The Chronicle of Higher Ed has an article from a Search Committee member called The Deja Vu of Today’s Application Files.
I read it with interest… especially noting the idea that all the letters/applications were very formulaic.
Then I read this:
Next in the files came the teaching statements, which often seemed to start with quotations—for example, quoting Confucius on teaching—that were cute but told me little about the person. Most of the quotations ended with something about being inspiring to students.
It’s safe to say the teaching statements were meaningless. All of the applicants professed to have some experience showing great teaching skill, or at least great interest in students and teaching. Certainly search committees expect candidates to say positive things about teaching. Certainly, too, committees at research universities sometimes attract people who are not the least bit interested in teaching or students. But one original thought on teaching would be refreshing. How will teaching complement your research or service? Succinctness is a virtue to people reading candidate files. These statements, too, don’t need to be a full page, and shorter ones are bound to be read more intensely.
I opened up my job search packages and the SHORTEST teaching philosophy statement I wrote was two pages long, single spaced. None of them started with a cutesy quote and none of them ended (though at least one began) with inspiring students. In fact, one of them ended with examples of how students have inspired me.
Maybe my long-windedness made me stand out. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t do the formulaic, so people noticed.