This post feels more than a little presumptuous and egotistical, but I’m going to go there anyway and see what people think. Below, you will find the slideshow from a teaching demo that I had to do at a recent interview. I’m happy to report that, in fact, it was a recent successful interview. My slides are by no means a “how to” manual, but I’m hoping they will provide a starting point for talking about how one navigates the teaching demo portion of an interview, particularly when you know you’re speaking to a room full of professors who are just pretending to be students.
This particular slideshow was produced for a CEGEP interview in a Humanities Department. Interestingly, CEGEPs take history to be a social science, and humanities courses are usually taught by members of one of the other humanities disciplines. Now, I’ve always felt a little schizophrenic as a historian – the discipline is notoriously divided between humanists and social scientists – but the CEGEP application process has really hammered the point home. By subject matter, I’m a historian, and thus belong in the Social Sciences Department; by methodology and self-identification, I’m a humanist and should be in Humanities.
CEGEPS offer Humanities courses in three fields: Knowledge, World Views, and Ethics. I got Ethics. So, if nothing else, this is a good case study in having to give a talk in something way outside your comfort zone. I was given 1 week to prepare a short talk (these things are usually 10-15 minutes) on the ethical issues surrounding minorities within the context of larger social structures. I was told that I could approach it from my own disciplinary perspective, and that PowerPoint would be allowed, but no further instruction was given.
Here are the questions that immediately sprung to mind:
- What level should the presentation be pitched to? Ethics is a senior-level CEGEP course, so roughly akin to first-year university students. And yet, CEGEP students are not university students. And then there’s the problem of the multiple levels of aptitude one encounters in any given class.
- How do I deal with the problem of having to talk about something that would come up mid-way through a course without the benefit of being able to assume students know things and still fit it into 10-ish minutes?
- How do I deal with the fact that I need to prove that I can lecture in such a way that students can actually take notes, when the people in front of me aren’t students and aren’t taking notes (this is important because if you slow to note-taking pace when there are no notes, it gets very dull very quickly)
- What do I do about those places where I usual have a dialogue with the class?
Ok, so… you can see how I decided to deal with all of these issues for yourself. Before you view the slideshow though, I just wanted to mention one last thing. You will notice that during the second slide I whip along at warp-speed. I thought about recording the voiceover again, but then I thought better of it. I decided instead to follow Oliver Cromwell’s example and provide you with a true portrait, “warts and all.” Besides, when I get nervous, I do speed up – I did the day of the interview too, and I still got the job. I guess what I’m saying is this. The key to dealing with the teaching demo isn’t a flawless delivery of whatever you may have planned; it’s an expert recovery when you inevitably mess up. Or, at least that’s my opinion anyway.
The articles I distributed were: