Acade(me)

The dissertation was only the beginning.

People & Places
T: Amazing Husband
ST: Three-year-old Wonder
Prof. G: Advisor I
Prof. C: Advisor II
Julie: Stylish Sister
Rob: Awesome Brother
Belle: Our Cat
Bill: Grumbling BIL
Rita: Uncomplicated SIL
SMU: Smallish Midwestern University
Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Quote of the Day
Monday, October 17, 2005
Impressions
Next week at this time I will be on a different college campus. I will leave for my campus visit next Sunday afternoon, and the first thing I'll do on Monday morning is teach a class as part of the interview process. I am simply filling in for the regular professor in his Intro class of 35 students, lecturing on material I'm pretty familiar with, performing in front of students I've never met for 50-60 minutes. After I'm done, the students will have 20 minutes to evaluate me.

I love to teach, and I like to think that I'm a pretty decent lecturer. But I think a large part of what makes me effective is that I really get to know my students, right from the start. It's hard for me to give a lecture to a roomful of nameless faces, students without known preferences and histories. For that reason I'm kind of nervous about teaching during this interview -- it's one shot to impress the students and the faculty in the room but I will be operating at a disadvantage since I won't know any of them.

I've been toying with the idea of just asking for their names before I begin. I thought I'd introduce myself and then just go around the room and have them tell me their names -- no detailed information that would take too much time, but it would least give me a sense of who they are, what their voices sound like, etc. I have a pretty good memory, so I'll probably remember at least 10 faces and names, and that would really increase my comfort level as I talk. I wonder, though, how that would be perceived by students and faculty alike. A time waster? An extra effort for the students? An insight into my teaching?

I asked my brother, Rob, about this last night on the phone. He's a college senior, and I asked him to tell me some things he really liked or disliked about professors he's had. He gave me some excellent advice, advice I'll take to heart as I prepare my lecture. One of the things we chatted about was the use of Powerpoint in a lecture. I am a recent Powerpoint convert -- I used to hate it because professors would simply read the Powerpoint slides and not actually teach the material, but then I encountered a few professors who used Powerpoint very effectively, especially in large courses. I've now started using it in larger classes, and I really like how it helps me to stay on task with my lectures and helps students to know where I am in the lecture and where I'm going. For me, the key is to provide only a very skeletal outline, very few words per slide, lots of charts and pictures. I've had students tell me that they really appreciate it simply because it gives them a new way to remember information: they can write down what I'm saying and keep an image in their minds, a visual cue that helps them recall what was important. So I'm leaning toward making a Powerpoint presentation for "my" class on Monday. The topic is really interesting and lends itself to graphics and pictures, so I think it would be useful. And the class is fairly large for this small college, 35 students.

I'm also thinking about how I'll dress. Monday I have to teach the class first, and then go to a series of meetings with faculty and administrators, lunch with students, then more meetings, all culminating in a nice dinner out. I'm not sure I want to teach in a suit -- I don't like wearing a suit in the first place, and I certainly wouldn't wear one on a normal teaching day as I feel it sets me apart too much from my students. (I usually dress up to teach, but not in a suit.) But if I'm going to be at meetings the rest of the day, perhaps a suit is appropriate? Maybe I could just take off my suit jacket when I'm teaching so I'm just in a dress shirt and black pants?

The faculty-centered part of the interview will take place on Tuesday, when I'm scheduled to give my research presentation. That should be interesting, since it's also when I'll reveal that I'm going to be leaving for Europe on November 1. I haven't said anything about the research trip in my cover letters because my advisors told me that the fact that I'm going to be away during November's prime interview season might discourage some colleges from considering me, especially if they're on a tight timetable to make a hire. I'm excited to reveal this information at the interview, though, because it will slip into my research presentation so nicely. I'm presenting a case study that is in progress, and the remainder of the data will be gathered in Europe -- I think that will be kind of fun to say, since it'll show that I'm going to be "living" my dissertation, gathering information and experiences in my real life, not just in books.

The European trip complicates so much of my life right now. Getting ahead of myself, what if they offer me the job? They're moving so fast that it's a possibility, if they like me, that they'll offer the job before I leave for Europe. That would be a strange situation, because I'm not sure I could accept without T having seen the place first, and we wouldn't be able to get out there until December at the earliest. T trusts my impressions of places and people, but I think it would be difficult for anyone to uproot their lives and just blindy go somewhere they've never seen. I suppose T could fly out to visit the area on his own in November while I'm gone, but of course I'd rather be with him. I suppose we'll just have to cross that bridge IF we come to it.

Enough on that. Back to work.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 10/17/2005 09:38:00 AM  
3 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 11:36 AM, Blogger phd me said…

    I agree with you: knowing the students makes a big difference in what/how we teach. I don't think it would be inappropriate to ask for their names; I even wondered about asking for the class roll before you got there - which I'm sure is stupid, but somehow, I do so much better on the first day when I know the names of the students facing me; I feel like I already know a little bit about them right from the start.

    Thumbs up on the PP! Not only does it benefit the students, but the committee members should appreciate it, too.

    Hmmm, don't like suits, personally, so I support the dress shirt and pants idea. And don't think about all the complications yet - revel in the opportunity to show your stuff! :)

     
  • At 5:58 PM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said…

    FWIW, I asked for the class roll before I came on campus for my current job (especially helpful b/c our system here includes pictures). Then when I got there I asked everyone to introduce themselves before I started, and having seen the names/pics before I got there, I was able to remember some and call some students by name. And I did have a couple of people comment very favorably on this. I wouldn't have done it at a big research school, but at my teaching-oriented place, it seemed the thing to do.

    Good luck!!

     
  • At 6:37 PM, Blogger ABDmom said…

    I would definitely have the students introduce themselves; I plan on doing it if/when I have campus visits. It shows you're interested in the students and that you care not only about the material, but about the people you are teaching.

    RE: the trip and accepting an offer, I agree that you should just cross that bridge when you come to it. I know that's hard (says the Queen of Getting Ahead of Herself). :)

     
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