on the academic market for 5-10 years, and this helped me determine I did not want that to be me. I didn’t want the instability or the itinerant life of the academic who is constantly moving around while searching for a job.
When I went to work at Hamilton, my partner was unemployed for a year because the school was located in a remote, rural area. Though he did get a job for my second year there, he was making much less than he made in Baltimore, so it was an unstable and unsustainable path ahead for us. We decided to move to Washington, DC, where we now both have stable jobs, so I’ve never regretted for a moment the decision I made in 2014 to walk away from the academic job market.
From 2014-2020, I worked at the National Cathedral School, which is a top independent school in DC. Private school teaching at this type of institution is very similar to teaching at a liberal arts college. I got to design curriculum, teach in the area of my specialization, and teach small seminar courses on topics of interest to me. None of my classes had more than 14 students in them. I designed and taught several courses, such as one on the bildungsroman called “The Coming of Age Novel,” featuring books like A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, E. M. Forster’s Maurice, and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, all the types of texts I wanted to be teaching in the first place when I set out initially to be a professor. I also taught a British Literature survey as part of the sophomore English curriculum, as well as an elective on postcolonial feminist literature. Our students learned how to write with literary criticism and theory in our classes, so every day I put into practice what I learned in graduate school (both in terms of content and pedagogy). The content of my PhD was continually relevant to the courses I taught, and my teaching at Hopkins in the Expository Writing Program gave me a huge advantage in knowing how to teach writing, which is very important at the high-school level. I also very much enjoyed the teaching I did at NCS because I was part of a community where my task was not only to help shape my students as writers and scholars, but also as people.
In August 2020, I will begin a new position as an Instructional Coach at the Catholic University Center for Teaching Excellence, where I will be working with faculty on pedagogy and professional development. I am excited for the ways my new position will help me develop additional skills working with faculty and allow me to work collaboratively on a wider institutional scale to help faculty and students succeed. I have loved my years working in the classroom with students, but I am excited to now shift into a new role where I can begin to think about pedagogy through a different lens.
Though I haven’t followed the traditional tenure-track route, I have also kept publishing. I have published three chapters from my dissertation as articles, and now also write essays for wider audiences. The non-traditional academic route has allowed me to have a stable and fulfilling life outside of work, and to pursue a unique path in the field of education. I’ve gained a lot of experience at several different types of institutions, which has allowed me to cultivate a broader knowledge of education than I would have had if I’d worked in just one institution for my entire career so far.