So, its July or early August and you’ve decided that you are prepared enough and you’d like to pick up a class or two for the fall semester. You go onto a website like cccregistry.org to look for open positions. When you do this, you probably notice two important things. First all of the jobs are described as “pool” positions, and second that there aren’t too many of them. This is because you are too late! If your grad school is like mine, they probably schedule you at the very last minute, telling you what you are teaching or TAing only a few weeks before school starts. This is not how the community college system works. They schedule classes nearly a full year ahead (it is November and I’ve already submitted my class requests for next fall!)
How do you actually get a job? Community colleges generally hire adjuncts for one of two reasons. First, their enrollment numbers are up so they got permission to add more classes in their next schedule. Second, some emergency happened and they need someone to teach a class for the upcoming semester very soon. Either way, they aren’t posting these openings on a job board at that time. Instead, what they like to do is to collect a “pool” of applications over time and then go through the applications that they already have on file and then call applicants. This is where it can be useful to have some connections. If you know someone who is already at a community college you should let them know you are applying. Ideally, this would be someone who is a full-timer at the school, but sometimes adjuncts can help out too! I’ve gotten a number of emails from department chairs at schools where I adjunct asking if I know anyone who can teach a class when there has been an emergency, or an unexpected opening. But in these situations the best scenario is that you have already submitted an application and I (or someone else) can say, “Yes! Check out this person, they have already submitted an application.”
What goes into an application? On average, they will require a resume/CV, a cover letter and transcripts. They might also require something like a teaching or diversity statement. Now there are some important things to keep in mind when you are putting together your application. A CV and transcript is pretty standard, but make sure that you have a Master’s degree in something relevant to the position you are applying for. Unfortunately, something like a Master’s in Education (that many K-12 teachers have) does not let you teach specific subjects in a community college. Your degree needs to be in what you are trying to teach. The cover letter and statements are where it gets tricky. First, I know we as graduate students are trained to talk about our research and what we do, but trust me, the community colleges do not care about your research. Talking about your research too much, or at all, can actively harm you. Stick to teaching experience and your qualifications. If you went to a community college, even briefly, mention it! The hiring committee or department wants to know that you understand what it is like to be a student at a community college, it is a very different culture and feel to a major 4 -year university, and the faculty know that.
To that end, the hiring process at a community college is an incredibly bureaucratic thing. In California, at least, this process was designed from the ground up with equity in mind. This means that your materials are put through as “objective” of a review process as they can come up with (these next examples are what I have seen or have had people tell me for the colleges in Southern California. The process may be different elsewhere but it seems to me that it is mostly the same.) Prior to hiring anyone, the committee decides what they want in terms of candidates and materials, and develops a specific rubric that they will use to evaluate job candidates. They then use this rubric to write their job ad. This means that you, the applicant, should treat the job ad as a check-list. Know that the committee is going to look for you to speak to every requirement. So if they want “familiarity with the needs of community college students,” you better find something to say about that, even if you don’t have any experience at the community college level, because if you don’t you will be graded down. Go through the job application in detail, and make sure you have something to say about each aspect of the application, and make sure it is easily identifiable in your materials.
This bureaucratic process continues as you move into the interview and teaching demo. When you get the call for an interview, the school will want to set up a time, usually about an hour or so, for you to come in for an interview and a brief teaching demo, usually about 15 minutes. This can be a really strange, unnerving process. In my experience, the interview usually involves a number of faculty members, and perhaps the dean or some other higher level admin sitting around the table. Each faculty member will, in turn, as you one question, with no follow-ups allowed. Then they will all grade your response to the question, and the next person will ask their question. It isn’t a conversation but something more like a graded oral exam. It is very strange and you will feel like you did terrible, even if you killed it. They will probably ask you about your teaching experience, if you have any connections to the college, and how you might deal with diverse student populations.
The teaching demo is perhaps the most important part of the interview process. After going through the questioning session, they will probably ask you to lead a quick teaching demo. There are usually no students involved, and the committee will ask you to pretend that they are the students in the class. Again, this is a very odd thing, but there are some tips and tricks you can use. First, remember your audience and the job. This is not the time to break out your job talk or give a graduate-level seminar. Remember, you are going to be teaching an intro level class to 50 bored students who probably don’t want to be there or only need your class for a transfer requirement. Stick to the basics! Pick an easy, basic idea or concept (they might even assign you one) and go over it as if they had never heard of it before. Doing an activity is a great idea! In my experience, when I asked a hiring committee to do a quick, simple activity, like answering a discussion question, they all perk up and get really into acting like students! One time, I even had the dean of the school take out her cell phone and very obviously play on it while I was teaching. She later asked why I didn’t yell at her for using her cell phone in class! (I answered that, while I would have acted differently if she actually was a student, I recognized that she was a dean and might have had some legitimate business I didn’t want to interrupt. She accepted this answer, and I ultimately got that job.) Keep it quick, keep it simple. Make a powerpoint with the basic concepts and some pictures. Don’t put too much text on it, and don’t read off it.
Now if everything has gone right, you should soon be getting a call from HR to make sure you get a TB test and fingerprinted (it is a state job after all!) And now you can start looking to prep your first class!