Comment Spotlight: Working on the Chain Gang (Not)

by NRO Staff

From commenter Beth:


I’m a humanities professor — English. I suppose there must be “lazy” professors out there somewhere. None of the ones I sat under in college, at any level, were.

As for me (and my colleagues have similar lives) — my summer “break” (unpaid, of course; I’m on a 9-month contract) has consisted of regular and unremitting preparation for the fall semester; even when I visited my recently widowed mother for 3 weeks, I was reading books for and beginning to structure my new course, as well as working on a curriculum project for our adjunct/new instructors. The rest of the summer has been more curriculum work (writing and editing), helping the fall thesis students jump-start their projects, answering emails about the program from current and prospective students, and working out fall scheduling problems. My one week without working at all was the week of my granddaughter’s funeral — a real vacation, that.

Classes start in two weeks and I have had exactly three work days when I haven’t been on campus (no air-conditioning so I worked from home; even the couple of those days we left town for a few hours I also worked for a few hours after getting home). I have spent weekend time working, as well.

True — because I don’t have to be in classes, I get to sleep in and work on my own schedule, so I haven’t worked 8 hours every work day, but I’ve certainly worked at a very minimum full work-weeks all summer — for free. When classes start, it won’t be *less* time-consuming, even though I’m fortunate, for the first time in my career, to have 4 upper-level classes instead of at least 2 freshman classes. Still, all of them are writing intensive, and upper-level students often desire a great deal of one’s time because they understand the stakes and love the work.

Writing? Well, I am getting a sabbatical this spring semester — my first in all my 23 years of full-time teaching — and I hope I can maybe get a draft of a book completed, based on the bits and pieces I’ve been able to scratch out over the years.

Yes, I’m sure there are lazy profs out there who lecture every class period from old yellowed notes and don’t care about and are not available to their students, who give most of their time to their own research and writing without drawing students into these (I consider working with students on research to be a great learning opportunity, which should not be seen as valueless). I just haven’t ever met any, at the state, regional, or private institutions where I’ve taught. The ones I know who are being published are simply extremely energetic and focused.

I don’t believe my story is especially out of the ordinary, not among the academics I know from a variety of institutions. How many classes one teaches is not an essential indication of the amount of genuine and helpful teaching that is occurring.

Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.