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Textual Collaborations: Preparing Two-Year College English Faculty

This post is written by members Holly Hassel and Kelly Ritter.

Since two-year colleges have developed an independent identity as sites of education, professional organizations have sought to define the specific type of knowledge and training that leads to successful outcomes for instructors in these settings. The first Guidelines for Junior College English Teacher Training Programs were published in 1971, while the “Guidelines for the Academic Preparation of English Faculty in Two-Year Colleges” were first approved by the TYCA Executive Committee in 2004 (Jensen and Toth 561). Each of these documents sought to distinguish what educational preparation best prepared instructors to work in two-year colleges.

In 2017, updated guidelines appear in both College English and Teaching English in the Two-Year College. Why both publications? They will help those who are hiring instructors and want guidance in evaluating credentials or those working toward developing internal professional development programs. The new document, “TYCA Guidelines for Preparing Teachers of English in the Two-Year College” also engages graduate programs and faculty in the conversation in ways that prior statements did not.

With the rapid collapse of tenure-track lines in English departments nationwide, graduate program directors (and other graduate faculty members who mentor candidates) have slowly come to realize that faculty positions outside the idealized R1 campus are what their students will likely hold. More slowly still, arguably, these advisors have come to realize the value of making positions at two-year colleges visible. But the traditional graduate program does very little to train students for this work. As Kelly considered these professional realities, she concluded that publishing the updated guidelines in College English not only makes (more) visible the history and value of training and expertise among two-year college faculty; it also lays bare the chasm that has long existed between graduate program training in English, particularly literary studies, and the work done at two-year colleges nationwide. As editor of CE, Kelly wanted to make this division known to readers. But perhaps more important than exposing this lack of training and calling for a renewed interest in preparing graduate students for two-year college work, Kelly wanted to make a larger statement about who reads our journals and why. The cooperative relationship between TETYC and CE (and CCC) has always been a strength of those journals; creating more dialogue between these audiences–and a more openly welcoming gesture toward the two-year audience to indeed find itself in the pages of CE is part of making that larger statement.

For Holly, the publication of the guidelines is both a responsibility of the journal and an opportunity to contribute to the growing body of literature on how graduate education in English MA and PhD programs can evolve to meet the needs of this time and place in higher education. Anchoring the September 2017 issue of Teaching English in the Two-Year College (a special issue focused on graduate preparation for two-year college English teachers), then, the new guidelines are poised to speak to audiences across the range of college English, writing, and humanities programs. The 2004 guidelines outline areas of formal preparation (for example, literature, grammar, composition theory and pedagogy, rhetoric and rhetorical theory, research methods, the adult learner, and teaching reading) and characteristics of effective two-year college faculty—being reflective, flexible, and understanding of diversity; participating in professional communities; collaborating with colleagues; and creating a student-centered learning environment. By contrast, the most recent “Guidelines for Preparation” more squarely calls on graduate programs to partner explicitly and in spirit with two-year college institutions in preparing instructors to work in open-admissions institutions.

In this way, the new statement is a road map for teacher-scholars in all sectors of higher education to recognize and make visible the specific conditions of two-year colleges as sites of employment, to highlight their value as potential employers of MA- or PhD-holding graduates in English programs, and to adjust their programs in curricular and professional work that will prepare their students to be educators who participate in the various organizations within the profession and engage in ongoing development throughout their careers.

What has further inspired College English and Teaching English in the Two-Year College to highlight these new guidelines statements, however, is the imperative for the field of English studies itself to come to terms with some critical realities:

  • The definition of academic labor is shifting; the very shape of the labor force itself has dramatically evolved, as readers know, with anywhere from 60% to 80% non-tenure-track faculty among its ranks, depending upon which figure from any number of studies that one wishes to use.
  • Two-year colleges, like four-year colleges and universities, operate under significant reliance upon non-tenure-track labor; four-year institutions have recently become more cognizant of this labor force and thus should (in our view) see less separation from our two-year colleagues, not more.
  • Additionally, the concerns of four-year faculty—student agency, curricular development, revision, and innovation, shared governance, intellectual freedom, fair working conditions, cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity, to name just a few—are also the concerns of two-year faculty.

It’s impossible to know whether this partnership between us as journal editors and the two issues will bear fruit. Reading audiences are funny things—they appear and recede, they celebrate, they criticize, they evolve. At any one time a reader might be picking up both the CE and TETYC issues and connecting the dots. Or it might be a historian, some years down the road, who pulls each of our issues out of the (probably electronic) archive and says, Hey, what’s this? Part of providing this annotation, this exegesis, regarding our collaborative work is to anticipate that future moment and provide a narrative for it.

But writing here, as we have, is also a way to talk through and to readers of the present, to challenge all of us to ask what kind of relationships can and should exist between two-year and four-year faculty, programs, and professional development? Who do we want our future faculty to be, and how do we want them to enter a story that has long had many tellers with sometimes competing agendas? We can’t answer these questions for all of us, but perhaps knitting the history and purposes of TYCA into the fabric of CE is a place to start.

Works Cited

Calhoon-Dillahunt, Carolyn, Darin L. Jensen, Sarah Z. Johnson, Howard Tinberg, and Christie Toth. TYCA Guidelines for Preparing Teachers of English in the Two-Year College. College English. Vol. 79, no. 6, July 2017, 550–60.

Jensen, Darin L.,  and Christie Toth. “Unknown Knowns: The Past, Present, and Future of Graduate Preparation for Two-Year College English Faculty.” College English, vol. 79, no. 6, July 2017, 561–92.

“TYCA Guidelines for Preparing Teachers of English in the Two-Year College,” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, vol. 45, no. 1, Sept 2017, pp. 8–19.

TYCA. “Guidelines for the Academic Preparation of English Faculty at Two-Year Colleges.” Two-Year College English Association. 2004. http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Groups/TYCA/TYCAGuidelines.pdf.

 


 

Holly Hassel is a professor of English and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County, a two-year college. Twitter: @prof_hassel

 

 

 

 

 

 Kelly Ritter is Associate Dean for Curricula and Academic Policy and professor of English and Writing Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.