Attending AAR/SBL as a high school teacher

This was originally posted on November 20th, 2021.

The annual AAR/SBL meeting used to be a mixture of excitement and high anxiety for me. This is mostly due to imposter syndrome. I’ve been around long enough to know that many people who are absolutely qualified to represent their fields of study also happen to struggle with imposter syndrome, so it’s comforting to know that the feelings that accompany imposter syndrome aren’t discriminatory. But they’re real and can be destabilizing.

These days, I don’t feel the imposter syndrome as much, mostly because I’ve found my niche teaching religious studies in a high school setting. But there is a different feeling that comes with this reality: it’s sort of like being a minor leaguer who gets called up for a few games. I know, it’s a silly self-perception, but there’s definitely the sense that I’m getting the opportunity to be a “big leaguer” for three days before going back to where I belong.

This isn’t a bad thing though. The anxiety associated with imposter syndrome usually has something to do with the question of whether you belong. I know I belong, just in a certain role, and it’s a role that I greatly enjoy but that is envied by very few of my academic colleagues. I’m still trying to do some scholarly things on the side like editing and writing or being part of SBL’s “Educational Resources and Review Committee” beginning next November. But I’m not gunning for a college or seminary job; not facing the pressure of “publish or perish”; and not worrying about the competitive camaraderie that comes with befriending your potential competition for a job.

Instead, considering the fact that higher education is broken and there are more people receiving terminal degrees in the humanities who don’t have a job waiting for them, I’m grateful that I get to do what I love. I get paid to talk about what I spent most of my life studying and earning degrees in. All without the anxiety and fear that comes with trying to make it big. So, the “minor leagues” are good for me and honestly, at this juncture, I’m so used to teaching adolescents that I’m not sure I could easily make the adjustment to an older demographic. Instead, I aim to be the best religious studies high school teacher I can be and whenever I have the opportunity to learn from the big leaguers like I’ll have this weekend, I plan on taking full advantage in order to nerd out and perfect my craft.


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