What I Do Each Week

To the casual observer, academia looks like the sweetest gig. I mean, we get summers off, we don't have to punch a clock from 8-6 each day, we get to do what we want most of the time, and plus, we get paid for living the life of the mind.

All of these things are true. And amazing. But, the down side is that academia is brutally demanding. As a professory you are a writer, a researcher, a counselor, an administrator, an office clerk, and an actor in a one-man show, that you wrote, directed, produced, and stage managed that performs 3-4 times a day.

In view of how completely strung out I am as I am sitting here today in the office trying to write a lecture for tomorrow, I've decided to post a log of my activities in past week. With a few exceptions, this is pretty much a typical week in the life of a commuting first-year professor during a 3-course load semester.

Sunday, 1/22

8:00 a.m. Woke Up. Showered, had breakfast, packed up my books and files.
10:00 a.m. Drove to colleague's house, picked up colleague
11:00 a.m. Arrived on campus.
11:00-6:00 p.m. : 1. Wrote lecture#1 = 15 pages. 2. Developed PowerPoint presentation to accompany lecture #1, 14 slides, 3. Graded 5 papers, 4. Read 50 pages.
6:00 p.m.: Dinner with colleagues and job candidate
8:30 p.m.: Drove colleague home, returned to hometown.
10:00 p.m. arrived home. Continued writing lecture.
1:30 a.m. Went to sleep

Monday, 1/23

6:20 a.m.: Woke up
7:30 a.m.: Left for Campus
8:30 a.m.: Arrived on campus, met with students, served tea and hot chocolate, before they left to meet with candidate.
9:00 -11:15 a.m.: Finished writing lecture#1 , rehearsed Lecture #2 (previously written), graded 5 more papers.
11:15 - 1:15p.m.: Gave 2 lectures, answered questions, soothed concerns.
1:15-2:00p.m.: Ate lunch at desk while organizing class material for next time.
2:00-4:15 p.m.: Prepped for class on Wednesday = 1. Reading 100 pages, 2. Graded 1 paper, 3. Made 2 3 page handouts, 4. Held office hours, 5. Sent 6 email replies to students with questions
4:30 - 6:00 p.m.: Went to Candidate Job Talk.
6:00 -8:30 p.m.: Ate dinner with colleagues and candidate
8:30 -9:30 p.m.: Drove Home
9:30 p.m. -10:00 p.m.: Saw Spousal Unit.
10:00 p.m.: Fell asleep

Tuesday, 1/24

7:30-8:30 a.m.: Showered, dressed, got ready for work. Packed up books and papers and lecture.
9:30 a.m.: arrived on campus.
9:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.: 1. Wrote lecture #3, 2. Read 200 pages, 3. Planned discussion on said pages, including 1 intensive document activity, 4. Consulted constantly with colleagues about job candidate, 5. Graded 5 papers, 6. Talked to high school teacher on phone with questions, 7. Emailed student questions, 8. Posted documents to course website.
7:30 p.m.: Drove home.
8:30 p.m.: Grocery Shopped - out of milk, eggs, vegetables.
9:00 p.m.: Ate dinner.
10:00 p.m.- 12:00 a.m: Resumed writing lecture # 3, with PowerPoint accompanyment - 15 slides + images
12:00 a.m.: Fell asleep.

5:30 a.m.: Alarm Rings
6:00 a.m.-7:30 a.m.: Graded 25 short papers.
7:30 -8:30 a.m.: Got ready, packed up papers and lecture #3
9:30 a.m.: Arrived on campus
9:30 -10:30 a,m: Graded 15 short papers
10:30-11:15a.m.: Finished lecture #3, wrote 2 assignments, 1 handout, xeroxed.
11:15-1:15 p.m.: Led discussion, gave a lecture, handed back 45 papers. Met with students after class, answered questions.
1:15-3:00 p.m.: Read 100 pages for next class, prepped discussion, wrote reading guide handout, xeroxed. Oh, and ate lunch.
3:00 - 4:30 pm.: Taught class
4:30 -5:00 p.m.: Met with student about possible lecture in Fraternity.
5:00 -7:30 p.m.: Organized class material, organized next set of tasks for Friday's classes.
7:30 -8:30 p.m.: Drove home
8:30 p.m.: Dinner with Spousal Unit
10:00 p.m. Bed

8:00 a.m.: Wake up. Utterly exhausted. Fell back asleep.
10:00 a.m.: Decide not to go to gym
11:00 a.m. Move to couch, start reading for Friday's class.
12:00 - 6:00 p.m.: 1. Read 300 pages, 2. prepared 3 discussions. 3. Wrote 2 handouts.
6:00 -7:00 p.m.: Cooked dinner for Spousal Unit
6:15 p.m.: Phone call from student with question about assignment.
7:00 p.m.: Dinner with Spousal Unit
6-10 p.m.: First downtime of the week. Rest, watch Veronica Mars on DVD.

6:30 a.m.: Wake up.
7:30 a.m.: Leave for campus
8:30 a.m.: Arrived on campus
8:30 -11:15a.m.: Emailed, prepped for discussion.
11:15-1:15 p.m.: Led discussion, met with students after class, answered questions.
1:15-3:00 p.m.: Read 100 pages for next class, prepped discussion, ate lunch at desk.
3:00 - 4:30 pm.: Taught class
5:30 -6:30 p.m.: Drove home
6:30 p.m.: Dinner with Spousal Unit & Friends out.
10:00 p.m. Bed

See yesterday's post

7:00 a.m.: Woke up.
9:00 a.m.: Left house. Got gas, dropped Spousal Unit off at Big Science Thingey, got breakfast to eat in the car.
9:30 a.m.: Left for campus
10:30 a.m.: Arrived on Campus
10:30 -4:00 p.m.: Organized all handouts for 1 class for next week. Reviewed next week's lecture #1, started planning lecture #2.

And so, here we are...

All told, last week I read roughly 300-some pages (not all that much, really), prepared 3 lectures = writing 45 pages, plus about 45 slides, graded 50 something papers, prepared numerous discussions, at least 5 handouts/assignments (10 pages). I spent 6 days of the week in my office, most days past 7 p.m. Add to all this the fact that I drove for 12 hours driving time, clocking a grand total of 720 miles.

I'm exhausted. And I can't seem to get caught up. I'm not communicating with my friends, I'm dropping the ball with my family -- both of groups of whom have indicated to me in one way or another over the past few months that I am neglecting them at unacceptable levels. I'm defintely neglecting my marriage at unacceptable levels. I see more of the student who is taking 2 of my classes than I do my husband. My car smells like burning nastiness - which the mechanic has looked at 3 times and can't find anything wrong, my plants are all dying, there's orange mold growing on my bathroom sink, the only meal I ate at a real table was the one we had out last night, I've found my first (and fourth, and eighth, and tenth) gray hair, and I'm wearing yesterdays underwear. (Sorry, got stuck in that little rant and couldn't seem to get out.)

I know I'm getting some down time, (Thursday & yesterday) but it's not enough. It's just not enough. I don't want to complain, because I know so many people who work so hard at what they do (and do it with more repsonsibilities than I have), but I don't know how to do this and still maintain 1. my relationships, 2. my sanity, and 3. my job.

So, right now I'm going to take a deep breath, return to writing lecture #3, try to drive home without hitting any wildlife (last week it was a near miss with a squirrell), and hope that loved ones will hang in there with me until that someday arrives when I get caught up, can breathe again, and only have a little bitty dissertation to write.

(Spell-check is down, sorry. I also don't have time to manually spellcheck my blog posts. Woe is me. :) )


At 8:03 AM Kevin said...

So now you see that even the "life of the mind" involves responsibility and does not necessarily mean complete freedom. Well, welcome to the real world. I teach high school history and maintain a fairly active publishing life. It's not easy. All the same, you guys still have it pretty good.

At 9:21 AM Stewgad said...


Thanks for your comments.

As a college professor, I am aware that I absolutely have the best job in the world. I would not ever dispute that. I love my job, don't get me wrong. And while I was wallowing a bit last night, after a particularly difficult week and a conversation with some family members who felt like I was dropping the ball on my relationships, I didn't mean to imply that my life was harder than anyone else's life. I was just feeling bad and used the blog as a way of trying to understand why I was feeling bad. Clocking what I do helped me to understand why I was so tired and burnt out after only 2 weeks in the semester.

My post wasn't meant to take a "I work harder than you do" kind of attitude, and in fact, I have often wondered how people in other jobs manage it. High school teachers do everything that I do, and they do it all day with kids who don't usually want to be there. My brother goes to work every day and spends all day talking to people on the phone who are angry, pissed at his company, and wanting immediate solutions to their problems. I couldn't do it. My sister-in-law teaches music to underpriveleged children, works a part-time job all night stocking a well-known natural bulk foods store, and still finds time to perform professionally as a singer. I definitely couldn't do that. My mother spends all day negotiating solutions for some of the most difficult problems our culture dishes out. It's amazing. Not to mention all of the folk out there who work day after day at physically demanding low-paying jobs while supporting families and their communities.

Again, I wasn't trying to play a game of one-upmanship. Believe me, I am aware of how lucky I am, and I certainly welcome the responsibilities that come with my position. I was just tired and sad and a little upset and overwhelmed. It happens to those of us in the real world. But, part of being in the real world is, I think, acknowledging when things are tough. Otherwise, we can never know anything real about each other.


At 11:14 AM suz said...

Thank you for the view of your week. I agree with you that sharing even what is tough is important if we are to know each other. You have a lot to juggle; juggling is a skill that gets easier with practice, so I am sure you won't stay this pressured forever.

Hang in there for the short term, breathe deeply, smile, know you are doing well and you have lots of fans. Wish I could send you a weekend on the beach! Suz

At 1:06 PM Kevin said...

And I didn't mean to put you on the defensive. I still sometimes think about going for the Ph.D so I would have more time for research. Of course I would have to go back to school again, take a pay-cut, and probably teach inferior students.

At 2:35 PM Scrivener said...

Yep, that looks like a fairly normal week, at least for the beginning of the job. Like I said the other day, many aspects of the job do get easier. Or at least, you learn how to cut corners on the work in ways that won't get you into trouble.

THe working world, most of it from what I can see, is simply utterly inhuman. I don't think it is just pie-in-the-sky nostalgia to say that it was not like this before. The fact that you can list a week like that and anyone could come in and tell you that you've got it easy? It tells me that our society has jumped teh shark.

At 3:49 PM Scrivener said...

By the way, spell check, shmell check.

At 9:42 PM What Now? said...

I'm going to chime in with Scrivener on the learning-how-to-cut-corners option, especially on class prep. In the first year or so, extensive class prep is inevitable, so hang in there. And you'll have all of those PowerPoint presentations already done for future terms. But it might be worth thinking about whether you really need such mapped-out lectures and PowerPoint presentations for every class, especially if they take a lot of time to prepare. Or is it possible to do class prep while curled up on the couch next to Spousal Unit?

At 11:37 PM New Kid on the Hallway said...

I was thinking of what WN said... is it possible to reduce the number of lectures/PPTs? Prepping discussion is certainly time-consuming, but not nearly as bad as writing full-blown lectures, and students still get a huge amount out of it. (But I have no idea what your teaching context really is, so please don't think I'm saying "you lecture too much!") Or possibly write less-detailed lectures? (I know I don't write anything like 15 pp per lecture - more like 5-7...but again, it depends on what length your classes are. And your own style. I know that LDH used to rewrite ALL his lectures each time he delivered them, AND he wrote them all in complete sentences - which, once he got going, he completely ignored. And by now I've done some of these lectures often enough that I really don't need notes, which takes a little while with new preps. So again, this isn't meant to sound critical!)

Oh, and I'm also impressed you're getting students to read 100 pp. per class! Mine would find this too much (unless it's a very general audience-y easy read). But for future reference: if you assign less, you prep less... (and I used to feel like assigning huge amounts of reading was the only way to be pedagogically responsible, but have really changed my mind about that...although again, that may just be a function of where I am now and the setup here, rather than anything else.)

Anyway, I hope you've managed to get a little more sleep/downtime!

At 12:28 PM Scrivener said...

That week took so much outta you that no Saturday update this time, huh?

At 7:13 PM Wanna Be PhD said...

what about going by train instead of car? you could do your reading in the train.

At 11:40 AM Stewgad said...

Thanks all for your advice and warm wishes!
(oh, Wanna - how I wish there was a train! My commute is so rural, there are barely roads, let alone a train. I drive a two-lane twisty tiny local road that stops for geese and tractors.)

For the past few weeks, I've been going in on Sunday and just devoting the whole time to planning out the week -- making all the handouts, organizing all the activities, etc. It has made all the difference! This past couple of weeks was SO much easier. I even got some down time, and was able to hang out with friends this week. So, I think I'm figuring out how to manage it all much better then when I was on the point of mental breakdown last week!

(And, NK -- I have cut way back on lectures -- I realized that I didn't need them in my seminar-like course, so that helps a lot.)

I'll post a new post at the end of the day today on my Paper progress...

At 3:20 AM Sfrajett said...

Come back to us stewgad. We miss you. I picture you under a pile of bad essays, trying to dig your way out. Come back!

At 9:06 AM Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

A wise grad prof told me once that work will fill the time allowed. I'm in about my 7th year teaching, and I agree that even when you chage textbooks and adjust the syllabus as necessary, the detailed lecture planning isn't as necessary for me.

I tend to create power points as outlines and speaking prompts for myself. I used to do detailed reading notes, then I realized that bringing the texts is much more efficient... a few post-it notes for key areas and a printiout of the powerpoint slides (so you can regulate your time).

Also, the pedagogical trend is toward "active" learning, perhaps there is some part of your course you could set-up as student lead presentations? I did it last semester as a survival technique for the end of the semester and they loved it.

At 3:37 PM Norma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  
At 8:18 PM Scrivener said...

At least this time it was Sfrajett, not me, wondering where you're off to.

At 5:29 AM Hiding Pup said...

When I approached my dissertator on advice for how to approach my first lecture, she said there were, essentially, two ways of doing it. You could write it out in 15 pages; or you could write it on the back of a postcard and deliver it from there. With all the wisdom of Gandalf, she asked me to choose, and to choose wisely, whether I'd want, for the rest of my life, to be a postcard lecturer or a 15p lecturer. Well, there was no contest: a postcard takes far less time to write!

On a more practical side, if Powerpoint slides are taking a long time, get a friend with a recent Apple Mac to show you the powers of the new Keynote presentation software that bundles with iWork.


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