14 April 2020

My work in ELT: University days

So how did I get into ELT and publishing? To be honest, it just happened. I didn’t really have a clear plan all those years ago when I was at university, for the second time. My first attempt at university, in a junior college architecture program, ended after one year when I was put on academic probation. It took some time for me to get it together after that, and after six months or so, I landed a job in a fast-food restaurant, something similar to Dairy Queen. That went on for just over five years, and in that time I realized I enjoyed reading, watching movies, and discussing what I had read or watched. One day thought came to me—I guess I was 22 or 23 then—why not go back to school and become an English teacher?

One might think that normal, not a big deal, but what one wouldn’t know is that I had never performed well academically. Never. And worse than that, English was my poorest subject in secondary school. Still, it felt right and I followed that feeling to matriculation at Anderson University (then Anderson College) in September 1986 as an English literature/Education major. I wasn’t fearful of returning to school. Fear never entered into it, that I can remember. I was content and for the first time pursuing something I wanted. Sliding into the first year back at uni, I found the professors thoughtful and entertaining, the material stimulating and compelling. I glided into student life and managed to perform well, better than I ever had before.

When I entered university, I had thoughts of working as a missionary and becoming a youth pastor alongside my English lit/education degrees. Yes, I was ‘religious’ and Anderson was the global home of the Church of God, the church I had been attending for some time. By the middle of my second year, though, I had shed the idea of becoming a missionary and youth pastor, which is a story for another blog. Still, the idea of living and working in another culture was rooted in me.

Classes continued and in the middle of my second year, I also decided to drop my education degree. The history and educational theory classes just didn’t excite me. And a practical experience at a local high school didn’t go well, which, with some years of hindsight, I could see was my fault. Anyhow, I moved forward with my literature degree and soon decided the US Peace Corps was the path for me. On a wintry day in March of 1990, I drove to Chicago for an interview and in early June learned that I had been accepted into the Peace Corps as primary school English teacher. (The educational theory classes really helped!) I waited for an appointment, which came in mid-July, and at the end of August I was off to Nepal to serve for 27 months.

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