Of Sesame Street and the Job Process

Two more applications out today (that puts me at 11 so far). It occurs to me that if Sesame Street made a show for young academics, it'd be self-doubt that'd start the show off. So today, self-doubt is brought to you by the job number 11 and the phrase "proof of teaching excellence."

Today I was thinking about quirky the process and fickle the players can be. So, as I was sending off ginormous packet #11, I began to wonder "what if they think I'm trying too hard to demonstrate 'teaching excellence'?"

Rather than complain about the ambiguity of the phrase, instead I'll offer my interpretation of it. If nothing else, there's always catharsis?

First, I haven't won any teaching awards (wow - that sounds harsh). So instead, I opt to share peer reviews of my teaching (that happens pretty regularly here in the early years, thankfully). And then I submit syllabi and evals.

This is also where I wonder if I'm trying too hard.

This is the third university I've taught at, if you include graduate teaching (and I did quite a bit of that and in courses that were sufficiently distinct - they were 10 week courses, for one thing - that I feel like they need to be included). At my second job, as a visiting assistant, let's say that my comfort zone was pushed a little bit. I taught courses "as needed" (advice to anyone applying for that sort of job - if you see that phrase, be aware it can translate to "whatever no one else wanted to teach can be yours regardless of whether you've anything like expertise in it). It was a 4/4 load, so you can imagine that I got quite a bit of variety out of it (because naturally as the department's whipping boy go-to-guy, I did four preps each term). And now I'm at my third job - also (as noted previously) a 4/4. Here, at least, the preps are relatively close to what my areas of expertise and interest are.

But the number of syllabi adds up. If I send them all - as seems possibly appropriate (particularly so for jobs that are written broadly) - that's something like 15 distinct courses I'm sending syllabi for (in most cases, also with detailed assignments). Add a sampling of evals for them, and these packets get out of control. My tendency has been to try and send as much as possible on the syllabi side while giving some meaningful summary of evals (whatever that means - and it's certainly debatable).

On one hand, it seems to me that sending as much as possible is almost what we're conditioned to. Think about all the advice about holding everything aside for tenure packets and such. On the other hand, who could blame a committee member for blanching a little at the prospect of a 200 page packet?

Ay yi yi. Where's Mr. Hooper and Big Bird when I need useful advice?

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2 Responses to “Of Sesame Street and the Job Process”
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Hi, I came across this blog as result of a weird google search of "jobs" and "sesame street" and just had to say: have you seen Avenue Q? It's basically what you talk about in the first paragraph.

June 26, 2009 at 12:13 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I haven't seen it - I'll check it out, though. And I love that sort of search brought you to my blog. That's exactly the sort of search result I secretly aspire to be.

June 26, 2009 at 1:04 PM