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Getting Started: A Pair of Books for New Teachers

by Erika Dreifus, Ph.D.

It’s natural for beginning teachers to seek advice—where else?—in books. Peter Filene’s Joy of Teaching: A Practical Guide for New College Instructors, and James M. Lang’s Life on the Tenure Track: Lessons from the First Year provide two recent additions to the how-to literature for new instructors. Both Filene, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Lang, assistant professor of English at Assumption College, are evidently familiar with the scholarship on pedagogy. Ken Bain, director of the New York University Center for Teaching Excellence, offers the foreword to Filene’s volume; early on we learn that Bain was once Lang’s boss at Northwestern’s Searle Center for Teaching Excellence. You’ll also find annotated resources for further reading in both books. In short, both The Joy of Teaching and Life on the Tenure Track will teach new instructors about their jobs. But they’re very different books.

As its subtitle suggests, Filene’s book is a manual, divided in three parts. It offers many useful nuts-and-bolts pointers for newbies, especially in the middle section, which focuses on “Practices.” If you’ve never designed a syllabus, for example, you’ll want to spend some time with Chapter

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  • A Review of Moving a Mountain

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