Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Looking for work in ASP (Rebecca's perspective)

Amy's post was fantastic. I cannot add to her list. My first point will be to anyone, new or established, to print Amy's post, and look at it when you are considering a job.

I am going to go more narrative here, and expound on Amy's list by explaining why these things matter.

1) You need to know yourself and your preferences.

It is a serious mistake to think you will be comfortable teaching any type of ASP that comes your way. As Amy mentioned at the start of her post, ASP varies dramatically from school to school, far more than doctrinal teaching. If you prefer classroom teaching, make sure you are looking for a school that has you in a classroom, not just in 1-1's with students. Maybe you love working with students 1-1, but find the classroom too impersonal. I know of an ASPer who mentioned at a conference that she was sure that all students could succeed if the ASP professional at their school could meet with them 1-1 everyday. I cringed; I believe students learn best from each other in a classroom led by skilled teacher; I don't believe 1-1's are universally effective for reaching all students. Don't assume one type of teaching is interchangeable with another; they are not the same. To be your best, you need to know yourself and your preferences. Don't make the mistake of thinking "But I just want to get my foot in the door, and then I will move to a place with a better fit." If you washout because the school is looking for someone you cannot be, then it will be very difficult to move on to a different school. Take the time to choose a job where you can shine.

2) You need to know  you will be comfortable with the management style.

This is toughest for people coming from non-teaching positions. Do you like a lot of oversight, and someone who you can check-in with if you are struggling? Or do you feel that is micro-managing and intrusive? One person's heaven is another person's hell. Be sure you ask a lot of questions about the type of oversight, and ask them in different ways to different people. The person who will be your superisor may think they are very hands-off because they only visit your office once or twice a week. Other supervisors may think they are very supportive, but never see the inside of your office for your first year--they believe you will come to them if you need something. Ask your predecessor (if you have one) as well as people in legal writing (your closest colleagues if you are in a one-person ASP) about how they are managed.

3) You need to understand you can go from being a superstar at one school, to a washout at another.

Some of the very best in ASP spent time at a school where they did not succeed in creating the program they wanted to create.  Ask them about it at a conference; many people are very comfortable talking about their time at a school that wasn't a fit. It has nothing to do with tiers, or resources, or rankings. Every school has a culture, and you have to be sure you will work in that school's culture. Believing that you are a universally brilliant teacher who can teach ASP at any school displays an unfortunate disregard for the realities of the field. Culture is more than the faculty; it's the students and the location of the school. Students can feel like they want support, and you can feel like they are seeking a program of learned helplessness. It's a matter of perception, not right or wrong.

I have spoken to new ASPer's who feel they are invincible because they are successful at their school, after only a year or two in the field. I have spoken to ASPer's who feel like they can do no right, although they are applying the advice of every leader in the field. Make sure you understand that it may not be you, it may be that you are a good or bad fit with the school.

4)  Keep an open mind.

ASP is an amazing, diverse field. It is changing by leaps and bounds. Keep an open mind about the field and what schools are looking for you to do. Keep an open mind about experimental programs. Don't be afraid to push your own boundaries. Look for growth in a position.

I hope everyone finds a wonderful fit, and for newbies, I look forward to meeting you soon.

RCF

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