Former teacher and current professional storyteller, Michael Williams explains how his PhD in English literature prepared him for both creative professions.
|English Literature Ph.D.
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I had visited Edinburgh in August of 1986 as part of a Wordsworth conference in the Lake District. It was a cloudless, sunny, warm day and the city was absolutely alive with history and the Fringe. Two years later when I had to choose which university to take up my Ph.D. there was no question which one it would be. Added to that was the enthusiastic and warm reception I received from my supervisor-to-be. All-in-all, it promised to be a wonderful experience.
Despite being a “mature” student (36) at the time, Edinburgh offered me opportunities I don’t think I would have received elsewhere. Within two months of my arrival I was tutoring in the English Department and the Centre of Canadian Studies. Later I was appointed senior tutor in both departments and helping to train other tutors.
I enjoyed the freedom of research, the stimulation of dialogue and debate, and the challenges of writing up my thesis. All of this too while supporting a wife and three children. And still time to meet and make wonderful friends from around the world and to become better acquainted with Edinburgh’s rich history and culture.
I enjoyed the freedom of research, the stimulation of dialogue and debate, and the challenges of writing up my thesis. All of this too while supporting a wife and three children.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
Following my graduation in 1993, I continued to teach undergraduate courses in English literature and in Canadian studies till 1995 (and a business communication course at Napier University). I left to take up a teaching post at the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School. My Ph.D. in English literature has been a boon and prepared me well for the rigours of teaching and public engagement. It also whetted my curiosity for the world of oral storytelling, an art of which I became an apprentice. Along the way, I also earned an Advanced Diploma in Local History from the University of Oxford.
Finally, in 2005, I left full-time teaching to become a full-time storyteller and professional StoryCoach. Since then, I have helped organise and administer a cross-party group on creating a culture of peace in Scotland, facilitated an award-winning peace education programme in Scottish schools, contributed to the General Teaching Council of Scotland’s Chartered Teacher programme, travelled to the Middle East to work with groups of Arabs and Jews using storytelling to foster dialogue and mutual understanding, and travelled to Prince Edward Island as a Storyteller-in-Residence coaching adults and children in digital storytelling.
I also founded my own StoryCoaching business here in Scotland and co-facilitated the first Aberdeen Leadership Forum programme “A Narrative Approach to Transformational Leadership”. I’m currently involved in coaching individuals and organisations, helping them create and tell stories that bring about positive change and well-being.
Perfection is the enemy of the good. Realise that your work is not the last word on the subject. It’s an exercise, part of a longer journey. Enjoy it and remember to take in all that Edinburgh and this wonderful country of Scotland has to offer.