Sunday, January 23, 2011

How Not to Prepare for your On-Campus Interview

Or, how to lose the job before you even get to campus. 

Postacademic.org just did a post on making sure you are prepared for the inevitable A/V snafus during your on-campus interview. It got me to thinking about one of my on-campus interviews and why I might not have been offered the job. Of course, there are lots of reasons and none of them may have had anything to do with my on-campus performance specifically, but for some reason a light finally went off in my head about what I did wrong not while I was on campus, but while I was preparing for my teaching demonstration.

I should also note that I thought I had already largely figured out why I hadn't been offered the job: when I got the phone call inviting me to the on-campus interview, I asked if I could bring my infant daughter. I have to say, the people at the university went beyond the call of duty, trying to find a way for me to bring my daughter and have her cared for while I was interviewing. But I had always thought that when push came to shove, they decided that they didn't want someone as "family oriented" as I had proved to be (I ended up leaving my daughter at home with her father with no problems; chalk it up to first-time mommy panic). Looking back, I think I have been unfair (not that I thought badly of the institution; I didn't blame them, I blamed myself) because while I was so concerned with my daughter, I neglected to focus on what I was going to be teaching.

I wasn't as proactive, as they say, about getting all of my ducks in a row about what I was teaching in the Intro to Literature class: I am ashamed to say that I expected them to present me with the information I would need. Instead, I ignorantly asked questions (like, how do I get in touch with the professor?) that I should have just gone ahead and done myself. And when I found out what I would be teaching, I didn't ask if it was in an anthology or what edition they were using, I just went out and got a copy myself. Turned out, they were using an anthology, so when I referred to a certain scene or passage, I couldn't tell them which page to turn to in order for them to be able to note it and follow along. I also didn't think to ask for a copy of the class' complete syllabus so that I might have been able to provide links and contrasts to what they had already read and studied. In short, I made my class into a mini-presentation on the play they had read, completely neglecting to make an effort to integrate the lecture into the larger frame of their class.

It didn't help that it was the Friday before Spring Break. But I digress.

The lecture itself went well and I was complimented on it; I chose one or two quasi-thematic and related arches to focus on to get the students to think and reflect critically on what the playwright had set out to do. A few members of the search committee noted that I was a fine teacher and felt I deserved to get a job, if not there then somewhere. But, alas, I did not get that job. Again, with all of the rhetoric surrounding how I should have been hiding the fact that I had a baby/family, I just assumed that that was my undoing. Looking back, though, I would have done things very differently when it came to preparing for my teaching.

I hope this helps some of you preparing for your own teaching demonstrations for on-campus interviews.

1 comment:

  1. Sound advice! It amazes me how much work candidates have to do in order to make up for deficiencies on the part of the people interviewing job candidates. It is their responsibility to provide candidates with syllabi, readings, and any other relevant material when they ask a candidate to step into a class in the middle of the semester. Or they should simply ask candidates to prepare a class on a topic chosen by the candidate (those were some of my best interview/classroom experiences).

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