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PhD student working as a substitute teacher | interview tips

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Sam Curran


( 4 months ago )

Our university is looking for a substitute teacher in Computer Science and I have an interview for the job this week.

My academic profile is making me a little bit nervous and makes me think that I might not be suitable for the job: I have a License degree in Mathematics and a Master Degree in Computer Security. Now, I'm a 2nd year Phd student in Computer Security and AI.

Keep in mind, I am really really used to reading and learning new domains, and diving in the details of each subject, and I am planning to defend my profile using this argument.

So my question is: What are the skills that a Phd student should have to work as a substitute teacher? Knowing that this Phd Student's skill set is a little bit narrow and the potential SA will teach in more general areas.

PS: I am pretty aware that Computer Security is present pretty much in every field of Computer Science (Networking, Web, Programming, etc.). And I am planning to use that to as an argument to nail the interview :).


Nicola Aley


( 4 months ago )

A good question! I would hope that more teachers would care so much as you do.

I understand you will teach undergraduates, I hope my interpretation is correct.

You should first find out what the officially requirements are to teach. This will vary from university to university (the universities I know, for example, didn't care at all - they take every (math) PhD student for every (math) course as long as they speak the local language). No proof of educational or subject-related background was required (just like for the teachers in Harry Potter). Since you are substituting someone, maybe you could ask them? If not, ask at the interview.

Some tips from me: - think about comparable courses you liked. What did your instructors do?

  • are there teaching superstars in your field? Maybe with lecture videos online? Watch them and learn!

  • ask friends which were avarage (academically speaking) about good courses. Many professors/teachers were always great in university and cannot efficiently teach average students. On this very website, I often have the impression that the only thing which matters is to make good courses for the best students. In my opinion, educating the average well is at least as important.

  • Treat every (reasonable) question seriously (especially from freshwomen and freshmen). At least in math, you have to acquire a certain way of thinking which most fresh-students don't have and all instructors have. This often leads to questions from students where it's hard for instructors to understand what the problem is. (For example, to prove that a statement A doesn't hold for a set S, one gives a counterexample - an element s from S which doesn't satisfy A. While this is the most logical thing for instructors, many students do not understand why giving a counterexample is enough.) Some instructors then say things like "This is trivial" which does not help.

  • maybe there is a book about teaching in your subject? If possible, read it.

  • read about your subjects and its connection to the real world. if you follow a boring-written book which has a no motivations and does not explain why things are important (many recensions of such books unfortunately say that they are didactiacclly well written), provide these. Even of you don't find real-world-life examples important, many students will. Provide them.

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