“You don’t use the right words.”

So, setting aside my disaster of a research statement for now (though I did make a list of all my current and future projects, so that counts for something, right?), I also have to re-write my teaching philosophy. This one is easier, in the sense that I actually like teaching, so I don’t feel like I’m bullshitting my way through it. There’s one problem when it comes to teaching though.

I don’t use the right words.

Or, so my advisor says. She sat down with me several weeks ago and talked with me about my teaching prior to observing one lesson of my summer class. She asked me a bunch of questions about how I put together the syllabus, how I structure the lessons, and how I keep the students engaged. She observed me teaching and wrote up a report to keep in my personnel file, essentially testifying to my competency. We even had a “debriefing” session after she had written the report. And in that meeting she told me I did a “bang up” job in the classroom, but (there’s always a but)…

I don’t use the right words to talk about teaching.

I had heard this critique from her before, that when I talk about teaching I don’t use the right language – the language of people who teach. What exactly that language is, I don’t know, because my department does absolutely zero teaching preparation for its students. But somewhere along the way I am supposed to have learned the language of pedagogy, and my failure to use the correct vocabulary is what keeps me from getting a job. My advisor’s solution to this problem is to send me a link to a Chronicle of Higher Education article about books on teaching. I’m supposed to read these books and regurgitate the words in my teaching philosophy. I’ve picked up a couple of those books from the library and let me tell you, there aren’t any fancy words in there. Just the same plain English I’ve been writing in for years. So…

In contrast, my other advisor popped his head into my office last Friday. He asked me what I was doing now that I was done with my dissertation (he’s always been a real hands on advisor, always up-to-date with my progress. #sarcasm). I told him about the conversation with the other advisor and how my days were now spent reading books about higher education so that I could re-write my teaching philosophy.

“Do people actually read those things?” My advisor asks, referring to teaching philosophies (I don’t know if he’s ever read mine, now that I think about it).

“Yes.”

“My eyes always glaze over when I read them.” So, if I did give him a copy of mine, he definitely didn’t read it. Awesome.

“Well, you’re not at a teaching school.”

“True. So… she wants you to like use buzzwords?”

“That’s what she told me to do.”

At this point my advisor gives me a skeptical look. Very much a “why the fuck are you wasting your time on this when you could be doing literally anything else” look. He finally speaks, “Well, okay… but I hope you’re going to take some time off.”

He leaves the office. End of scene.

 

And that, my friends, is the joy (and the frustration) of having two advisors.

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