Teaching Philosophies, CVs, Interest Statements – all the same and boring

I loved this article: “The Dreaded Teaching Statement: Eight Pitfalls” (well the first part on how everyone hates writing these things)

(http://theprofessorisin.com/2011/09/16/thedreadedteachingstatement/)

As soon as I have to write anything related to me, my thoughts, or my principles, I want to vomit.  Writing a cover letter is bad enough, writing a statement of interest for Grad school was painful, writing a teaching philosophy is torture but writing a being faculty statement is unbearable. (any of these statements are from on referred to as xxx)

I always wonder about 2 things:

1)      Does anyone really read them? And even if they read it, do they believe it? (I wouldn’t believe a word –thinking that people just write what they think I want to hear)

2)      Does anyone writing these things really tell the truth?

 

When I have to write anything like this, I always start googling tips and pitfalls and look at statements that other people wrote – from there I will write my own (being careful not to violate copyright/plagiarize). I follow the tips and take ideas from others.

The problem is that I don’t state my own reasons/philosophies nor am I being honest. When I had to write my statement on why I want to join this grad school program at tech, I omitted the truth (that’s the only program I applied to because I am lazy, and most importantly because I heard only great things about the hiking in Blacksburg) and wrote all the “right” stuff (great research program, great chance for funding etc)

Another problem is that when you read articles about “How to write xxx” or the “Pitfalls of xxx” – they don’t always give you the same advice. Different people have different opinions and it is impossible to please everyone (even though I still believe that 90% of statements won’t ever be read) When I read xxx statements from people I have to hire I usually look for different things that other people would prefer to read about. I don’t like long statements (lazy me), I don’t like to read about all your accomplishments and how great you are (makes me think you are too arrogant), nor do I like to read about the mistakes you made and then how you want to improve yourself (sounds like you read one of the guides on how to write one).

I am looking for original statements, nothing where you followed rules. I am looking for your own voice, your own words. If your whole teaching philosophy says the following, I would hire you over someone writing a page or 2 about their philosophy: “I haven’t taught enough to establish my own philosophy yet, but I will do my best to teach my future students. I will make mistakes, learn from them and will gladly receive advice from my experienced colleagues”

I think we need to get away from all the rules/suggestions for writing xxx, especially resumes/CVs. They all look identical nowadays. They are boring.

 

About christink

PhD Candidate at VT
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3 Responses to Teaching Philosophies, CVs, Interest Statements – all the same and boring

  1. heatherocks says:

    I too agree, writing about myself is focusing on what I think people want to hear and less on me thinking about what I actually am. I agree with you – I was so lazy and was so afraid of writing in my High School years, that I only applied to one school, and it was because I didn’t have to write an essay. I could have applied to many, but was so intimidated by essays and open ended essays, and the horrible thinking about writing about myself – that it just came to doing the minimum.
    In my working career I have come across many times where we do have to write those frilly notes about ourselves. Say the things we think others may say. I have actually written many recommendations for myself from supervisors that they then look over, sign and send on. And in a way, I am somewhat appalled that they hardly put any changes or additions in them. Since learning how a good recommendation letter is written (by the person who needs the recommending) I have become a bit better about making sure all my accomplishments are in them so that supervisors get them right. I guess they do have a lot on their plates, and can’t remember all the awards and committees, or other things that you participate in. They probably only remember the deadline you miss (because of the time you donate to organizations etc).

  2. mgrossman says:

    I think what is so challenging about writing these kind of statements is finding a way to illustrate what you really think and believe. I agree with you that most of the ones I have read seem insincere and seem to be filled with current buzzwords. I have no idea if anyone ever reads them, however, on the off-chance that someone on the hiring committee thinks they are important, you had better put a good one together! How to do that, I’m not really sure.

  3. Craig S. says:

    You bring up some good points. I think it’s important to be honest about who you are in developing these documents. The worst thing would be to misrepresent yourself and then be a poor fit for the job or institution later. I think it’s ridiculous the degree to which we toot our own horn to win a position nowadays… It seems that in the midst of everyone doing that, a blunt statement like yours “I haven’t taught enough to establish my own philosophy yet, but I will do my best to teach my future students. I will make mistakes, learn from them and will gladly receive advice from my experienced colleagues” could actually be the winner. Its raw, honest and different – which could be enough to get the attention needed to stand out from the pack and get hired (just maybe).

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