One of the most frequent topics that comes up in my conversations with veteran journalists is whether to consider going into teaching. It’s coming up more often now, thanks to newsroom downsizing. And as Brian Joseph writes in the latest Quill, teaching opportunities are drying up too, especially for adjuncts. Many Universities’ budgets aren’t in much better shape than newsrooms’ and a lot of schools are insisting on at least a masters degree.
But if you’re serious about teaching journalism, we have some advice. Having done it myself–I left the newsroom to teach for a year at American University in the mid-1990s–I feel qualified to say that it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted. It’s also very rewarding to share what you know, and to watch students learn and improve.
If you’re thinking about teaching, either as an adjunct or full time, here are some tips to get you started from Tom Bowers of UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Be sure to check our list of textbooks to consider for broadcast journalism courses.
- Find names of schools that offer journalism courses or programs in your area.
- Write the dean, director or chair of journalism program and include your résumé, or CV (Curriculum Vitae)
- Show that you understand what teaching entails–the time commitment and the limitations of the schedule.
- Be prepared to teach an existing, entry-level course. Ask for the syllabus others have used and expect to follow existing course objectives, but use your own strategies to get there.
- If you propose your own course, make sure you have spelled out objectives telling what students will be able to do after taking the class. Arrange topics in a logical order for a semester or quarter, and create regular assignments. Know how you will evaluate those assignments. Consult this syllabus checklist for more suggestions.
- Find out the grading philosophy of the school. Meet with a veteran teacher to discuss his/her approach to grading.
- Visit classrooms–if possible, the one you will use–to check the set-up and capabilities.
- Investigate the technical support provided by the school.
- Prepare to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject and to share your experience.
- Decide how you will help others learn the subject and its skills.
- Create a syllabus that spells out clear policies and expectations, including assignments and due dates, whether late work will be accepted and what the penalty will be, attendance policy, grading policy and test dates.
- Be available to students
–Office hours (for full time teachers, usually 6 hours per week)
- Get to know your students ASAP.
–Something about them
- Start each class with a preview agenda. Explain the value and importance of what you will be teaching that day.
- End each class with summary.
- Engage students as much as possible.
- Show enthusiasm. Show that you are excited about the subject and your students.
- Have students work together.
–Collaborate on an assignment.
–Grade each other.
- Give them lots of practice. Allow students to practice and make mistakes before you grade them. Return assignments promptly.
- Create realistic assignments. Use deadline pressure.
- Give as much detail as possible in advance about how you will evaluate their work.
- Show exemplary work of others.
- Ask for feedback after 3-4 weeks.
–Adjust if appropriate.
–If you cannot adjust, explain why.
Be prepared for:
- Students who don’t want to be journalists.
- Students with weak writing skills.
- Students who don’t read newspapers.
- Students who are late to class.
- Students who want to surf the Web.
- Elation of coaching students who “get” the point you want them to learn.
- Immense satisfaction of shaping lives and careers.
Search for full time job openings in the Chronicle of Higher Education or at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.