Prepping a Course I’ve Never Taught Before

Original article available on InsideHigherEd.com

In my department, the courses that I get to teach depend heavily on registration. Some of the course offerings that fulfill general education requirements are stable from semester to semester; others that cater to students who seek a major or minor in my field fluctuate significantly.

This spring, my department chair asked me if I’d be willing to teach a specific course this fall because our department needed to offer it and there really wasn’t anyone else to teach it. The course already existed in the university course catalog, and the faculty member who has taught it has now left the university. It is outside of my area, but I’m agreeing to do it anyway. As far as a starting point goes, I don’t have much, and the course title means very little to me.

Therefore, I’m working through how to prep a course that is outside my area of expertise, that I’ve never previously taught and that, to be honest, I would never have suggested offering in the first place. I’ve decided to take on the challenge by asking myself a series of key questions. Continue reading

Campus Visit – Highs and Lows

February and March seem to be popular months for campus visits. The semester is back in full-swing after a timeout for the holiday break and search committees are back on task, finding the new hire who will show up to their department Aug. 1.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about campus visits (I’ve had a handful, but I include the anecdotal evidence of others in my data points), it’s that they are unpredictable. It’s hard to set specific expectations or draw conclusions. That said, candidates can do a few things to be prepared for the unexpected. And search committees can do a few things to help candidates mitigate the instability of the visit. Continue reading

A Week in the Life of an Assistant Professor

This year I transitioned from graduate school to the professoriate. I was one of the lucky few to get an increasingly rare tenure-track job in the Humanities. It’s been about six months since I started my new job, which has caused me to reflect on the transition and on how I spend my time. It probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that, with a few exceptions, the demands post-PhD are harder to balance than the demands of graduate school. The economic precarity of graduate school may be behind me, but employment pre-tenure is still precarious and my time feels even more valuable. I’m sharing with you a few lessons-learned, to shed some light on how an assistant professor spends an average week. (The original version of this blog post is available at on Teaching Academia.) Continue reading

Teaching 2.0

Thanks InsideHigherEd.com for publishing my piece on teaching. Available for you below as of today!

Congratulations! As junior professors, we’ve made it through the fall semester. Now it’s time to start thinking about adapting our teaching for next term.

If you feel your teaching during the fall term was lackluster, you aren’t alone; I admit that my teaching was something akin to survival mode. I had teaching experience when I started my job, but I had never juggled multiple courses, right after a move, while trying to get adjusted to a new environment and new professional relationships. Even before I received my teaching evaluations, I knew there was room for improvement, and my evaluations confirmed that suspicion. Our institution uses raw scores, so it’s difficult to know exactly what I should have done better. While the scores came back solidly in the “good” range, I’d like to see something more like “good/great” next term. Continue reading

On National Conferences

Now that the holidays are behind us, hundreds of Humanities PhDs and PhD-seekers are back to thinking about national conferences, whether because they have scheduled interviews there or due to the more general networking possibilities these conferences bring. The first half of this post is dedicated to preliminary interviews…and, specifically, the awkwardness of interviewing at national conferences such as the upcoming MLA 2019 Annual Convention or the AHA 2019 Annual Meeting (both being held in Chicago). I’ve included my list of preliminary interview questions to prepare at the end of the section. Part two of this post is about networking at these mammoth conferences beyond interviews. Networking doesn’t always come naturally to everyone, so I’ve compiled a list of ideas and techniques for networking if you’re not sure where to start.

Continue reading