• Spencer Bennington

Job-hunting in the Age of ZOOM!

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Rhetorical Roundhouse blog, your home for Taekwondo, Martial Arts Studies and everything rhetorical. Last week I shared a really special video presentation that I would have delivered at the 4Cs this year in Milwaukee so be sure to give that a look if you missed it.


This week, I'm actually going to talk a bit more about the academic job market. I have an interview this week for a job I'm really excited about, and I figured this would be a good space to share some of the ways I plan to practice.


The job is teaching position with a 4/4 load, so my goal is to focus on my strengths as a teacher with a wide variety of professional experience. The biggest way to practice for an interview, I think, is to imagine the kinds of questions you might ask of someone if they were applying for the position. Then, simply answer them to the best of your ability. Write down the answers. Revise the answers. Practice saying the answers out loud. Mix and match key phrases about yourself that you know are pertinent to the job. This is the sort of fully embodied interview practice that it takes to be prepared enough to seem "natural."


As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that I might have a whole lot to say about this process and how it relates to various rhetorical concepts in my dissertation, but I WON'T do that now...you're welcome!


Instead, I'm going to share some practice questions I came up with for myself as well as some answers I think are appropriate for this particular job. Maybe some others will find this helpful? Maybe it will help you practice in your own way?


One more thing: the interview will be conducted through Microsoft Teams. Interestingly, this has become the norm for most higher education interviews, so this likely won't be something too frustrating for most people on the market right now. I will say I think this is the best time to get some leeway if your cat photo-bombs the interview or if you plan to sit on your porch and the garbage truck rolls by. That said, I haven't decided if I'm brave enough to try the garden.





So here are some questions:


Q: What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses as you see them related to this position?


A: I think my strength is a type of flexibility. This is something that I've developed with practice, something that resulted from years of experience in a variety of teaching roles, some where I was highly policed and some where I had full curricular control. So I had to learn how to adapt to different learning environments, ones populated by a variety of diverse students from multiple backgrounds, as well as different departmental or disciplinary environments as well. So now, in the age of the pandemic, I've gotten to help many of my colleagues through a tough transition to remote learning. I've gotten that privilege because I've developed this flexibility that allows me to face a challenge like this in stride. My weakness comes from an overabundance of creative energy. I have so many ideas about how to teach various applied research methods (just for example) that I often attempt to pack too many exercises or activities into a single class or unit. But, because of the flexibility I mentioned earlier, i always find a way to adapt and ensure that all major course goals are being met, even if I can't get to all the activities I had planned.



Q: You mentioned previous experiences, can you tell us about your teaching experience?


A: I've been teaching at the college level for eight years and I was a writing tutor for years before that. In that time I have taught courses that were totally designed by other individuals or programs and I have taught my own courses. These classes have included introductory writing and communication, 2000 level literature courses, and various tech-comm courses at the 3000 level. My specialty is in teaching professional and technical communication and I'm currently teaching an Expository Writing class that I love.


Q: And throughout these diverse teaching experiences, have you developed any kind of overarching philosophy to guide your pedagogy?


A: I think a lot about teaching in general, especially teaching writing. My teaching philosophy revolves around the idea that learning is a process of transformation and, therefore, proper teaching must take a more holistic approach. I try to make sure that all my classes, regardless of the subject or discipline, involve critically reflexive writing components that help students address their own specific learning needs as well as reflect on their growth throughout the term. In addition, I build in opportunities in all my courses for contemplative exercises that help students think through their own personal goals and how those align with the goals of the assignment and the course. Making these kinds of meta-discursive connections for my students helps keep the whole class attuned to the kinds of small transformations they can expect to see. So, to sum it up, my philosophy is about teaching the students how to recognize the ways that the knowledge and skills I offer them can fit into their own lives and be applied to their own future experiences.


Q: Has the switch to remote learning changed or challenged your teaching philosophy in any ways?


A: No, I don't think it really has. My philosophy is about the idea that students need to be taught holistically in order to facilitate real growth and new knowledge. This can still occur in this "age of Zoom" we find ourselves in. What's key for teachers, now more than ever, is thinking critically about things like technology use, accessibility, matching assignment goals to course outcomes, the strengths and weaknesses of synchronous and asynchronous learning, etc. But I think with a critical awareness of these concepts a good teaching philosophy doesn't change, it just reveals itself to be useful in practice.


Q: Do you want this job?


A: I super really definitely want this job.



Q: Will you do a good job?


A: I'll do even better than that. I'll do SUPER!


Q: Are you getting bored with interview prep?


A: Admittedly, yes. Preparation is hard work. Saying some of these answers and talking through ideas is hard work too, but it has to be done. That said, I better sign off for today. I hope this maybe gives some ideas to folks who are still job-searching this season. If you've got good interview practice resources, feel free to share them with Rhetorical Roundhouse on social media :)



Thanks as always for stopping by. Stay safe!


Kamsahamnida!


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