The Plight of the Post-Doc


Tell me your feelings on the visiting lecturer gig

Though I've totally come to terms with the very likely possibility that I won't get a TT position this year, I continue to search the job boards, albeit with markedly less fervor.  Maybe once a week.  Recently, I've seen a couple of ads for one- or two-year non-tenure track teaching positions at solid-to-excellent liberal arts schools, and I'm just wondering, is this kind of thing a good idea?  For anyone?

Naturally, it would look nice on my CV if the places I apply to in the future value teaching experience.  But I'd imagine it takes at least a year or three (or +++ ???) of teaching any given course to really tighten the screws, so wouldn't I expect my first year evaluations to be sort of, well, bad-ish?  And what is the point of a university investing in a teacher who won't be around long enough to get the course to the awesome level?

Also, since it's a limited engagement, I'd have to spend a good amount of time during that year applying for jobs for the following year, which could take a non-trivial amount of time away from planning 4 courses per semester, no?  And speaking of future positions, I'm wondering what taking a year off from lab work looks like to hiring committees at research-heavy institutions.  Obviously, it's a year with no new publications, which I worry may not be compensated for by the boost in teaching experience. Or will it?

So let's hear it--are there worthwhile benefits to the 1-year teaching position for someone still interested in doing research long-term?


Zen Faulkes said...

For hard core research universities, a year of just teaching and no publications would probably be detrimental. For many other institutions, I think it would make no difference either way.

I can't think of any tenure-track situations where the search committee will be impressed by a short-term lectureship.

But it beats unemployment. By a long shot.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

If you are ultimately looking for a tenure-track position in a research university, taking a one-year teaching position will totally destroy your chances of achieving that goal. If your current research accomplishments as a post-doc are insufficient to get the desired tenure-track research-oriented position, then you need to double-down on your post-doc and publish more and better, not take a teaching position.

Brian L said...

Yes your first year evals would be bad, but anyone who knows anything about teaching expects you to suck in the first year. You won't be as bad as you think you were at the time, but by the second time you run a course you will look back on the first time in shock at your own awfulness. Sorta like looking at your old Junior high yearbook photo.

That being said, a full year of teaching would be a waste if you want research to be your primary concern going forward. Teaching is more work than you imagine it to be and leaves few large, useful chunks of time left in the day. If you want to demonstrate an interest in teaching, I would look for an opportunity to do a few guest lectures- preferably to an undergraduate class.

Ms.PhD said...

These other commenters are correct - it won't help you get an R1 TT job. It will help if you want to go for a SLAC type of position or other teaching-oriented career.

It's yet another myth they love to feed us - that search committees care about teaching experience.

Oh, and it's also a myth that research universities care about quality teaching. They don't. More and more places are unloading the bulk of their teaching onto lecturers and adjuncts. It's not about the quality for the students. It's about freeing up time for the TT folk to get more grants.

It's one of those things that's nice to have, but it won't get you in the door if you don't have the C/N/S papers. But if I recall correctly, you already do?

From what I can tell, the lecturing circuit is a pink ghetto. Stay away, unless you can't find anything else. And even then, bear in mind that you will probably have to switch career tracks if you don't go directly from postdoc to TT job. There are too many CPPs out there who think that the entire measure of your worth is in the author list of your "top tier publications"- without ever having actually read your papers.

Mike said...

Also late to the party on this one, but...

Even a semester of real teaching experience (not just guest lecturing, but putting together an entire course) looks great to hiring committees at schools that actually value teaching. Make sure someone sits in on some of your classes so they can write you a recommendation letter. A prof's evaluation of your potential may balance out your students critiques of your first-time performance.

For research-focused schools, though, I doubt it will help and it probably will hurt.

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