The English Department supports its students with a required teaching practicum, opportunities for teaching in the third and subsequent years, and workshops in publications and professional development designed to assist the teacher, the researcher, and the job-seeker (all of whom are the same person).
The Teaching Practicum
The Practicum—officially called The Teaching of English (ENGL 990)—meets once a week, like an ordinary graduate seminar, with weekly reading assignments such as articles on pedagogy and literary works to be discussed in terms of teachability. Discussion topics include strategies for teaching different genres, generating and sustaining discussion, lecturing and TF’ing, and responding to student writing. Assignments commonly range from group presentations on teaching strategies to the delivery of a mock lecture and the development of a complete syllabus. In addition, all Practicum students observe introductory English courses during the semester—usually dividing their time between one course focused on writing, and one focused on literature. In each course, they teach at least one class, help with grading at least one set of papers, and take on other tasks by agreement with the course leader. The Practicum is offered every year and is taken by students in their second year.
Under ordinary circumstances, an English doctoral student will be appointed as a Teaching Fellow (TF) for one course in each of two semesters in the third year, when the teaching stipend will replace the University Fellowship stipend. TFs attend the professor’s twice-weekly lectures, lead a fifty-minute discussion section once a week, comment on and grade student papers and exams, meet with students as necessary, and generally contribute to the course in whatever ways the professor requests (such as by meeting after lecture to discuss the course and by helping to design paper topics or exam questions).
The English department makes every effort to assign students, in their first year of teaching, at least one semester teaching a course in their period or area. However, breadth of teaching experience is valuable, and assignments may be made to an out-of-field course.
Part-Time Acting Instructor
The English department offers its graduate students the opportunity to teach their own courses in a supportive environment—experience that is extremely valuable on the job market—via appointments as Part-Time Acting Instructors (PTAIs). Most PTAIs are students in the fourth year and above who have already TF’ed. Each PTAI leads a seminar of one of the following courses, more complete descriptions of which can be found at English Courses: 114 (academic writing), 115 (introduction to literary study), 120 (essay writing), 129 (tragedy), 130 (epic). Some of these courses have a set syllabus, while others involve considerable creativity on the PTAI’s part. All courses are coordinated by a faculty member, who advises the teachers in staff meetings and is available for consultation.
Associates in Teaching
The Associates in Teaching (AT) Program, run through the Graduate School and the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, allows graduate students to co-lead a seminar course with a faculty member. This is a wonderful opportunity to have greater control over course structure and content as well as to let a faculty member get to know you as a teacher, which can prove useful for letters of recommendation down the road. Selection for this program is competitive because limited AT spots are available across the whole of the Graduate School. The application tends to be an involved process, so it is wise to start thinking about this option early if you’re interested. More information is available from CTL.
The College Seminar Program sponsors fourteen courses per term that are individually designed by the course leaders. Visit College Seminars for complete information about the seminars and the application process. The deadline for applications is the Friday before the previous semester’s classes begin, and applications must include a variety of supporting materials. Graduate students who teach College Seminars are compensated at the PTAI level.
One unusual opportunity to teach at Yale is as a tutor for the undergraduate course in creative writing called Daily Themes (ENGL 450). Everyone attends a weekly lecture on a particular topic, after which the students each write five short pieces relating to that topic. Each week, tutors reads the writings of a small group of students and meet with each person for an average of half an hour to talk informally about the student’s week’s work. As the semester progresses, a tutor may choose to hold a workshop with all of their students at once instead of meeting with each one individually. Tutoring for Daily Themes takes the place of a TF or PTAI assignment in teaching years. Competition for the position varies depending on the year and the number of interested students. Students who have taught Daily Themes say that it’s time-consuming but rewarding.
Yale Summer and Special Programs
Yale offers undergraduate-level literature and writing courses through its Summer and Special Programs division as well as courses in English for international students through the English Language Institute (ELI). For the latter, prior experience with ESL teaching is desirable but not required, and some training is available. Although these opportunities are rare, upper-year English graduate students are eligible to apply to teach in either program. Students who are ABD (who have completed all but dissertation) can apply to teach Summer Session courses in English 114 (academic writing), 120 (essay writing), and sometimes in upper-level seminars. Assignments are made on the recommendation of the English Department’s DUS, whom you should contact in the late portion of the fall semester. For more information about summer courses and teaching opportunities see Yale Summer and Special Programs, or consult with the DUS.