A few months ago during a flurry of online colleagues searching for new jobs, the subject of using a teaching philosophy came up in the faculty forums. I am perplexed at how many of these adjuncts did not have one written. Some had no clue what this part of their application package should look like or how to use it correctly. A few people asked if they could use one a teacher posted in the chat room. I was shocked. That is like trying to swap fingerprints with someone. What does your teaching philosophy say about you? Can it be used to set you apart from the slush pile of job applicants? You bet it can and will!
A song by the Backstreet Boys (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8JJVljVb2M) sums up why we should have a teaching philosophy. What makes us different will make us sparkle. Your teaching philosophy is where it becomes clear to your supervisor that you are a people person instead of a moonlighter picking up some extra cash.
Does a “one size fits all” teaching philosophy really fit all adjuncts? Nope!
Your philosophy is comprised of the personal beliefs and assumptions you hold about teaching. I teach radically different sections of the same English class at one college. At another, I modify the canned units with supplemental materials that reflect my unique teaching skills. This is what needs to shine through your application. The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan has a website (http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/tstpts.php) devoted to the craft of writing a successful philosophy of teaching statement.
My teaching philosophy landed me my first teaching positions right out of my MFA program. Thankfully, penning this statement came as a requirement from my pedagogy class. Although not actively hiring, my supervisor could not pass up my teaching statement. She snapped me up and made room for me to excel. I have worked for this college for three prosperous years and things are going well. My coordinator knows from my teaching philosophy that she can trust me with academic freedom. Below is an excerpt of that teaching statement. Keep in mind that you can tailor yours to a specific class.
My role as the teacher is that of a mentor rather than the role of Professor Fixit. That is the name I give egocentric instructors who feel their sacred duty in the creative writing class is to fix the students obviously flawed writing. The teacher is there to give the students the tools of writing to put into their own toolbox. If they succeed in doing this then the students will take the feedback and revise without pleasing the teacher in mind like a grade junkie. The method of instructor feedback should be one that will open up communication with the student writer. By all means, the teacher’s ego needs to be silenced when he or she is commenting on the student text.
I have a strong commitment to the online modality of teaching. I enjoy my diverse group of students and learn from their perspectives as I share my insights on the educational material. I believe it is imperative that students understand how to translate their education into their lives for complete comprehension and practical application. Online learning provides the means to incorporate meaning into everyday critical thinking and application in the workplace.
Ponder the things you will highlight, and the places you can go with this tool. Do you want to be special? Yep! I would love to hear other stories of teaching philosophy successes and disasters. If you have an anecdote to tell, please leave a comment about your experiences with this hot topic. I am off to examine how my philosophy of teaching statement can be updated.