Adrianne Francisco received her Ph.D. in 2015 and started a career as an independent school teacher 3 days after submitting her dissertation, which looked at the relationship between American colonial education and Philippine nationalism during the years of direct U.S. rule, from 1900-1935. Currently she is a Social Studies teacher at Drew School in San Francisco. Besides teaching, she advises Drew's APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) student affinity group, mentors new faculty, and serves as an 11th-grade advisor.
Are there any general suggestions you would offer current Ph.D. students about preparing for and then navigating the juncture between the Ph.D. and a new profession?
Regardless of which path you take, emerge from your dissertation bubble every now and then. Looking for opportunities that allow you to connect with other scholars or other kinds of work is helpful. Besides making connections and expanding your network, it puts the dissertation-writing phase of your life and career in perspective. At one point, you *will* be done with the dissertation: who will you be after that?
To someone ABD, I’d ask: are there internships, part-time jobs, or contract research work that straddle both academia and academia-adjacent fields? Have you gotten involved in organizing academic conferences or other kinds of conferences about issues you’re passionate about? Are there community organizations or nonprofits you can volunteer at?
What have been the most challenging and the most satisfying aspects of making that transition?
Secondary school teaching feels like a marathon compared to graduate student teaching. Earlier this semester for example, I had a day wherein I taught Reconstruction to 11th graders at 8, talked about restorative justice with my advisory at 10:50, looked at transgender feminism with 12th graders at 12:20, and then back to Reconstruction at 1:45pm. During my lunch and prep, I might have met with a student about an assignment or met with colleagues to plan something for our school or curriculum.
You’re also teaching students who are required to be in your class and for whom history feels very distant. So the questions for me are always: H ow do I make this relevant to someone who is 16 or 17? What must they know and why? How can I teach critical thinking skills and encourage students to ask questions, pursue depth, and engage with complexity?
Secondary school teaching leads you to recognize that learning is social and relational. Students like having discussions in small groups, creating presentations, and completing projects together. Secondary school teaching is also relational in that you get to know the students, and they get to know you. I have a student who last year as a junior was a bit bashful in class but who now is very self-assured in sharing their ideas; indeed, their class comments often steer our reading discussions in powerful ways. It’s amazing to see that change! And then students want to get to know you and share who they are with you.
For current Ph.D. students thinking about teaching in secondary schools in the Bay Area or elsewhere, what guidance would you offer?
The independent school teaching market is in some ways similar to the academic job market in that there’s a specific hiring season and many of the same schools are looking at the same candidate resumes.
Positions open up as early as December, with interviews and hiring taking place from February to April. Most people looking into independent schools work with a placement agency, such as Carney Sandoe and Associates, CalWest Educators, or even ones, like Strategenius, that specialize in diversity, equity, and inclusion positions and candidates. There are also nationwide hiring fairs with on-site interviews. Ideally you will have partnered with an agency by the end of January.
You could also consider working to help create a K-12 curriculum or unit for an education non-profit or edtech company. See whether UCBHSSP or ORIAS have any opportunities for graduate students. Consider how you can get involved with the GSI Teaching Resource Center or teaching conferences at UC Berkeley. Finally, your non-academic interests matter as well, so cultivate and nurture those; independent schools are always looking for teachers who can coach sports, teach yoga, start a community garden, lead Model United Nations, Mock Trial, or speech and debate.
What has it been like teaching in the time of Coronavirus? We know that historians aren't supposed to make predictions...but is what it means to be a teacher and a student changing in meaningful ways?
Teaching as a historian during the time of coronavirus for me means 1) caring about my students’ well-being first and foremost, and 2) helping them see parallels, as well as important differences, between what happened in the past and what’s happening now. Being a teacher now means, even more so, being a present and caring adult in a student’s life—someone who sees them differently from the way that their parents see them. My students can share parts of their personalities with me that they don’t express at home. Being a teacher at this time also means that part of my job is to create social opportunities; again, some students might only be interacting with the same 3 or 4 people while they shelter in place. My Zoom class isn’t just a place to learn History then, but also a time to connect with their peers and be in a space where people their age are the majority.
If schools continue to be online in the Fall, which I think they will, we are going to have to rethink how we teach, assess students, and design curriculum. We’ll also have to be extremely intentional about how we practice equity and inclusion online. Online learning highlights differences in socioeconomic status, as well as widens learning and achievement gaps.
My sense is that this pandemic will make young people mature differently. Some of them have experienced deaths in their families, and young people today are experiencing loss and grief in ways that I didn’t have to when I was their age. Others may see a change in their family finances that may now bring new questions about college. Overall, online learning can raise new questions about the perceived value and return of education and educational labor.