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Kyle Whyte

Trevor raises a dilemma a lot of folks face. On the one hand, for full-time faculty and graduate students, summer teaching can help pay bills and student loans and home improvements, etc. And sometimes you find yourself in need of cash. On the other hand, if summer teaching means sacrificing writing two dissertation chapters or finishing an article to be sent to a peer reviewed journal, then you really have to think about the long term consequences. The benefits to improving your teaching, in my opinion, do not hold a lot of weight to the importance of establishing research, whether dissertation, article or monograph. Having more of any of these things will help you get paid more in the future. In the case of a dissertation, it will improve your chances on the job market to get a better paying job, visiting or tenure system. Having articles out means you'll start developing a reputation and will get opportunities to present at other schools, which pays a stipend. This can also lead to job offers from other programs that will get your own department to pay you what you're worth. It will also speed up the time toward promotion, meaning you won't have to move to many different schools before promotion and tenure. Given all of this, those considering summer teaching really have to consider whether they are in such circumstances that the short term injection of funds is needed to the degree that these other things are worth doing. Summer teaching can, in some cases, be detrimental to getting tenure or finishing a dissertation. I don't want to come across like I'm knocking improving teaching or earning extra money. But I have seen many cases where folks thought so short term that a few years later they weren't as far along as they should have been for whatever milestone they needed to attain.

Marcus Arvan

This is a tough one. One the one hand, teaching experience can not only get you some much-needed money; it can also help you land a job at a teaching university. On the other hand, it's important to get as much research done as one can early in one's career. So, what to do? Like Kyle, I think that if one has to choose, prioritize research. But I'm not sure one has to choose. If one can learn to partition one's time effectively, and become more efficient in terms of getting things done, research and (summer) teaching can co-exist. All the same, I realize this is very tough to do -- so again, if you find that summer teaching crowds out research, don't do it.

David Morrow

I'd say that if you're not getting enough "real" teaching experience during the regular academic year, you should think seriously about summer teaching. By "real" teaching experience, I mean experience designing and running your own course, as opposed to TA-ing or teaching a course that was designed for you. This extra teaching experience has two longer-term advantages: (1) Teaching a new course gives you a strong claim to an AOC in that area, which can help you get a job. (2) The more experienced you are as a teacher, the less disoriented you'd be if you land a tenure-track job out of grad school and have to learn to teach while racing the tenure clock. This is counterbalanced by the high likelihood of cycling through a number of VAP positions prior to a tenure-track job, but it's nice to be prepared!

As for giving up teaching opportunities to finish your dissertation more quickly, I'm not sure that's always wise. Maybe I'll do a separate post on that.

Kyle Whyte

Interesting thoughts. David I hope you do a post on that, as I think I know the topic you're hinting at, and it's a tough issue.

Trevor Hedberg

Interesting discussion, everyone. Certainly, one of the benefits of getting independent teaching experience as a graduate student is that it helps prepare you for days when you're teaching multiple sections on your own. But I'm also sensitive to Kyle's concern, since summer teaching is time-consuming. I also recall quite well the advice of two recent graduates here at UTK: they both advised me to be sure NOT to teach a summer course prior to the fall semester where I went on the job market. They said that summer ought to be spent preparing and finalizing my dossier.

David Morrow

I'm curious about your last point, Trevor. What, exactly, did these recent graduates think you should be doing over the summer that would take *all summer*? The only place where I can imagine that much work on a dossier paying off is in your writing sample -- and then only under certain conditions. It's not like you can spend the summer tailoring cover letters. Nothing that you write over the summer will make it onto a publication list in time for the fall. How many weeks can you spend writing research statements and statements of teaching philosophy? Is the marginal benefit there really going to outweigh the marginal benefit of teaching a new course?

In other words, if you have a writing sample that you're happy with, isn't spending half a summer teaching a *better* way to improve your dossier than whatever else you could be doing? Mark? Kyle? Marcus? What do you think?

Trevor Hedberg

David -- Fair point. From what I witnessed, both of them spent virtually all of September and October working on various job-market-related activities, including polishing CVs, assembling their teaching portfolios, writing cover letters, and so on. They suggested that a lot of this work could have been done during the summer and that it would have made the fall more manageable. Since I'm still a few years from the job market myself, I'm not really in position to evaluate whether they exaggerated or not. Perhaps one month of work in the summer would be enough to get these things done. Of course, the extra time in the summer could also be spent on one's dissertation, since you'd want that pretty close to finished before embarking on the job hunt.

Kyle Whyte

David: Good point. So there are a lot of factors that could weigh in depending on one's situation. For example, if you have never taught a single class before, and you're hoping to land a job at any kind of school, then summer teaching before the job market is the way to get a class on your CV, bolster whatever AOC is associated with that, and also give you some experiential insights into teaching that you can use well when you're actually interviewing (so you "know what you're talking about"). So this would be a case where teaching is a significant factor for the job market, and there are other ways too, in which the case could be made, that teaching that summer course would be a good job market move. But, then, how does teaching interfere with preparing your job market materials? In my previous posts, I don't think I mentioned that much of the issue of the time preparing these materials. Here is my view. If you enter the beginning of the summer before your first job market, and you have (1) no draft of a writing sample,(2) no drafts of any job market materials, (3) no good set of advisers to help get you through that, then job market preparation will take you a good deal of time. If you teach that summer, you might not be able to get much work done on say an article you're going to send for publication later but is not your writing sample. But I think the spirit of David's remark is that if you're really focusing on job market stuff, then both teaching and working on your dossier is the best use of your time that summer. Teaching will not eat up too much time for job market preparation even if it's your first time on the market. I think that such a summer would be a good use of time. At different parts of one's career, either before or after such a summer, summer teaching may not be the best thing, based on considerations I mentioned earlier. But I think David's suggestion is plausible.

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