Friday, November 2, 2007

I Wrote a Letter, I Mailed in the Air

Inside the Philosophy Factory's got the goods on cover letters:
The problem is that it isn't always clear how we should interpret a teaching portfolio, nor is it easy to sort out many of the portfolios I've seen.
So, the letter could say something like,

"As my enclosed teaching portfolio explains in detail, I have 3 years teaching experience, 2 of them at XX College the most diverse community college in the state. I also fulfil X, Y and Z stated requirement, as my CV and requested transcrips can verify" --

The thing is, the committees I've been on have worked very hard at writing an ad that actually states what we need to see from a candidate. Due to the number of applications, the initial review is very quick... if it isn't clear that you meet our minimum qualifications (and you'd be suprised at who thinks they can teach philosophy... ), and then if it isn't clear how you meet our preferred qualifications, we aren't going to go reading the tea leaves to figure it out.

The purpose of the letter is to give a hint as to why you are qualified -- and if the hint is "see page 4, paragraph 2" [i.e. of the teaching portfolio --PGS] -- that is sufficient.

[. . .]

When answering the diversity question, remember that there are a variety of ways it can be successfully negotiated... while still being a white male :).

1) I taught X population at my school.
2) I went to y school, which is very diverse
3) I cover a, b, c (religious, cultural, gender, age) diversity issues in my class
4) I have taught both older and younger students.
5) I have taught recent immigrants
6) I was an immigrant
7) My experience living abroad was...
8) I was a non-traditional student during x period.
9) I speak 3 languages
10) I was involved in X student activity/committee/public event, which was involved in diversity issues on my campus.

I'll be writing cover letters today and tomorrow and this is going to be a huge help. Inside the Philosophy Factory--massive thanks from me, and no doubt from others too.

Okay, now I have to get ready to hole up in the photocopy room and kill me some trees.


Anonymous said...

Ask and you shall receive. I just finished all my cover letters over the weekend and mailed them Wednesday. Wish I'd had this advice earlier.

Anonymous said...

The diversity requirement makes me ill.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Just remember, just like each of your undergrads thinks they are "special" little snowflakes, each of the colleges you are applying to thinks they are "special" as well.

Also, even the most non-diverse school thinks they are diverse and that their student's problems are due to that diversity.

If I could be honest with my "diversity" statement, I'd say "I promose not to pre-judge the abilities of my students and thus I promise not to fall into the poverty of low-expectations as many of your current instructors most certainly have. I promise not to do this until I'm tenured, because I hate hunting for a job and want to keep this one, but I know that holding high expectations will make me unpopular and if you look at class evaluation numbers, I'll have trouble getting tenure."

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

ItPF - So true about schools thinking they're diverse. My school is just about the least diverse school in the entire history of education, and yet we hear a lot about how diverse the place is. . . .

Also, love your diversity stetement.