May 11, 2016

Working It All Out

It is a glorious Wednesday, and I am ready to tackle my week’s projects. As weird as that sounds, I am actually feeling “ready” today to get some major work done on my proposal. I have tried to make progress, and while I have gotten my proposal in better shape, it is not to where I need it to be. So today, I am going to work to get it ready to be sent to my professor. I know I have a lot of work to do, but with the Lord’s leading, I can do it. I am confident of it.

I have plans for this good day, then, and those plans include taking the title and keys over to the auto towers so I can trade them for the check offered to junk my son’s car. I need this task to be closed, checked off my list. Hopefully, I can do this around noon today.

My other plans are mostly to take care of some business around the house. My Mom is over at bible study today, and my Dad is going to be here a home. My son has a work day — which means — I will not have my car to use after 3 p.m. It is such a weird feeling to not have a car at your disposal, but until the Lord provides a solution, it is “what it is” as they say. I am okay with the delay. I need the Lord to provide this answer to me, so there is no “rush” in it. I will wait until He provides.

Choosing Next Steps

As of right now, I am settled. I am settled on this path, and I am ready to complete my PhD. I have been praying about the Lord’s timing, for moving and all, and right now I feel confident that He will provide a job to me for next year. My current contracts are for fall assignments, and the income offered is very low. I realized this Monday when I applied for an instructor position at our local public university. I can make $3300 per contract, up to 4, teaching there versus making $2800 per contract, teaching only 3 at GCU. At ACU, the pay is even less. I have been content with the contracts I have simply because I like the schools and the convenience of their location. Now, though, I am considering other options for fall 2016-2017. The perfect solution, of course, would be to be hired for the online teaching position I applied for at ASU. The job, the pay, the convenience — all — would be such a blessing. But, I am not sure if I would be considered “qualified” or not. I do meet the “minimum” requirements, and I do have most of the “desired” requirements. It is just possible that I don’t have enough experience teaching literature or that they are seeking a person with a Literature PhD instead of a person with a Masters and PhD in Communication. Only the Lord knows if this is His provision for me. I applied, and I don’t necessarily feel anything at all — sort of like — it is done, so be it.

I am treating this job opportunity as inconsequential. By that I mean, it is just a job. It is a good paying job that aligns with my experience, but it is only a job. If this is His provision, then it will come to pass. If not, then another job will fit the bill. I am no longer looking to the job as anything other than practical work that serves to provide income to meet my monthly expenses. I am not looking to career advancement, long-term benefits, or even title. I am simply saying, “Lord, provide what you think is best at this point in my life.” Then, I am willing and agreeable to do the work — whatever work — that may be.

Just yesterday, I received a rejection notice from UnitedHealth Group. I had applied to a position there back in April. I was “under consideration,” but they never called me to interview. The email said I was not chosen for an interview. I have felt that I wasn’t supposed to look in business again, yet when I asked if I could apply, the Lord clearly gave permission to do so. I guess I had to experience the rejection to confirm to me that this is not His will for me. I know that my best fit now is in teaching. My best fit is to teach English, Composition mostly, but literature as available. My best fit is to patiently wait for a job that will afford me the opportunity to teach English Composition I and II without needing a PhD in Rhetoric.

My PhD in Communication is for the Lord’s work, and not to get me a teaching job. In fact, I have known this since before I started my program. The Lord has specifically said that my PhD courses will not be used for teaching. While I do teach Introduction to Communication at ACU, and I have taught a similar class at GCU, mostly I teach writing. It is weird to think that I am teaching a subject area with which I don’t have a Masters degree. I mean, my Masters degree is in Literature, and not Rhetoric. I have thought about taking a second Masters in Rhetoric, but now I am more interested in Linguistics, so that is the direction I think I will go once I finish my PhD. I am keenly interested in language itself, and I think I would enjoy taking linguistic courses.

So for now, I am content to teach writing. In fact, I am thinking of spending some time this summer learning linguistics and studying rhetoric. I have three books on hand now:
  • A Rhetoric of Motives by Kenneth Burke
  • Rhetorical Criticism by Sonja Foss
  • Teach Yourself Linguistics by David Hornsby
I am looking to add a couple more to teach myself linguistics, at the least, a foundational aspect of it. I have looked at a number of linguistics programs, some certificates and some masters level. The problem is that most American linguistics programs deal with second-language acquisition. I am more interested in semantics and pragmatics — the study of how we use language and how we assess meaning through language. This fits with my interest in Rhetoric and with visual communication.

To my Amazon account, I have added:
  • A Grammar of Motives by Kenneth Burke
  • Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics (Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics) by Alan Cruse
  • Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication, 6th edition (MIT Press) by Adrian Akmajian
These texts, in combination with what I already have, should provide a nice foundation in introductory linguistics for me. Moreover, I think that these texts will give me the knowledge I need to pursue an advanced degree in Linguistics at some point in time. I also plan to review a plain English Grammar text, perhaps just review Warriner’s, which I already have on hand. I also have Easy Grammar Plus, and while I like it, it doesn’t offer enough instruction to help me teach others grammar. I have thought about being able to teach Developmental Writing courses in addition to First Year Sequence classes. I think I can easily do it, but my knowledge of the fundamentals of Grammar is weak. It always has been, and I have always struggled with understanding grammar. However, I have learned grammar on my own, and now I am a fairly adept writer. My students, though, will often ask me questions, and I would like to be able to answer them with ease. I think learning how to construct sentences, understanding the hows and whys of our language will benefit me in many ways.

I’ve looked at linguistic programs before, and I always come away disappointed. I would like to study a true linguistics degree, a program that offers me instruction in language study that fits my interest rather than teaches me about acquiring language (for ESL). There is one program I am highly attracted to, but it is in the United Kingdom. I've looked at US based programs but so far I cannot find something that fits my interests.

As for now, I am thinking of starting this next program in 2017. A MA in Linguistics (not applied) would benefit me in many ways. First, it would provide a solid foundation for teaching English (Grammar) to my students. Second, it would help me to better understand how language is structured (my area of theoretical interest) as well as provide a new forum for me to conduct research. Third, it would open up the door to greater areas of research studies such as cognitive science. I have wanted, well, considered studying Sociolinguistics for a long time. Sociolinguistics looks at how language is acquired through social constructs. It also considers the relative nature of language and how meaning is constructed through social discourse. This aligns with my PhD study as well as my Masters in English. I could see many avenues for study in this discipline and I would find the entire process of learning social language interesting. Furthermore, this study would benefit the church -- down the road. I am interested in helping the church learn how to communicate more effectively, and I feel the Lord has placed a desire within me to look at language, in specific.

My next steps would include taking a MA in Linguistics (next year some time), and then following up with another degree, perhaps a PhD in Cognitive Science. I am not sure about the latter, but if the Lord desires it, so be it. I am content now to teach English as my practical discipline/ job. I am content to teach developmental writing, first year writing, and academic/research writing for the remainder of my career (work life). My research interests are wide, but tend to run toward language study. I have desired to study language and meaning (structures - semantics and pragmatics) for many years now. I am fascinated by linguists and social scientists, such as de Saussure and Chomsky, who have posited theories on language use. If the Lord has this in mind for me, I am assured the process would be fascinating. I need to finish my PhD, but after that point, those next steps are open season. I feel very strongly that my teaching content will be basic, that the Lord intends for me to be a composition teacher primarily, and not a literature teacher. I love teaching literature, culture studies, philosophy, etc., but it seems pretty clear to me that I am teach students how to write well.

For a time, I wanted to focus on argumentation. I love teaching students how to write arguments, but most of the time, at least now a days, schools want us to teach format writing. Students are to be taught how to format an academic essay only. Creative thinking, critical thinking and analysis are secondary to the format. I am okay with teaching format writing, but I do think there needs to be equal emphasis on critical writing/analysis skill too. My prayer is that my next job will be at a school where I can teach more higher level writing skill. Until then, however, I am content to teach basic English essay writing.

I think this is why the Lord seems to be putting the idea into my head regarding a second PhD. I've thought about it before, and I even considered studying Rhetoric. Part of me likes that idea, but I think I know most of the basics already, so moving in this other direction appeals to me. Plus, I can study rhetoric on my own easily. I have read a number of classical works, and I will continue to re-read Aristotle, for example, again I am sure. I would like to become a SME when it comes to social language. I would love to publish in this field. If the Lord so chooses, then I know He will do it. Until then, I will be content to teach basic writing, and study courses that would prepare and equip me for this sub-discipline focus of English and Communications.

Closing Out

As I close out this blog today, I am thankful for all the Lord has done for me. I stand in awe of Him, amazed really, at His goodness toward me. I am ready now to move on, but I realize that moving on is more about me moving on in His will rather than me moving on physically. I have been so stuck on this idea of physically moving, so much so that it has taken all my focus. First, I have thought about moving to the SE for the past 10 or so years. My whole focus was on physically moving, trying to figure out the town, the state, etc., where the Lord wanted me to go. I racked my brain to figure this out, even when the Lord clearly told me that I could live "anywhere" so long as I was close to an airport (for ministry travel). Later, I became convinced of certain places, and then once I started on this path of higher education, I struggled to see how my education and my moving would coincide. Where would I teach? Where would I live? Now, I think it makes sense to me. I am starting to see that when the Lord calls us to move sometimes He does move us physically. Often, though, He calls us to move inwardly, to agree to changes in our lives that will bring about new opportunities, new ways to think, to understand, and yes, even to do. I am at this point where I think I get it. I think it finally makes sense to me. My life is not about moving physically, per se, but rather about me allowing the Lord to use me wherever He desires to accomplish His will for me. This means that He has specific work for me to do -- but that I can do this work anywhere -- so long as I have access to an airport. He is not particular as to where I live, but rather, He has shown me places that would "work" for me.

As I have become involved with someone special, I have tried to figure out how I can do my job (teaching) and live where he lives. It has not made sense to me, no matter how I have tried to figure it out. But just today, I started to see that what God wants from me is more about His work than the place I live. In this way, He has given me comfort to know that I can live anywhere -- within reason -- and His will is done. This says that I can go live near my love and that I will be doing His work, His will, and in His way there just as much as I do it here in Phoenix. Moreover, the desires He has given to me to study, to research, to do ministry in the church are also not location bound. Again, I can do these things anywhere in the USA. This knowledge has greatly relieved me because it means that all I need to go -- to move to be near my love -- is a job that can be done online (like teaching). I have applied for online teaching positions, but I haven't been 100% onboard with the idea. I like teaching on campus (I do), but I realize now that the Lord wants me to teach online. So be it. I am okay with it. Make it happen, Lord. I will go.

What is more important is the understanding that the place of His choosing is right where I am now. I am not searching for the place anymore because wherever He is, there I am as well (so long as I am surrendered). Thus, whether I stay in Phoenix or move to Alabama is really inconsequential to His work. My heart, my mind, and my attitude are what matter. The rest is simply logistics. Of course, I do believe the Lord intends for my relationship to flourish, and that in time, it will lead to marriage. For now, though, I understand that where I go is really just a matter of His provision. The Lord will provide food, shelter, clothing -- a job -- and a life to me so long as I am doing what He asks of me. I will do His work, and He will lead me and provide for me. I believe this is true. I know it is true. I am good, content, and happy in this understanding today.

No comments: