Ask the Administrator

Ask the Administrator
February 15, 2009

What, exactly, are CC faculty supposed to do that substantially distinguishes them from high school teachers?

I don't mean this in a derogatory manner, I was a high school teacher and found the job incredibly fulfilling.

Similarly, I was a full-time CC instructor on the tenure-track. In order to be approved for tenure I was expected to teach classes (actually semester hours) to a reasonable standard of competency. I was also expected to take part in the organizational structure of the college by serving on committees. It was expected that I keep current in the methods of pedagogy in my field and demonstrate that I was attempting to improve my instruction (note that this is pre-tenure).

February 11, 2009

I will be graduating from a smaller campus of a Big 10 University this May with a degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities. I have some definite concerns as I enter into the job market, being especially considerate of our economic situation right now. From the time that I began grad school two years ago, I knew that I wanted to teach.I will happily take a job anywhere I can get one! My first concern is that my degree is actually in Humanities, even though I concentrated in English Lit and Rhet/Comp. ( I have 6 credits of Rhet/Comp Theory and 15 in Lit, along with some theory classes and the typical research methods/thesis writing courses). I know I will be applying to many different schools, from community colleges to state universities and smaller liberal arts colleges. Do I tailor my CV, and for that matter, my cover letter to fit in with each "type" of school? How do I emphasize my competence in the Rhet Comp/English Lit area, especially since I have no real teaching experience?

January 26, 2009

After recently reading Stanley Fish's NY Times blog on
education, I felt moved to write in. I recently attended a talk about
curriculum and program design where large university decided to roll
out a new undergraduate program (let's call it "computer science
lite") since enrollments were collapsing in a related discipline
("traditional computer science."). As part of the planning process at
this university, the committee asked for consultations from
professionals in the IT industry (and presumably other educators). The
IT sector said that graduates were clearly weak in professional skills
(defined to be skills such as communications, project management etc).
Industry feedback seemingly played a major, possibly decisive, role in
the design of this new undergraduate program. This focus on employer
input as central strikes me as interesting and rather unusual in
higher education.

January 25, 2009

After six years of teaching and academic administration at two proprietary schools (neither one being your Proprietary U unless you've disguised it incredibly well), I am applying for a position at a local community college. As someone who has made the transition, what concerns do you think I should be prepared to address on the off chance I get an interview?

I know I have no experience working with a faculty union, but I have worked at an R1, so I am at least familiar with the concepts and structures of faculty governance. I'm a little more concerned about what assumptions, groundless or otherwise, they'll have about my background.

As ever, advice from wise and worldly readers is welcome.

Having done this myself, I agree that there are both fair and unfair barriers you'll need to be prepared to address.

January 22, 2009

The letter about the horrible adjunct struck a cord for me, but for a very different reason. I am an adjunct at a local community college and it while I have enjoyed it, and learned a lot about what works and what doesn't in the CC classroom, I can't help but wonder if there aren't more 'horrible adjuncts' out there. I can imagine there are, because although I believe I am competent and capable, I have never had an official evaluation (in fact, no one has ever come to watch me teach), nor are there official student evaluations of courses. And that doesn't even begin to address the issues with the dean, who has told instructors that students shouldn't be called out for texting in class and has accused others of racism for questioning the removal of basic English language competency requirements, or for failing students who stop showing up to class.
So I guess my question is, where does one go when it seems the whole college is one giant lump of incompetence? And yes, this is partly selfish, because the school I'm teaching at is on the brink of losing its accreditation, and how does that look on a CV? But more than that, I worry about the students who pay good money, and think that they are getting an education, when what they are getting may or may not be.

January 16, 2009

I have a question to ask you and your "wise and worldly readers." :) I'm a PhD candidate in an evergreen social science, and I just taught for the first time last semester. While I loved many things about teaching, the biggest surprise for me was how much I loved teaching writing. I loved marking student papers, trying to teach them about how to structure an argument, working with them on how to craft a better piece of writing and thinking.

I know most writing is taught in English Comp classes, which I'm obviously not properly placed, disciplinarily, to teach. But, at different sorts of schools, what opportunities are there for social scientists to teach writing? I know the elite SLAC my wife attended had "writing-intensive" courses across the disciplines; how common are those? Is wanting to teach writing an asset in the job market? How might I position myself (beyond saying "I love teaching writing!" in a cover letter) to show this interest?

January 14, 2009

Here's the situation: I worked as a TA for an intro level survey course for a truly awful adjunct. She was condescending, vague about my role inside and outside the classroom, unclear about how strict/lenient grading should be, and frequently imposed impractical deadlines. With the students in the class, she was vague about expectations, a truly harsh grader, thematically all over the place, and in particular, refused to explain to the students what she meant by "good writing" (probably just wasn't capable of, is more like it). She also was terrible about answering student emails/keeping the students informed about changes to the syllabus. All in all, pretty much your standard nightmare with a PhD.

As her TA, I struggled pretty much daily with what my role both in- and outside of the classroom. My suggestions for how to improve the class (like a suggestion for a session on improving student writing, which I even volunteered to organize and run outside of class time) were met with hostility and disgust. I helped the students best I could, but a lot of the time, there wasn't much I could do (since it was unclear what this woman even wanted from her students, outside of a textbook recitation of facts, etc)...advice/dean_dad/bossfired

July 5, 2007

I'm wondering if you or your readers can shed any light on the issue of
women being pregnant while on the job market. Every academic woman planning
to become a mother has to weigh the timing of a pregnancy very carefully,
and the general assumption is that you never want to be pregnant while
you're on the job market. When you think about it from the perspective of
the woman, however, we're often weighing many issues that can conflict with
each-other: for example, whether a pregnancy is more feasible during
graduate school--even with dissertation writing and teaching--than it is
when you've gotten a tenure-track job, the question of when we can count on
having health insurance, and the possibilities for any maternity leave. Most
of the time, I think women try to time pregnancies so they can deliver a
baby at the beginning of the summer and extend their time at home, but the
timing of the (lengthy) academic job market process kills this possibility
since anyone getting pregnant in the late summer would be very visibly
pregnant during job interviews.

July 3, 2007

In my CC system, faculty members can teach a 5-5 or a 4-4 load. If we choose the 4-4 load, we do service work in place of the 5th course. I'm in English, and I'm gratefully taking the 4-4 option, to stay sane with fewer papers to grade. But how unusual is this arrangement? How many other CCs will allow a 4-4 load? I live in an expensive state and would love to move to a cheaper one, so I'm wondering, if I am able to get another job at a CC, how likely is it I'll be teaching a 5-5?
And how do English teachers manage to teach 5 courses a semester, many or all of which are writing-intensive?

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