Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Tips for Faculty Job Seekers at Community Colleges
It's a brutal market out there, even for folks who do everything right. At least being prepared and avoiding some self-inflicted wounds can help.
You've mentioned this a few times over the years, and it's definitely excellent advice. It seems so obvious - don't slam the place that's trying to hire you - but I think there's a kind of explanation for this approach from candidates. It's partially due to generational reasons.
In the classic movie "Mr Holland's Opus", the title character starts off the movie taking a music teacher job at a local high school because he needs a job to tie him over before making it as a pro musician. He takes the job and sort of hacks his way through the early days before become a beloved teacher of many decades. I feel like it was like this years ago: teaching positions were open to anyone who had some kind of interest and needed a job. This held for high school teaching, and was probably true for some community colleges and smaller universites. A teaching role pops up, some chap takes it, and the rest takes care of itself. Some faculty in some places might even believe hiring still happens this way.
Respectfully, I view this as the strongest possible implicit advice against going to grad school. Four years in college, somewhere between seven to nine years in grad school, then "picking up a class" for experience... and congratulations: You're in your early thirties and maybe, if you're lucky, get to relocate to teach four classes a semester and be completely geographically isolated from everybody you know. To the extent there are any bright college students reading this, if you haven't gotten the message, stay away. Stay far, far away. Grad school is a terrible idea.
A bio prof at a research university is expected to be a biologist who keeps up with research in their field and can use the appropriate common language to communicate with other biologists. A bio prof at a CC is also (and with a greater emphasis) expected to be a biology educator who keeps up with research on teaching biology and can use the appropriate common language to communicate with other educators.
I had to relocate and become geographically isolated from everybody I knew when I took a postdoc, and every faculty job I applied for would have required relocating to a third place -- just as most people also relocate far from family and HS friends just to go to to college, and again to go to grad school. That issue is not unique to teaching at a CC. Explicitly viewing such a move to teach 12 hours (more likely 15 hours) per week at a CC as a negative message is what disqualifies people who think like Anonymous from consideration for many jobs. By the way, a very large fraction of universities are teaching intensive and offer a similar "negative", and Dean Reed's advice applies to those as well.
And here is a hint: You can make new friends and old friends also move.
And another: A good job near a decent airport will allow you to travel and visit those old friends -- wherever they are -- or the cool museums or symphonies or whatever you left behind or never had time to visit after HS.
I would say, don't go to grad school if: (A) you don't want to go into industry in your field, if it is one where an MS or PhD is essential for that work; (B) you imagine that all jobs are like the "life of the mind" of faculty at the R1 or private school you attended; and (C) you don't want to teach. The rest is research. Do the CCs you might apply to hire mostly MA/MS or PhD faculty? What about 4-year teaching intensive universities? You might need a PhD to keep your options open, but don't waste time building a research resume if your ultimate goal is to teach rather than beat out someone from Europe for that great job at a middling R1 research university.