Monday, January 19, 2015

The Interview

No, not that kind of interview.  Yesterday, I was interviewed by a sixth-grader about what professional historians do.

It was one of those things that kind of gets dumped in your lap. In my case, it fell to me because I was the only one in the office when the call came into my chair. Sure, I thought: why not?

It turns out that the young woman in question was delightful. She had fallen in love with ancient history, and when she was given the opportunity to do a report on a profession for extra credit, she thought of finding a historian. Her mother helped her by making the initial call, but after that, the young woman took charge.

So, what did I tell her? Well, I told her that my job mainly had three parts: teaching, reading, and writing. I told her that you needed to learn lots of languages to work in ancient or medieval history. That most of my research was done in archives, which are like libraries with lots of old, scribbly documents. That my favorite part of the job was that I got to learn new stuff all the time, and that my least favorite part was grading papers. She told me she liked history, but some teachers "only want to study boring stuff like names and dates." I told her that I felt exactly the same way.

When she asked me what my advice was for someone who might want to be a writer (she had written 42 pages of a story about a girl who turns into a wolf and protects other wolves), I told her "write every day" and "read a lot of what other people write." When she asked me if her mom was right that she should learn to type, I told her that my mom had made me do the same thing, and that it was a skill I used in my job every day. And I told her not to be afraid of coming out with the wrong answer, because if you're right all the time, then you're probably not learning anything.

And then today, she sent me a very nice thank-you note.

Who knows? There might be hope for humanity after all.

5 comments:

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Oh gosh, I needed to hear that there is hope for humanity today. What a great little story! I bet you really inspired her! :)

Comradde PhysioProffe said...

That is the nicest thing I've heard in fucken forever.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

That's because I'm a squishy-hearted Nice Person, Comrade. And yes: she was exceptional. You should have heard her tell me all about the novel she started writing.

Belle said...

How lovely. What a great start to spring term!

Susan said...

At that age, they can be SO cool.