MLA: Careers in Community Colleges


MLA Panel

This is a live blogging of the session.

We are here to talk about careers in two-year colleges. Two-year colleges in general. Appropriate preparation for teaching in two-year colleges.

Number of handouts at the end, so you will stay. 🙂

Two reasons for being here. (Yes, I know there are four.)
1. English professor
2. Experience with two-year hiring practices
3. Member of the Executive Committee of this
4. Seeing myself 40 years ago

Began looking for job in early 1970s. Could not find job. Got out of academia. Now professor again.

Taught diverse classes: Dev Writ, Dev Reading, Freshman Comp, Queer Studies, etc.

CC has multiple missions. Have found these challenging.

Can stretch my talents with colleagues. Members of my own department bring a range of backgrounds. We learn from each other. National CC folks, too. Body of knowledge that overlaps with high school and university.

CC English professor: teaching writing and reading

Remarks are geared to new PhDs in English.
No guarantee that CCs will offer full-time jobs.

2010 1,165 CC in US
99% public
12.4 million students
ave age 28
58% women
most Latino and African-American students attend CC
Most CC faculty have MAs. Usually lower than in four-year institutions.
Pay almost always not negotiable.
5/5 load common
At some there is a 4/4 load for comp teachers.

Ratio of lit to comp. Most of our departments only offer a small number of lit courses.

2-yr college faculty is supposed to be active in the university.
Many write and publish. Publication is not required but is valued. “Teacher scholar.”
Tenure process is 4 years.

He said his salary range is from $50-100K.
Ours is $34-72K. ($72K = 27 years of ft and a PhD)

Four Points:
1. Know what we do before you apply. Know how they are similar to or different from how you have taught. Explore current issues in community colleges. TYCA. Inside English, California two-year college journal, MLA
2. Learn about minimum qualifications.
In California: MA in some English field, PhD is rarely required.
Training in the teaching of writing.
3. Get the right training.
Composition training is required.
Reading training is a wonderful addition.
4. Get some experience.
Adjunct work is available.
Willingness to serve on department committees. Participate in the governance.
Online teaching experience.

Cover Letter and Application
Fill out the application. Make sure you have minimum requirements.

Cover letter is my first impression.
1. Be choosy. Don’t apply to every single job opening. Apply to the ones you want. Make sure you are applying because you want to work in CC. Don’t apply out of “sense of failure” (Rob Jenkins).
2. Forget Whitman. Consistency is not the hobgoblin of little minds. 230 applicants. Many were weeded out because of different numbers of classes.
3. Tailor your letter and your CV.
4. Highlight your strengths. Show us how what we are looking for matches you.
5. Learn the lingo and use it, but only if you use it well.
6. 2-pages business single-spaced.
7. Begin by introducing yourself. Tell us which you are applying for. Identify your teaching experience pretty early and in great detail. Don’t talk about your research a lot. If your research area does have a connection to your teaching, make that connection.
We said 3 years minimum preferred. Teach at a CC. It is too risky for us to hire you if you don’t have experience at a CC already. Any teaching experience is important to us.
8. Your cover letter should be read by someone with a community college background.
9. In your letter describe specific experience. Did you create it? Did you grade it? Sometimes we can’t tell from the CV or cover letter. Tell us.
10. How will you retain those students (in foreign languages)? What are you going to do to help us keep them? What is your methodology?
11. Any service you can do (even in graduate school) makes you look good. Be an engaged colleague.


Over the past twenty years at a CC (30,000 students), I have hired 26 faculty members. In the last 4 years I have hired 100 adjuncts.

Everyone of us has someone from outside the department also interviewing you. Think about the ability to talk across the department or could be a staff person.

Best thing to do for the interview. Be there in person. Phone interviews are the worst for everyone concerned. We have a teaching demonstration. Not a taped demonstration, because those don’t turn out well. One hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

We come up with questions and then HR looks at them. We ask them in all sorts of different ways. We take copious notes.
A good chair of a committee will explain the interview process, keep it on time, collect materials, should tell the pay range, start date, and class load, class size, hiring process including the time frame.
We like to give the candidates a list of the questions.

Types of questions that we ask:
Something about rhetorical theory applied to the classroom.
We use a standard text and standard syllabus. How could you put a course together without any help?
What do you value about student writing?
Diverse student body issues?
Ability to be collaborative but also how you will fit and adapt.
How broad of a person can you be?
Lead teachers. Usually after tenure. Dealing with students, book issues, adjuncts.
Special needs.
Working with high school students. Different needs.
Student success. How many you can get to finish a course?
Advising a club.
Freshman orientation or experience.
Practical classroom problem solving.
How you deal with plagiarism?
Teaching theory. If you have a statement about philosophy, good to have.
Ask questions about how would you like to improve personally that will benefit our students?
What have you learned from your mistakes?
What you already know about the dept, college, and our students?
Ability to teach with technology.
Allow for time for your own questions. Ask a question. Always have a question.
Be as thorough and concise as possible. Give examples.

Teaching demonstration:
10 minutes.
How quick you can be on your feet.
How you can engage your class.
Sometimes you might be in an actual classroom, but usually in the SC.
Prove you can work interactively with your students.
Something about the writing process.
What is the most important thing to teach to freshman? Do 5-7 minutes to teach us. (Did not tell them beforehand.)

100 applicants per position. 10-12 that we interview.

Can be frightening to meet with the president or the provost. An hour with each. Trying to see how you will fit in. Final say on whether to hire.
Hired 7 people last year.
Hire at the instructor level. We lost some good candidates.

$4-5K in placement

We like to get thank you letters. Letters to the panel work.

It can be a very slow process. It’s always okay to contact the chair of the committee or the chair of the department. A good committee chair knows that professional lives are at stake. There are things we aren’t allowed to say or do. We can’t talk to you till we have a yes on the acceptance if you are the second or third choice.

Committees. Service. I am on a campus committee that does nothing. I feel weird about putting it on my CV. What would you do?

You can do community service relevant to your field.

Reading. Finding that a lot of CC are looking for actual degrees in reading. Training? Working in learning centers counts, right?

Reading: Getting training in reading is terrific. Very few graduate programs focus on reading, transitional/developmental reading. Have to go hunting for that training.

Some CCs have departments of reading.

Tutoring: Tutoring is terrific. Tutoring is a great place to begin getting experience. It will begin to help you see the kinds of problems all sorts of students do.

We do employ our adjuncts in the writing center, but not our full-time people.

In groups of eight students? Not in English, but is teaching or tutoring experience. If that’s the first, it will be wonderful.

You mentioned a little about your personal philosophy. How much in your cover letter v. separate statement? How much will the teaching statement be different?

Our college doesn’t request a teaching statement any more. But they were useful when we were in the final times.

Anything you can add specifically about your teaching you should put in your cover letter.

Go ahead and have someone who is in CC look over your whole app package.

One of the important points that I am hearing from my colleagues is that you really have to look at what a particular department is looking at/for. We want different things. For example, we don’t have cover letters. We look for the supplemental questions, like the teaching statement.

Address everything that a particular department asks for. Put it in the requested material even if you are repeating.

Just finished my PhD, have been working in student affairs with transfer students. Are there opportunities like that?

Most people in student affairs have education/educational leadership degrees. Rarely do our faculty go into something like that.

We don’t have a position that bridges that.

For the most part, student affairs would start by working with academic advisor. Then go to work with registrar.

How do you look at MFAs in Creative Writing? Does 4-year experience count?

First two years would be similar.

Of our 230 files,
60 PhDs
50 ABD
15 MFAs- teaching experience was entirely creative writing

Do you ask for teaching portfolio?

We don’t ask for them.
During the interview process there would be no way we could look at it.

Most candidates bring a folder with syllabi. Even with electronic submissions other documentations are allowed.

If you are in the pool of 20 we are considering, we will look at those other submissions.

Student evaluations, syllabi, sample assignments…

Is it true that PhDs are too expensive?
Our foreign language dept does not have PhDs.
English almost all have PhDs.

Pay is irrelevant. Our pay doesn’t matter for PhD; it’s all on years of service. Ours is linked to PhD.

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