Thursday, February 17, 2011

Could Stephanie Be Headed Back Overseas?

The job search has been, to say the least, frustrating.  For years, high schools and colleges have encouraged students to go into education, with the result that there are now far too many qualified teachers, and not enough availabilities, since the economic hardships have forced schools to significantly tighten their belts.  This has been the biggest year yet for history PhD graduates, which means that the average wait time for one of them to get a job is three years.  History MA's, naturally, have a similar problem.  It is a sad fact that every time there's a recession or depression, the intellectual community gets hit hard.  And, in turn, that comes back to bite society later.

I have the additional problem of having my own teaching options limited to Christian schools or colleges.  The non-Christian world has become too hostile to Christian instructors, particularly in the name of "diversity" (in practice, diversity usually means that everyone except the Christian or Jew gets a say, and that you can get special treatment if you have non-traditional sexual preferences or if your race happened to be persecuted by white people one or two hundred years ago).  As I learned in Manassas, one has to be careful, too, within Christian education.  There are some Christian schools which happen to be neither Christian nor a school.

I've been applying to several classical Christian schools, which provide the absolute best form of education (if you're curious about what this entails, read Dorothy Sayers' essay The Lost Tools of Learning).  Now, I am definitely qualified for the jobs for which I'm applying.  Sadly for me, so are a lot of other history and English teachers.  And, what's worse for me, many of them have advantages like a background in Latin, experience coaching a sport, and, most importantly, more teaching experience.  I have a year and a half of experience; most schools want a minimum of either two or five years (it varies).  I'm a very good teacher, but I'm honestly competing with hundreds of other teachers who are my equals or my betters within this field.  It's a hard time to be an educator.

At the same time, I've given a lot of thought to going back overseas.  Ever since I returned from Korea, I've missed it terribly.  I still dream at night quite regularly about teaching in foreign locations (nearly always Asia) and then wake up with a horrible yearning ache.  I've just never gotten those places out of my system.  And, lately, I've wondered if perhaps there's a Reason.

God calls people out of the blue on a regular basis.  And He's put me through an awful lot of experiences, some wonderful and some dreadful.  I've for years felt a definite confidence that He had a plan behind it all, some reason that He wanted me prepared.  He sent me to Korea, a country I knew nothing about and had never before given more than a passing thought to.  There was all that experience in living alone and forging new relationships from my many moves.  It was Him that sent me to grad school -- I had given up on that.  He gave me the job in Institutional Effectiveness, where I have done so much research into teaching excellence and teaching best practices.  He brought about Lantern Hollow Press, a company that is reaching out to -- you guessed it -- the Christian educational community (home-schoolers, Christian schoolteachers, Christian students . . .).  And there were all those experiences as a child and teenager, the times I was bullied, the depression, the angst, the anger . . . God meant it for good.  The last time I was a Christian schoolteacher, my testimony had a profound effect on two hurting students.  Could it possibly do more good?  Could all that pain from those dark years from ten to eighteen have been my doctoral course in brokenness and empathy?  I wonder.

With all this in mind, I've started looking at Christian schools overseas, many of them schools in areas that are rural and cannot generally attract teachers with MAs.  The response has been overwhelming.  Six responses within an hour; nine responses so far today.  Those schools can't pay a lot, but one doesn't go into Christian education intending to get rich (unless one is a completely delusional fool).  My main concerns are that the school provide housing and pay enough for me to live locally and meet my student loan payments.  Oh, and I have decided to avoid schools in countries that the United States is presently at war with.  There was a tempting school in Afghanistan . . . don't worry, Mother, I'm not applying there.  I'm focusing on schools in Asia, but I am also considering a few in Africa (don't worry, Mother; I decided against Egypt for the time being, although I've always wanted to travel there).

Of course, going overseas again would not be without complications.  I have two dogs, a car, and an apartment full of belongings.  It's all got to go somewhere.  But, if God really wants me overseas, I'm certainly not going to be an idiot and try to say no.  I'll go if He wants me, and I'll trust Him to show me what to do with the details.  God always gets His way somehow.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"