Saturday, June 6, 2009

Advice on a Teaching Intensive Job

Once again, Dr. Crazy knocks one out of the park.

Her article on starting a teaching job with a 4-4 load is first rate. Although written from the point of view of a "regional comprehensive" university, almost all of it applies perfectly at a CC.

This is a must read for any new professor.

I was particularly struck by the comment about the exhaustion that comes with a lot of students. My actual contact-hour load has not changed in the decade I've been at this CC, but the number of individual students in those classes has increased significantly. It has always helped that my second semester class is 90+ % returning students, so they are familiar to me and I am familiar to them, but a net doubling in numbers as this program has grown has led to more of the psychic exhaustion she describes.

And e-mail? You definitely need to have a well-organized scheme for sorting and filing e-mail, and only write ones that turn into a lengthy memo when that is absolutely the only or best way to do so.

Our college used to be pretty good about leaving new faculty alone for the first year or two, but that has changed recently. You really don't belong on committees during your first year. You belong at home figuring out how to teach that next class. We ease new faculty into challenging tasks like advising, and assign mentors. But it never hurts to find your own second or third mentor.

But the best advice from Dr. Crazy?

Keep teaching records. I keep a notebook of old exams complete with the grading rubric details. Actually, I keep just about everything - what amounts to a daily diary of what I did the last few times I taught the class. Eventually I toss those daily lesson outlines, but it really helps to have an old grading key that tells you what weight you gave to each part of a particular type of problem. Am I keeping the same standards? Are they doing as well as that group of students?

Regardless, it really helps to be able to pick up a notebook for a certain course and know what handout was used and how you thought it worked a year or two ago. That frees up time for the new preps that have to be done, and creative thinking about what needs to be changed in that "old" course.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

The notebook works, as do copies of old exams -- if you can find the computer files :).

Having a consistent naming scheme and an electronic folder for each prep and each semester works the best for me.

There's nothing worse than staring at an old handout that is nearly perfect -- and realizing that, in order to use it, you need to re-type the whole thing.

Doctor Pion said...


I have a top level directory by course type (majors, gen-ed) and then a folder for each semester (named year-sem so they sort automatically) that then contains folders for syllabi and exams, etc. For some things, like next fall's syllabus, I can grab an entire directory into a new folder and then revise each item as per my notes from last fall.

I use an annual cycle for the syllabus because our fall and spring semesters differ in length and when annoying intrusions (Thanksgiving, spring break) mess with a sensible structure.