Sometimes I wonder the same thing. As I proceeded to pack up my things after class, a few of my students stopped to speak about their projects. At first, a smile slowly crossed my face as I responded to their inquiries. That smile led to a low chuckle as I finished with them. Considering the scene, my thoughts drifted to the last few days as a research and grant assistant at my undergraduate institution. While cleaning my office in preparation of my return to New York for graduate school, my former boss and mentor stopped in and passed on these inspirational words..... You know, now that I think about it, it's rather frightening that you'll be let loose on impressionable young minds. After staring at him for a moment, we both burst out laughing because we understood who I am. This strange blend of disciplinarian and maverick with this clear set of ideas, beliefs and perspectives which sometimes present an unusual challenge for some people when publicly displayed.
Teaching fellowships provide some distinctive opportunities in terms of financial aid support, development of a teaching portfolio and associated experience for future academics and part-time or adjunct faculty positions as part of non-academic careers. As a source of financial aid, these fellowships can provide assistance in two ways, depending on the university's internal guidelines. Fellowships can be constructed to provide tuition relief for the student. The academic institution could apply the fellowship funds in such a way as to forgive some percentage of your tuition. This agreement could be viewed as a form of quid pro quo in the provision of an additional undergraduate course in exchange for the tuition credit. In another arrangement, you could receive a salary which can be applied to tuition or other costs for which you are accountable.
Preparation for a teaching career as an academic or part-time faculty can have its beginnings in teaching fellowships. Part of this process is the creation of a teaching portfolio which can include a variety of materials that delineate your teaching philosophy, statements of responsibilities for the various courses with demographics, teaching methods, course syllabi, instructional improvements and its subsequent efficacy to name just a few. Classroom experience provides the opportunity to develop your own teaching style as well as effective techniques for dealing with the multiplicity of student personalities. As you gain more extensive teaching experience, it provides a more complete picture about your talents and accomplishments to potentials employers.
Those things that one learns as a teaching fellow may also serve as an avenue for part-time teaching positions while your main career focus is in the non-academic realm. Though non-academic careers are available and reasonably remunerated, some may want or need to have another source of income. Generally, the pay of adjunct faculty is determined by the number of courses that are taught. So dependent on desire, need and/or availability, you can supplement your other income through this avenue. Others may want to keep some more far-reaching connection to the academic community. As part-time or adjunct faculty at an academic institution, you can maintain such a connection to colleagues and their research. Additionally, it may present an opportunity to work with the next generation of researchers and pass on your knowledge in areas that students might not necessarily be exposed.
My experiences over the last year in preparation and execution of two sections of an undergraduate psychology course have afforded a great experience to work with some very talented students who want to be the next generation of psychologists. They challenged me. They were passionate about their ideas. Everything that my former mentor and I laughed about came to pass. They let me loose on impressionable young minds. Hopefully, this disciplined maverick has served them well.