Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The One Thing Never to Say

This one is aimed specifically at community college faculty job candidates, though it applies to staff and administrative positions as well.  Without betraying any confidences, I’ll just say this is based on more than one case in more than one place.

Let’s say that you’re changing careers.  You’ve had a good run in your industry, and you’d like to switch to teaching.  A nearby community college posts an opening for a teaching position in that field, and you apply.  You get the interview.  You get asked why you want to change careers and start teaching.

What don’t you say?

“I’m at a stage in my career where I’d like to slow down and do something less stressful.”

No.  Just, no.  Don’t do it.  

Do you know what that sounds like on the hiring side?

“I’m terribly self-impressed, and I won’t lift a finger, except to complain about other people.”

It’s instant death.  It implies that what we do isn’t actual work.  Anyone who has taught a full load for a semester knows that it’s work.  

The first time I saw someone say something like this, it gave me pause.  I’ve seen it a few times now, so I think it’s time to say something.

Teaching in a vocational field, having come from industry, is a very different kind of work.  But it’s work.  Doing it well requires time, effort, forethought, practice, and follow-through.  It’s not just telling war stories.  And that’s just the teaching part; the faculty job also involves service to the college in a number of ways, many of which take significant time.  Outcomes assessment, curriculum development, observing adjuncts, professional development, governance committees, and (in some places) student advising all take time.  You can’t just kick back and opine.  That’s not how this works.

Faculty work is widely misunderstood in the culture.  That’s annoying, but endemic.  But I’m certainly not going to hire faculty who think that the entire job consists of kicking back, telling stories, and passing judgment.  

If that’s what’s drawing you to the field, step back and give it some more thought.  Teach some classes as an adjunct for a bit, and find out what the full-timers there do.  If you still want to make the leap, knowing the reality of it, go for it.  But if you think you’ll be recollecting your career in tranquility while adoring undergrads listen worshipfully, well, you won’t be doing it here.