By Dr. Katherine Dugan
Dr. Kate Dugan completed her PhD in Religious Studies from Northwestern University in 2015. She spent two years on the job market before accepting an offer at a teaching-intensive college. She is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Springfield College in Massachusetts and studies contemporary Catholicism in the U.S. Kate offers Teaching Demonstration interventions and document work for clients of TPII.
See one of Dr. Dugan’s earlier guest posts on the Teaching Demo here.
One thing is clear about the teaching demonstration part of on-campus interviews: a candidate must not go over time in a teaching demonstration.
Time management sounds annoying—or, at least, pedantic. But giving a teaching demonstration that has good time management demonstrates your skills as a teaching colleague. It shows that you know how to be in charge in a classroom. Your swift and thoughtful management of the allotted 30 or 40 minutes shows a high level of competence. Remember: you want them to be confident that you’ll step onto campus ready to teach (and not in need of too much caretaking). Being able to manage time reflects your broader capacity to contribute productively to the department. And, frankly, giving a teaching demonstration within the allotted time demonstrates your ability to respect what others ask of you.
I want to share four ways to manage the 30, 40 or 60 minutes you have to show your potential colleagues your strengths as a professor.
- Wear a watch.
I know it sounds like a throw-back suggestion, but looking at your phone during a teaching demonstration is sloppy (never mind distracting). And you can’t assume that the classroom you’re going to be in will have a clock—or, even if it does, that you’ll be able to see it without craning your neck. So: borrow one from a friend or buy a new one (I bought the one I wore for my demonstrations for $8 at Wal-mart) and put it on your wrist.
- Practice. Practice again.
I think Karen’s advice to practice answers to anticipated questions and to learn your job talk inside and out has sunk in. Candidates know to prepare answers to committee member’s questions well enough to be flexible in them.
But because teaching—especially in the Humanities—continues to exist in the realm of feelings, I find a hesitancy to do the same kind of rehearsing when it comes to the teaching demonstration. I have people tell me that they “don’t do notes for teaching” and they can’t really prepare because they “like to have a feel for the room” and “it really depends on how the students are.”
Look. I get it. I teach 100+ students each semester. I understand how variable a classroom can be—I can do the **exact** same plan for two back-to-back classes in the same classroom and have the classes be really different. The vibe, the mood, the energy level of college students can be hard to predict. And that is all compounded when you don’t actually know any of the students in your class.
But here’s the thing. The teaching demo IS. NOT. THE. SAME. AS. TEACHING. I can list all the ways this is true, but that’s a different blog post. If you’re unconvinced, ask yourself when the last time is that you spend **this much** time preparing for your Friday at 11am intro course.
Practice your plan with a clear sense of how long each thing will take you. Be clear on not just the order of the outline, but how you’ll transition and how much time shifting the students to small groups will take. Here are a couple of ways to do this:
- Walk through the introductions to each of your activities with a friend (or, better yet, a group of undergrads) six or seven times. Make sure the instructions are clear and that your audience understands—immediately—what they are being asked to do.
- Practice your 10-15 minute mini-lecture. Get your presentation smooth. Anticipate where students will ask questions. Plan how you will engage students.
- Practice your transitions. Think about how you will move from analyzing an image to discussing a short video clip. Plan how long it will take you to introduce a Think-Pair-Share activity. Anticipate how many minutes you need to let students read a short paragraph.
- Write down the time you need to do each part of the demonstration.
Realistically—realistically—anticipate how long things are going to take. I am sorry, but you **cannot** get through 45 powerpoint slides in 15 minutes. In general, if you have 40 minutes to do the demonstration, you have time for three, maybe four, different parts: an introductory activity, a mini-lecture, a set of discussions or collective work on a problem, and a closing activity.
You’ll be nervous in front of a group of students you don’t know and a handful of faculty who are evaluating you. Time has a way of feeling warped during teaching demonstrations. Even if you have only the sparsest of notes for your plan, include the amount of time you’ve planned for each part of the demonstration.
- Create a (well-timed) back-up.
Even the best-laid plans can squirrel out of control because of questions from students or quirks of a particular situation. Anticipate this. Know what you can cut and how much time it will save you. Have an extra activity or discussion question you can insert—and know how much time it will add.
Bonus strategy: I find that candidates facing a teaching demonstration want their plans to include going around the room and everyone’s name and a tidbit about them. I understand this instinct. You want to demonstrate, especially at a teaching-intensive institution, that you care about students enough to get to know them. But, really, when there are 20-50 students in the room, there just isn’t time. Or, rather, you need that time to demonstrate how you help students analyze images or discuss a confusing paragraph or approach a difficult topic. An alternative idea (that isn’t mine, but I’ve used!) is to bring name tags or index cards for making name placards. Spend three minutes doing this, catch a few names, and then using the name labels during the class session.
Keeping your teaching demonstration well-paced and done on time allows your teaching skills to shine. It keeps the committee members from getting anxious about the schedule. You’ll avoid that distracting shuffle of students packing up their bags as you summarize the take-aways from the lesson. Wow them with your teaching; impress them with your time management.