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Teaching Experience vs. Fellowships


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I've narrowed down my grad school decision to 3 schools with fairly different offers. The program is in a specific foreign language, and at all three schools I'll be expected to teach lower-level language classes to some degree. At two of the three schools, I have 3-4 year fellowships, and then I'll be expected to teach about 1 course per semester for 1-2 years. These fellowships also carry significant stipends which will allow me to live quite comfortably. On the other hand, at the school that has arguably the best program, I will be expected to teach 3 courses per year, every year, and the stipend is much, much lower. Still, this school claims to have a fantastic placement rate, and it's no doubt true that I would become a more effective instructor.

So, my question is, would the extra teaching experience be worth it? On the positive side, I would have a great program and lots of teaching experience in a field where that makes a difference. On the negative side, preparing 3 courses a year for what amounts to pennies is a big load, and at the other schools (where the programs are also good) I would have more time to devote to coursework and research. I'm planning trips to all three schools to check them out, but outside perspectives would be greatly appreciated.

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So, my question is, would the extra teaching experience be worth it?

If you want more than 2-4 semesters of teaching experience at School A, you'll be able to get them - but you won't have to teach if you don't want to or don't have time. Do you have a sense of what kind of position you want in the long-term? SLACs will want more than two semesters of teaching experience, but it sounds like School A is offering you more funding with more available time to complete the requirements of your degree. Teaching experience is great, but not at the expense of finishing your degree because teaching takes too much time. If you decide that you want a career at a LAC, you can ask to teach more or become involved in smaller, less formal capacities just by asking faculty.

If you want teaching opportunities at School A, my guess is that you can get them. If you want more free time to concentrate on your degree requirements at School B, you may have a harder time finding free time than more teaching. Of course, there are other factors involved as well, such as which school is the best fit for you, personally and professionally.

Edited by neuropsychosocial
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I have a research fellowship (no teaching required), but I'm able to TA on a volunteer basis as I want. In fact, I was told specifically coming in that I would be able to get the relevant teaching experience I needed, if I wanted to go into a more teaching heavy career.

I don't think almost any department will turn down someone who wants to teach- the fellowship just gives you some freedom as to when and what you teach, in my opinion.

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I'd say the high teaching load might be acceptable if you're allowed to design your own course on a couple of occasions. Teaching experience is one thing, but X +3 semesters of teaching the same beginning and intro to French (for example) isn't really going to be counted as much or any better than X semesters of the same.

However, if during that heavier teaching load, you're able to design your own courses and/or teach higher level "content" courses, then that extra experience will help you a fair amount on the job market. They're not just looking for how many semesters of teaching experience you've had, but also, and even more importantly, the depth and breadth of that experience. A candidate who's only taught lower level language courses is going to be less competitive on the market than someone who's taught the same number of semesters but who has also done a course on the Revolution, or Francophone African lit, for example.

At the end of the day, though, 3 semesters a year for all 5 years of funding is kind of a heavy load, especially if it's not well remunerated.

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You don't actually want to teach that much. 3 courses a year is a LOT and introductory language courses have a fair bit of grading that you have to keep up with. Go with the fellowship. You can always teach in the summer, at a community college, etc. if you want to get more teaching experience.

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