June 29, 2011
So, I write this post sitting on my back deck, smelling the perfume of the petunias that grace my backyard and listening to the cooing of a lone mourning dove and the chatter of various other song birds. It is late June and it is one of the first ‘real’ summer days (80 degrees and a bit humid). I LOVE summer, I practically live outside during this season sipping coffee on my deck in the morning, tending my flower and vegetable gardens, and generally just ‘putzing’ around. For me it is strange to be inside, when I was a child I was the same way. Thanks Ma for forcing us out of your hair to play in the yard!
Many people see teachers (college professors included) as having the luxury of not having to work in the summer, and indeed this may be way some people go into these occupations. However, I would like to perhaps dispel a myth…not because I have been recently challenged by it, but I think it might be interesting for some folks. In reality, us teachers do work, and often quite hard, in the summer time. I will be focusing on the life of a college professor for this post, but I am sure this is true for my K-12 counterparts.
I have thought about this issue quite a bit recently. I have had time to relax and to enjoy my pleasures during the summer, but when I think on my day, I am often surprised at how much I am actually doing. The thing is, my busyness takes on a different composition during the summer than it does during the regular school year. Here is a typical school-year day: Go to office, check e-mails and other forms of electronic communication (sigh…yes FB and Twitter), respond to e-mails, begin prep for that day’s classes (do I have my notes in order, materials for any activities – copies of handouts, worksheets, tests, etc.), student drops in with questions, teach said classes, continue working on prepping for a new course I have not yet taught of some other course I am overhauling (really a never ending job), student comes in to chat, check e-mail, respond to e-mail, work on committee work, student drops in to ask question and to chat, grade assignments, think about the research/writing I should be working on while grading assignments, CRAP! I forgot to re-read the article I’ll be discussing tomorrow, search office fervently for article I’ll be discussing in tomorrow’s class, read article, meet with student for their research, committee meeting, go home, make dinner, grade, watch Daily Show and Colbert, go to bed intending to go to sleep but mind continues to keep racing about all of the stuff to do tomorrow. Repeat.
Please keep in mind this is a typical day, a hectic/crazy day is much more busy!
Here is my summer busyness: Check e-mail and other forms of electronic communication (yes…again FB and Twitter) see the 30 e-mails telling me that I have assignments to grade for my online course, respond to student problems and issues concerning technology for online course, grade worksheets/assignments/etc for online course (average 2-3 hours a day), deal with the home ‘project-of-the-day (repairs, yardwork, gardening, upkeep, etc), read several journal articles/book chapters for research project, THINK about what I have just read and what that means for my research, force myself into my writing for my various professional interests (book revision, article outlines, articles, etc) and THINKING takes a lot of time, get exercise in because I know I’ll slip again during the school year, prep for fall courses (new preps or course overhauls…remember I said this was never ending), THINK and make plans for committee work to be done during the next school year, READ FOR FUN!
Ok, so I’m probably less busy in the summer, but really it is a very different kind of busy. My academic year is often scattered in its various busynesses, my attention gets pulled in 5 directions all at once which makes it extremely difficult to do work that requires intense focus (such as research ideas and writing). Summer is my chance to get that focus. I can generally work at my own time, and therefore can do this work during times of day that I am most productive (usually later mornings and evenings).
I also love that my job allows for a time to de-compress. I have time to engage in the things I love – being outdoors and reading. I think it is healthy and if I did not have a job that had this type of consistent ‘end date’ I may not enjoy my occupation as much. It is nice to know that each semester will come to an end, each school year comes to an end. You stop, recalibrate, and hopefully refocus. This is my experience anyway. I still come to the beginning of the school year excited, refreshed, and ready to start. I wonder if I would feel the same if I did not have these ‘breaks.’