September 10

Why I’m an English Professor

Six years ago, I was in the blur of the first few weeks in a tenure track job – sleep deprived from all the lesson planning, nervous that I wasn’t smart/fun/“adult” enough to have this job…  But I remember one specific Thursday afternoon amidst that stressful time: sitting in a circle of desks with twelve eager and chatty Shakespeare students, I thought to myself, “Yes.  This is why I’m doing this.  This makes all the stress and hard work worth it.”  I think back to that moment a lot, even now that I’m confident in my abilities as a professor (well, most days) and have established myself in my department and in leadership positions at my university.

Last Thursday, I had another one of those happy realizations that makes what I do worth it.  It was a beautiful early September day, and I decided on my way into my office that morning that my afternoon Shakespeare class should go outside.  I appointed a student to find us a good spot, and she snagged us the Peace Garden. For an hour and fifteen minutes, we sat on benches and on the grass and discussed Act 1 of Othello.  Students who don’t normally interact were sharing books and chatting about character motivations and the meaning of tricky “Shakespeare language.”  It rejuvenated me and made me realize the power of Shakespeare and my joy in teaching.

It ended up being one of the best classes I’ve taught, and one I’ll certainly go back to when the emails keep pouring in and the grading stacks up.

Pic of the Peace Garden at MU: