Most of the Literature students I know will tell you that they “don’t want to be a teacher” when they graduate. This is probably a reflexive response to the automatic assumption that all English Literature graduates wish to become teachers, but I completely cringe inside even as I have to correct the assumption that I will be a teacher.
Yes, I find the assumption that all Literature is good for is teaching frankly ridiculous. Likewise, a degree in English Literature does not a teacher make.
Nowadays, when people ask me if I want to be a teacher, my automatic response is to point out that they’re communicating in English and tell them that I can be whatever I want since I can manipulate their language and thus what they think. Normally that tends to shut people up pretty quickly.
When my brother points out my FYP was easy *hintmyFYPwasthestuffofnightmareshint*, I point out that I had seven texts and probably read each of them a hundred times, so how would he like to read some materials seven hundred times. Normally that shuts him up very quickly too. (If my brother is reading this, please also note that I had strong moral support, but moral support does not write an essay either. Science projects were comparatively easier precisely because you had experiments.).
But this isn’t just a rant about how I have to justify the “usefulness” of my degree. This is mainly a rant about how people think studying something automatically qualifies one to be a teacher.
No, an English degree does not qualify me as a teacher. Being able to write pretty decent essays that do not make people want to faint also does not qualify me as a teacher. Being able to write essays about video games and society is (subjectively) cool, but it does not make me a teacher. I’m pretty sure I’m not a teacher even though I teach. In fact, I pretty much view myself
a failure a work in progress as far as teaching is concerned because I feel like I failed to inspire the wonder and the magic that my teachers did in their students. Sure, I probably did manage to avoid the biggest traumas (eg. telling someone they can’t do something) but in the same turn, sometimes I feel like the work I do is utterly forgettable, that people won’t remember it after they leave school, which is such a pity. There is a certain skill to it, and a very specific form of knowledge that all teachers must acquire. Much as I wish my English degree helped with that, I have to admit that I do not have the least idea of how to impart these ideas.
(This might just be the most roundabout way of thanking the great teachers that I’ve had the pleasure of coming across for putting up with this bullheaded idea that anyone with a degree can do their job.)