As I mentioned Sunday (see “Beginning this week: ‘Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda: Reflections on the First Years of Teaching'”) the Wabash Center has launched a blog where every Tuesday a professor of religious studies and/or theology will share some insights from their early years in the vocation. The first post is written by Lisa M. Hess of United Theological Seminary. It is titled, “We’re Not in Kansas (or Cambridge) Anymore”. I plan on interacting with this post and many of the other ones of this blog as a person interested in entering the teaching vocation someday.
In Hess’ post she writes about embracing one’s place as a teacher, realizing that the ideals held as a student likely won’t come to fruition as a professor. A teacher needs to learn how to work within the institution who hired them. The most interesting point she made had to do with hired by an institution in an undesired location.
I confess that this is one of my greater fears. Everyone who knows me is aware that if I could chose any one place in the world to spend the rest of my life it would be San Francisco, California. I spent most of my first twenty-seven years in the Bay Area. I have dreamed of returning the last three. Now if I lived somewhere like Paris, France, or Rome, Italy, or even New York, New York, it is possible that I could adapt without day dreaming about the day I go home. San Antonio, Texas, is not a place where I want to live. I am comfortable for now. I am learning how to make the most of my time here. Yet there isn’t a day that passes where I can comfortably entertain the idea of living here the rest of my life.
Yet if I continue to my march toward doctoral work, and toward someday being employed as an educator, then the reality remains that my return to the Bay Area is unlikely. I won’t be qualified enough to teach at Stanford University or UC Berkeley. I am not “conservative” enough to earn one of the few full time jobs at Western Seminary in the Bay Area. I don’t have any affiliation with traditions of some of the other evangelical schools in the area (save Fuller Theological Seminary, but then we return to the problem of qualifications). If I return to the Bay Area it may be as an educator, but it will be in an ecclesial context, not an academic one.
I wonder how likely it is that my “dream job” (teaching New Testament and/or early Christianity somewhere) will be in a desired location. I doubt it. I fear I will have to chose between a place I want to live or a vocation I want to hold. It is unnerving.
I wonder, if you are an educator who lives in an undesired location, how have you adapted? Have you adapted? Hess advocates being the type of person who doesn’t spend their time looking for a greener pasture. Have you been able to do that?