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I'm writing a teaching statement for a cs/mathematics teaching position. I start the statement with a section "Personal Background" in which I simply say that both my parents and brothers are involved in teaching in one way or another and that makes me encourage different students to find their own learning methodologies.

The idea I wanted to convey was that I believe that no matter the specialization, a student can reach as far as they wish if they use the right methodology. However, a colleague reviewed the statement and mentioned that part was weird to him.

Question: is it ok to give personal background such as this in a teaching statement?

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    I don't really understand what "both my parents and brothers are involved in teaching in one way or another" has to do with "that makes me encourage different students to find their own learning methodologies", so in that sense I find it a strange claim to make too. What is the causal relationship supposed to be there? Are people whose family are not teachers known to be less inclined to "encourage different students to find their own learning methodologies"? Jun 26, 2023 at 18:24
  • What level of teaching, what type ot student, what area of subject (programming? knitting?)? (elementary? private-tutoring HS or SAT? college? vocational?) Suggest you spell out the missing link why "[my relatives] are involved in teaching in one way or another" ... "makes me encourage different students to find their own learning methodologies".
    – smci
    Jun 27, 2023 at 4:35
  • @Adam Přenosil: I was mentally formulating a comment similar to your comment as I was reading through the question, then glanced at the comments before beginning my comment and saw your comment. I was going to say something about needing to "connect the dots" regarding this inference because I can easily imagine a situation in which the opposite conclusion is reached when "both my parents and brothers are involved in teaching". Jun 27, 2023 at 11:31
  • Without reading the statement exactly as it is, it's very hard to judge.
    – jdods
    Jul 3, 2023 at 3:38

3 Answers 3

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While, in general, personal experience is fine, even good, I don't think the example you give will help you. It is irrelevant to your own motivation.

And, I think your statement about "finding their own learning methodologies" is actually harmful. My experience (30 plus years) is that students often don't know how to learn and need to be taught how to do it. Too many think that memorization is the key. Many think that cramming for exams is somehow related to "learning". In fact, you job, beyond the technical is to help them find the learning path.

I've had a lot of students that thought they'd learned something simply by listening to my lectures without taking notes.

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    The cited statement is sufficiently general and imprecise that one could also interpret it as in line, in one way or another, with what you write. Consequently my personal belief is that what @user1868607 wrote will neither help nor hurt. It just doesn't say that much. Jun 26, 2023 at 20:23
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    The more notes I take, the more I remember, but the less I understand. There's probably some decent middle-ground (and having the lecture notes helps, because then I can just note some important additions or clarifications, rather than trying to summarise everything that was said).
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 27, 2023 at 14:41
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As with the already-existing good answer, and comments: the question seems to be conflating two things... first, the questioner's personal context, in which teaching is a very honorable, important thing to do with one's life. To mention that is harmless, and possibly a small plus. But it seems to me a non-sequitur to connect this with "encouraging ... students to find their own learning methodologies"... especially as most students are not really competent to make decisions about that. Conceivably re-directing that to something about respecting possible varying "learning styles" ... ?

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Perhaps OK. If you do include it put it at the end not at the beginning, and don't try to connect it to your philosophy or experience.

I wouldn't mind seeing this kind of "teaching is in my blood" comment at the end of a teaching statement, though I don't think it would sway me much.

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