Welcome Back, Liz Miller — Liz Miller made her triumphant return to Charlotte last week after spending four months in Germany doing research for her Fulbright Research Fellowship. We chatted for half an hour when she stopped by the department to pick up her mail. I asked her to write up an account of her Fulbright adventure for this week’s Monday Missive. Here is her response:
I returned to Charlotte last week, deeply grateful for the four months I was able to spend at the University of Cologne in Germany on a Fulbright Research Fellowship. Dr. Chris Bongartz, whom many of you know from when she taught in our English Department in the early 2000s, was my Fulbright host, and her Ph.D. student, Manu Vida-Mannl, whom some of you met a few years ago when she taught a summer class for our department, got me set up with office space and taught me how to use the English Department’s temperamental scanner and copy machine (some features of university department life are universal!). Dr. Jan Springob, Director of the International Working Group at the Center for Teacher Education at the university and former Ph.D. student of Chris Bongartz, put me in contact with a number of English language teachers in Gymnasium schools (grades 5-13). Because of his quick intervention, I was able to conduct my first interview already by the end of my second week in Germany.
I conducted interviews with eighteen language teachers in the Cologne area as well as seven interviews with teachers of Norwegian in Oslo, these with the help of my colleague Dr. Anne Golden over my several-day visit to the University of Oslo. These twenty-five interviews from Germany and Norway are part of a larger study on the emotional labor of language teachers that I have undertaken with a colleague at the University of Essex. I’m still transcribing and analyzing this latest round of interviews, but I have already learned a lot from these remarkable individuals just from interacting with them.
In many cases, I met the teachers at their schools during their break periods. It came as something of a shock when I realized that I could walk into a school and not have someone check my I.D. or need administrative approval to enter the building. The teachers appear to have far more autonomy in terms of inviting someone into their schools than we are used to in the U.S. One of the highlights for me followed an interview with a teacher who invited me to hang around a bit longer and meet her fifth grade English class. They were noisy and curious and happy to practice their English by asking me questions such as about my favorite color, favorite animal, favorite sport, favorite “wideo” game (for which I had no answer!), favorite Netflix series, among other topics. There was one particularly sweet moment when a student asked me what my job was, and when I told him that I was a university professor, I heard a number of appreciative “ohs” around the room.
My time in Germany was personally fulfilling too, beyond the research work. I explored Cologne, a lovely city on the Rhine with a famous and amazingly beautiful cathedral, mostly on foot, but I also learned how to get around on their integrated train-tram-bus system. I took advantage of my easy access to other European cities on several occasions and traveled around a bit in Germany. I used my “schrecklich” (dreadful) German nearly every day in basic service encounters. I often missed important details and nuances of meaning in these interactions but could still manage to get business done and occasionally could enjoy some friendly chit chat. On one such occasion, a Korean restaurant owner excitedly showed me photos on her phone that she had taken the week before of Barack Obama’s visit to the city. As someone who does research on adult language learners, it was interesting to once again experience what it “feels” like to be the linguistic and cultural outsider, though, of course, many Germans and other Europeans whom I interacted with are highly proficient in English.
I’m happy to chat with anyone who is considering applying for a Fulbright and share what I learned about the process.
Liz’s return reminds me of a television show from the 1970s called Welcome Back, Kotter, which is about the return of a teacher. There is a line from the show’s theme song that applies as much to Liz as it does to Kotter: “Welcome back … back here where we need ya.”
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Valerie Bright published an article titled “Pure Belpré and the Planting of Stories” in the Summer 2019 issue of RISE: A Children’s Literacy Journal.Allison Hutchcraft published two poems in Image. Her poem “Calenture,” originally published in Boulevard, was also featured on Verse Daily this June.
Janaka Lewis published an article titled “Childhood, Race, and Gender in James Baldwin’s Little Man, Little Man” in the Summer 2019 issue of RISE: A Children’s Literacy Journal.
Quirky Quiz Question — Welcome Back, Kotter launched the acting career of a now-famous actor. This actor has starred in such films as Urban Cowboy and Pulp Fiction. What is the name of this actor?
Last week’s answer: Good Eats
My Dad’s preference for grilling over charcoal is shared by Alton Brown of the Food Network. Brown said that he uses a gas grill for hotdogs and hamburgers, but when grilling chicken, fish, or steak, “it’s charcoal or nothing.” Brown became famous for a series that ran on the Food Network from 1999 through 2012. What is the name of this series?