History Department Friends,
On a rainy Friday afternoon in January 2017, I had quite the decision to make: to accept a position teaching Asian and European history at The Derryfield School (DS)—an independent college preparatory school in Manchester, New Hampshire—or fly to Florida (on Monday!) for a campus interview for an assistant professorship at a state college. I chose Derryfield that evening and moved to Concord, NH with my family that summer. A year and a half later, I cannot emphasize enough how excited I am about my decision. In this regard, I want to share my experience with the History Department and encourage current doctoral students who are falling in love with teaching to consider pursuing positions at both the prep school and university level.
Throughout the course of my time at Fordham, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to teach extensively at the Rose Hill and Westchester campuses. In the process, I came to realize just how much I love being in the classroom and engaging with driven young people. I felt gratified by my academic success in publishing peer-reviewed articles and giving talks on my scholarship (I am still proud of my presentation at The Korea Society!) But increasingly, what excited me the most was how I felt after leaving the classroom each day—the electric buzz of debates about ethical dilemmas in history, of competing views about the significance of personal subjectivity in analyzing ordinary and extraordinary times.
As I approached graduating with my Ph.D. in May 2016, this passion drove me to pursue positions at prep schools and colleges as I considered how to best make teaching the centerpiece of my academic career.
As I now teach at Derryfield, my days are filled with endless historical debates with thoughtful and enthusiastic young people. The youth of high school students—quite different from teaching college juniors and seniors!—fosters an exciting classroom environment. At the dawn of their formative years, my students prove unusually open to taking risks with their ideas; they lack an intellectual self-consciousness that sometimes constrains debates in higher education. With this appreciation, I have found the energy of adolescents inspiring; the pot boils, so to speak. I use diverse primary sources (period music, memoirs, films etc.) and frequent debates (mock U.S.-DPRK nuclear negotiations!) to encourage that vibrant environment. I take pride as teenagers learn to think critically, but also to feel history and empathize with the humanity of individuals in the past and present.
In terms of scholarship, I am enjoying the opportunity this summer to read and write on topics related and unrelated to my area of expertise in US-DPRK relations. I have, for example, been writing on US foreign policy with Iran and North Korea in my local newspaper, the Concord Monitor, in an effort to shape such conversations at a grassroots level. (Links to my most recent pieces below.) I have two forthcoming book reviews coming out with the Journal of American-East Asian Relations. In addition, I am currently beginning a book project, focusing on key historical events in the early personal lives of deplorable dictators (See the short story “Genesis and Catastrophe: A True Story” by Roald Dahl, and you’ll understand).
Fordham and the History Department (as well as Beth Knobel in the communications department!) enabled me to gain indispensable teaching experience and allowed me to discover my passion for teaching. I remain thankful, moreover, for having had the opportunity to learn from a master pedagogue like Elaine Crane. (I’ll never forget Dr. Crane’s admonishment in the “Teaching History” course when I used the word “plethora.” “Use straightforward language! No one is impressed with your GRE vocabulary!” Dr. Crane stated in her oh-so-gentle manner of speaking for which she is deservedly celebrated.)
As doctoral students move towards the completion of their programs and begin to pursue professorships at the university level, I strongly encourage them—if teaching is a true passion—to consider positions at the prep school level as well. I would be happy to discuss such a path with anyone who is interested.
Brandon K. Gauthier, Ph.D.
“A win for Kim,” Concord Monitor, June 15, 2018
“North Korea’s games,” Concord Monitor, June 4, 2018
“Why would anyone trust the US?” Concord Monitor, May 12, 2018