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To answer OP's question about job applications and spinning your teaching:

I did my PhD at a dept that mostly places its graduates at teaching-oriented positions (mid-to-high tier SLACs). My first job out of grad school was a VAP at a prestigious SLAC. I'm now TT at an R2 that places a strong emphasis on undergrad teaching. Overall I've interviewed for 9 TT jobs, many of which were at "teaching institutions".

While I personally do enjoy teaching a lot, I've never once been asked something in any interview that requires me to present my relationship to my teaching in a particular way, nor have I been asked questions that seem to be evaluating how much I "really" enjoy teaching.

Instead I got *a lot* of questions about: how would you teach X course, and why? How would you handle X situation in the classroom, and why? How, if at all, do you incorporate your research into teaching or vice-versa? How do you try to be equitable in your teaching?

I know for a fact (because my colleagues literally told me so) that having well-thought out answers to *these* questions is what makes a difference in interviews. I take it that more than being *passionate* about teaching, I think what matters is that you have an actual plan and strategy for why you teach the way that you do. They want to hire an effective teacher, one who can think on her feet and have a strategy to tackle the job. Plenty of people who are really "passionate" about teaching might be ineffective or unthoughtful teachers.

I mean, even at SLAC-type schools where I interviewed, I only met like 2 people total (from everywhere combined) who were clearly 100% thrilled about teaching. That's not to say the others weren't, it's just that most of them, I think, realize it's just another part of the job, and it has its ups and downs.


I was motivated to pursue an academic career because I was passionate about teaching. Quickly I learned that you get hired on the basis of your research. I worked at a 4 year college that put a lot of emphasis on teaching - people did not get tenure because they were shitty teachers. Most of the faculty were passionate about teacher ... but I also think that most were rather ineffective teachers. People would do really stupid things with their students that research suggests does not work. But man were they passionate.
We never would have hired someone if they did not come across as passionate about teaching. In fact, we almost hired someone once who was REALLY passionate, but he could not answer a basic question on Locke, even though that was the topic of his job talk. But my colleagues were really moved by his passion. Go figure ...


I don’t know much about the psychology of motivation so I’m not entirely sure if it’s a necessary cause for competency. I had a pre-calc teacher in high school who was grumpy and tense. He didn’t seem motivated to teach most of the time to me, but he was one of the best math teachers (instructors) I’ve ever had.

Generally, I think most students just want a teacher or professor who is very competent. Motivation or passion is the cherry on top: it’s nice to have, but not necessary.

Consequentially, lack of motivation can cause (faster) professional burnouts and *may* negatively affect competence. In such a case, perhaps professors should try not take lack of motivation for granted.

I suspect that professors who have some sort of motivation to teach will experience less professional burnouts compared to those who lack motivation. In addition, those who have motivation to teach may actually be more innovative as motivation can be a cause for (better) self-cultivation in regards to professionalism, which can make them (more) valuable in the minds of hiring committees.

In other words, those who are highly motivated may be more inclined to improve their craft and are open to suggestions while those who aren’t motivated might think it’s a chore and hence will just stick to what they’re currently doing; unmotivated teachers/professors might stagnate, which can either be good or bad depending on their teaching style I suppose.

Take my words with a grain of salt. These are just my armchair theorizing haha

tenured teacher

I'm also in the 'teaching is a job' camp, and my jobs (including my current one) have all been at...teaching schools.

SLACker's comments about what to expect in an interview cohere with my experience, from both sides of the table. Having thought about the courses you'd teach is a good start.

I might ask candidates questions about how they teach writing at different levels, what kinds of smaller assignments they might give (weekly stuff that you don't have to grade is good), how they would try to increase class enrollments and grow the major, and how they would deal with students with our particular demographic profile. I might also ask about interesting courses the candidate would like to teach - they should be ones that are generally consistent with the department's program (that seminar on Book II of the Republic won't work if most teaching is gen ed), and don't overlap too much with the one course I actually like teaching. I've never once asked, or been asked, about whether teaching is a passion.

It's possible to be good at teaching, even if you really don't find it that motivating. It's also possible to get a job at a teaching school, even if you aren't that motivated by teaching. You probably won't get a job in a department where everyone is super stoked about teaching - I've interviewed at a few of those, and it was obvious I didn't belong there. There are also plenty of teaching-school departments where people are passionate about their research and service (the latter is a huge mystery to me).

Personally, I'm passionate about research. Summers are great, and the fact that I teach rather than work a 9-5 means I get to do research all summer. That's a motivation to teach in itself.

CC Phil teacher

My experience at a CC suggests that the OP should probably steer clear of applying to CC jobs. They were keen to find out if I had any inkling that this was a "biding-my-time" gig while I looked for a job with fewer teaching responsibilities. They wanted to know that this kind of job--one with teaching and service responsibilities but no real research requirements to speak of--was the kind of job I *wanted.* I got the job before I finished my PhD and had zero pubs. I beat out other candidates who had PhD in hand and had pubs.

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