Saturday, August 14, 2010

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Applicants for faculty positions that require teaching are usually asked to provide a document in their application materials that can strike fear in the hearts of the weak.  A statement of your Teaching Philosophy.

The first time I was applying for full-time teaching positions, I had been hired as an adjunct (part-time, to fill in a few classes) at a local community college while I was also doing a post-doc.  I was gathering with some of the full-time faculty at a local watering hole, sharing a pitcher of beer, when I asked "so what is the best way to go about writing your Statement of Teaching Philosophy?"  Laughter, then advice.  "Well, you have to actually KNOW what your Philosophy of Teaching is to be able to write a Statement about it" was one of the less-than-helpful suggestions.  The Division Chair turned to me and said "you sit down one night when it's quiet, you get yourself one of these," she pointed to her beer, "and then you think about what you do that works, and you write about it."

That turned about to be a pretty helpful piece of advice, and it is how I wrote my first Statement.  It got me hired at two different community colleges, so it must not be too terrible a document.

I realized ... noone seems to care much what your teaching philosophy says (as long as you don't say you hate students and want to kill them and eat them with a spoon).  They really just care that it says SOMETHING.  That you think about the teaching and learning process a little bit.  That it's not so vague and generalized that it's obvious you plagiarized it from the internet.  I know it will amaze those who know me, but I can be opinionated.  So put your opinions in there.  Make it clear that you know something about what you're doing, and that you can discuss your viewpoints.  You might not want to be terribly controversial, but it's a statement on YOUR philosophy - how you approach teaching.

So now I'm up for tenure.  One of the first documents that goes into your portfolio is ... you guessed it ... your Statement of Teaching Philosophy.  Mine has gotten me hired twice, and I actually got compliments on it during my first interview.  It's not like I have to start at Square One.  My plan was to review it, tweak it, copy it, put it in there, mark it off the checklist.

Yesterday I heard that of the 24 candidates for Professor last year, less than half received the promotion.  So now I'm all scared sh!t-le&& and freaking out about what to put in this document.

Maybe I'll go back to the beginning.  Sit down with a beer, think about what I do, and write about it.

I'll need the beer just to calm my nerves!


Serifm said...

Sure, but the rejected half didn't have your awesome Statement of Teaching Philosophy! Well, I'm assuming it's awesome. I write for a living, so I'm happy to give you an informed opinion (rather than just friendly cheerleading) if you wish. :-)

MommieV said...

Absolutely! I'll be trying to get as many eyes on it as I can.

Once I get it written.

Funky Mama Bird said...

Just remember to keep it in active voice - sounds more authoritative that way. =)

Serifm said...

My brother just graduated with his M. Div and he had to write a Statement of Personal Faith, addressing issues such as predestination, salvation by grace or works, and more. He was like, "Yeah, sure...I'll just whip something up for you and solve all the theological debates of the last 2000 years. No problem." But you're right. It's more that they want to see your thought process, than anything.

Linh said...

How funny- this was absolutely the last thing I did for my 5th year review. In fact I finished in the am hours the Monday it was due. I felt the one I did for my Assistant was not good enough.