Having had some opportunity to confer with a colleague and considering what you have all put into this discussion thus far, let me offer a bit of perspective.
First, the faculty in the department are very supportive of giving you some teaching experience if that is what you want, at least within university rules. We have not to this point had any systematic teaching experience built into the program, since only about half of you plan to go into teaching as a career. However, Brian Platt and I have discussed the possibility of providing some opportunity for more independent teaching (and I hope to offer details on this soon). I must emphasize, though, that this will be VERY limited.
The only practical way we can offer many of you experience teaching your own class of HIST 100 or HIST 121-122 is to hire you as an adjunct once your assistantship money has run out. (Jeremy was hired as an adjunct to teach HIST 697 last Spring, and I believe has taught HIST 120 in the past in the same way.) The thing is that you would only get adjunct pay (about $3,000 per course with no tuition remission)--i.e. significantly less than you get in an assistantship. So the only practical way this could work for you would be to do this at the end of your dissertation, when all your research is done and you are just writing.
I should also add that, while I agree that teaching experience during graduate school can be extremely useful in launching a professional career in college teaching, it is likely being overrated in this discussion as a factor on the job market. The quality of your dissertation will matter far more than whether you had teaching experience in graduate school. Indeed, most job applicants for our own tenure track jobs had only TA experience while in graduate school.
Another factor is how teaching a class might affect finishing your degree. Taking an extra year to finish just to get some teaching experience at adjunct-level pay may be a poor trade-off, especially given that you would be able to find similar adjunct, part-time and/or visiting positions after completing the degree. My point is that teaching experience is important, but there is no immediate need to get it before you finish your dissertation.
By no means do I intend to discourage this discussion, and we shall try to accommodate those interested in teaching as an adjunct at some point after advancing to candidacy as long as this won't significantly slow up progress toward the dissertation, but we are really limited in what we can offer you. But we do understand its importance and we want you to know that we care about this aspect of your graduate education.
I hope this will be the beginning of the discussion, and I look forward to helping out in any way that I can. By all means, gather the data that you can and we can present options and possibilities that may only be possible in some later budgetary environment but that would be well worth consideration.
We may also take advantage, if you like, of one of the "unscheduled" weeks of colloquium to have a broader discussion of this.
Steven A. Barnes
Ph.D. Director in History
Department of History and Art History
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
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----- Original Message -----
From: Maureen Connors <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Friday, October 16, 2009 6:52 pm
Subject: Re: Some ideas/concerns
> Hello All,
> I too would like teaching experience and find it interesting that
> the department is so concerned about people reaching candidacy and
> yet do not provide the opportunity (at least for those of us
> interested) to teach and develop the skills necessary to enter a
> very competitive job market. I would think that increasing the
> chances for students in acquiring teaching positions at other
> institutions would be even more valuable in building a name for
> Mason's history program.
> My fiance is a first year PhD student at West Virginia University
> where he is leading two sections of recitation. Next year he will
> be teaching his own course. They also have a post-doc program,
> which we also don't have.
> I think that it's disappointing that PhD students are not teaching
> 100 level courses at Mason. I can't imagine it would be more
> expensive to hire 1, 2, or even 3 PhD students from our
> department, have them each teach one of these courses, and replace
> the function that these outside adjuncts serve. Are these full-
> time non-tenure track adjuncts? If not, and they are payed per
> course, then all the more reason to hire PhD students from within
> the program. Admittedly, I have not had the chance to be a TA,
> but grading quizzes and exams is hardly the kind of job experience
> that I would like to have before entering the job market.
> My undergraduate institution, The University of Montana, required
> that their graduate students take on recitation sections for the
> 100 level courses. This was not just in the history department,
> but was college wide. UM is also half the size of Mason in terms
> of student body, funding, etc. So I come from that sort of
> background and find it frustrating that our options are more
> limited at Mason.
> I am in favor of going through whatever channels we need to in
> making teaching opportunities an option to PhD students.
> Maureen Connors
> --- On Fri, 10/16/09, Jenny Reeder <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > From: Jenny Reeder <[log in to unmask]>
> > Subject: Some ideas/concerns
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Date: Friday, October 16, 2009, 4:25 PM
> > Hello, friends,
> > In talking with a few of you, I've been able to formulate
> > my thoughts about some concerns with our program that I
> > thought I would raise here. I'd love your feedback--do you
> > have similar concerns? and what do you think we can do to
> > make some good changes?
> > How do you all feel about teaching experience? Is it
> > important to you? Do you feel like we have opportunities
> > here to make ourselves marketable for tenure-track positions
> > after graduation? Do you think we should be able to teach
> > lower-level courses, like History 100? Or even courses that
> > fit our specific interest areas?
> > I'm TAing for History 100 this semester, and the
> > opportunity has given me an entirely different view of
> > possibilities (I've been working at CHNM for the previous 3
> > years). While it's kind of a pain to grade, I appreciate the
> > experience. Now, though, I want teaching experience. Is
> > there a reason why we can't teach Western Civ? Or American
> > survey courses? It seems like it would actually save the
> > university money from hiring adjuncts, plus provide more
> > support to PhD students, plus make us more marketable for
> > tenure-track positions after graduation. I know some of you
> > lead recitations, but aren't there only two of you (Steve
> > & Nona)? Can more people do that? And is anybody
> > (besides Jeremy with Clio 2) teaching? Or can we only teach
> > outside GMU?
> > What say you all?
> > Jenny