|Names removed to protect the innocent.|
(amazing Photoshoppery by a grad in our program)
I spoke on the necessity of developing your teaching, and specifically, developing your writing. My Ph.D. is in Victorian literature, but like many graduate students, much of my teaching was in writing. There's definitely a strain of literature graduate student who dismisses writing as not really counting, but now that I've spent three years on the academic job market, I see even more clearly how short-sighted that approach is. If you're a graduate student at an R1 university, all the faculty you see are only teaching literature courses, but that's not the reality at smaller teaching-focuses schools, which are the kinds of schools where graduates from mid-ranked public school programs like mine get jobs. Most of my friends with tenure-track literature jobs are still teaching at least one writing course per semester.
When you interview for that kind of job, they want you to speak thoughtfully and intelligently about the teaching of writing. They don't expect you (in my experience) to be all up on the latest composition scholarship, they just want you to have a real investment and commitment to the teaching of writing. You can get that, I think, by taking on administrative roles as a graduate student (I was Assistant Director of Freshman English for over two years as a graduate student), but you don't have to go that far: you can work for orientations or what have you.
|Time to redeploy this old clip art again.|
So when I didn't get that (or any) job and ended up adjuncting here, I asked to teach Introduction to Academic Writing so I could answer that question better. I'd avoided it, I guess honestly because it has a sort of stigma, but I actually liked it better than our usual academic writing course in some regards. And when I had a campus interview this year and the dean asked me about teaching that course, he pointed out how enthusiastic I sounded about teaching it.
This didn't come up in my remarks on Monday, but talking to a graduate student about some of these issues earlier that day, she complained that a lot of people's success in academia seemed to be based on "serendipity": happening to have worked at a part-time job with some connection to a skill valued by a proseminar, happening to have organized something a potential employer is seeking someone to organize, happening to have graduated from a program with a philosophy of writing that aligns with another university's.
And she's kind of right. The way many people get hired seems very lucky. To a degree, it even makes sense: most everyone who graduates with a Ph.D. is very qualified. But for me, the serendipity of these alignments only heightens the need to get involved in something when you're in graduate school: if you don't do anything other than the things everyone does, you don't have anything that can spark one of those serendipitous connections. So on the one hand, it's very often a fluke what makes you stand out from the pack, but on the other hand, you can increase the odds of a fluke.
|Rude grad students go on to be rude professors.|
This stuff can help you professionally, but if you want to be collegial, it can never be your primary reason for doing something-- then you're just a selfish ass.