Saturday, November 13, 2010

So you want to work at a Community College?

Or maybe you don't. Maybe you are just desperate in this horrible job climate, and are willing to accept any job, even one so different from some of your initial hopes and dreams for the academic life. Whatevs. I have to assume that since you went through the trouble of compiling a C.V. and filling out an application, you were hoping for at least a call back. Here are some tips I have accumulated after sitting on the other side of the search committee table, having plowed through almost 200 applications for a single entry level Instructor of English position.....

1. Don't apologize for your advance pedigree or lofty credentials. Yes, hardly anyone did this, but that ANYONE did it was, well, it was surprising. Some of US have that kind of background, too! And I don't think it's a good idea to apologize for ANYTHING when you are applying for a job. Just sos you know. Instead, tell us all about how that impressive background of yours is going to fit in with our mission and our student body. How, exactly, will you [try to] make that advanced knowledge accessible to the kind of student body we are [attempting] to reach?

2. Remember, we are all about the teaching. ALL about the teaching. If we asked you to tell us about your innovative teaching style, we were, in the words of Joe Pesci's character in "My Cousin Vinny"---serious about that. Be specific. Don't say you use innovative teaching techniques and have been praised up the wazoo for them. Instead, give the details of your techniques. Sure, we'll steal them from you and try them in our own classrooms. But your great teaching ideas just might land you the job, so the sharing will be worth it. We want to actually be able to visualize the great things you've done in the classroom as a teacher. Give at least one vivid example.

3. To go on a bit more about teaching, tell us about how your teaching style has evolved. Show us that you have experienced some of the horrible stuff we ALL know is going on in classrooms across the country, and that you have tried to address it, to examine how your teaching style could better react to the kinds of situations we all face so that you can reach more of your students next time. Yes, you have to be positive, but some people wrote these letters about community college students that were so.....well....just not realistic. Surely no one really believes that kind of hopey touchy feely stuff. There are ways of saying you've had some experiences in the classroom that caused you to regroup and get better, and that you are constantly on the lookout for things that are working and things that are not. Write about self assessment is what I'm saying. We are on the front lines here; we know what you are going to face. We want to hire someone who has faced the situation, learned from it, and is continually adapting. Anything you can do to show us that this person is YOU will be great.

4. If you have published a ton of stuff, sure, we're kind if interested. We're impressed, actually. Who wouldn't be, knowing how much hard work goes into being a scholar? Put it at the back, though. For your Community College C.V., rearrange all that, and put the teaching first. We don't want to have to look for your teaching experiences on your resume. And, I'm sorry to say it, knowing how much work you put into it, but we don't really look at that stuff all that much. You won't be talking about it at all if you get an interview with us.

5. If your research is on PEDAGOGY, then, well, things are different. We ARE interested. You should still put all your teaching experience first, but put that research the very next thing. And mention it in your letter of interest.

6. I am so sorry that we could not hire the too large of a handful of you who managed to do all of the above. I really am. I wanted to. What a hard decision it is to pick amongst so many bright stars. The interview process is, again, all about the teaching. In the end, we often have to base our decision on who wowed us the most with their teaching demo. I'd advise you to practice it, and make sure you are feeling really good about it.


  1. Bella, thanks! In the grad program where I teach, we do have a significant number applying for community college gigs, and its hard to advise them if you haven't actually taught at a CC yourself. I appreciate this.

  2. Good job with this! The only thing I would add is not to come in with any hint that this is not the job you really want. Honestly, I'd prefer that people not even apply if they aren't interested in what we do, but far too many people now want "any job in academe" and treat the CC positions as just that. It becomes abundantly clear when you demonstrate this attitude that you'll be looking for something else the minute we give you the keys to the office.

  3. Hrm... note to self.... restrain from hokey touchy feely stuff when talking about your students to CC search committees. I'm essentially at a CC now ("private business college"=more or less the same student population than local CC's) and I have to say, the amount of BS I've been put through by upper administration has made the students my escape. They really are great people, they really can learn, and they really are worth my time. Patrolling my staff for rogue beverages over than water IS NOT.

  4. @MLP: LOL! No need to sound so bitter. Of course we want people to think their students are worth it. Duh. You should love teaching, too. I hope I got that across. No need for flowery language bordering on the ridiculous, however. Anyone who has not had to assess and reassess based on changing student trends, especially lately, is simply not paying enough attention to what is going in their classroom.

  5. I like the idea about talking how your teaching style / philosophy has evolved. I've got an unusually large amount of teaching experience for someone with...uh...okay, I have a weird amount of teaching experience. And my colleagues are writing these florid kumbaya style teaching statements that lead me to wonder...dude. Have you ever BEEN in a classroom?

    I was wondering how to change my own kumbaya teaching statement, and this has given me some good insight on how to do that. Thanks!

  6. The best advice I got when looking for this sort of work was to emphasize my teaching experience and pedagogical knowledge, not my areas of study. I now have a good college gig, job security, no pressure to do research (though we do have to do professional development work) and... I get to live in my city of choice rather than Armpit Nebraska.


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