Time, Time, Time

“See what’s become of me…”

Or if you prefer

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day…” (click the link to see the original video from 1973–you won’t be disappointed)

I love the ticking of the clock. Some people find it depressing (see Pink Floyd, above: “The sun is the same in a relative way/But you’re older/ Shorter of breath, and one day closer to death” as it were) but I have always loved listening to it tick. The switchover to the digital age has all but removed the sound of ticking from most people’s lives, but not mine. I’m looking forward to the day I inherit my mother’s c.1875 mantle clock (though not looking forward to the reason for such inheritance). It bongs its way hourly through the day and night–needing winding only once a week, on Sunday.

Speaking of time, and winding-up, I have been thinking a lot about time lately. Following Aeron Haynie’s call for a “Day of Action” on April 2, I have gone somewhat more than just a day in recording what I do. And it has been illuminating on several levels.

For the past several weeks, I have been keeping track in a day planner separated by day and hour, and I have discovered that despite (or because of?) my relatively flexible schedule, my average work week is 47 hours, and consists of 6 working days.Those working hours do not include the commute, which is 30 minutes each way, or 5 additional hours per week (though I really like the drive, because I love Wisconsin farm country).

I have been trying to take at least one full day off a week (often Sunday) because when I don’t, my 41-year old body starts to act up. When there is an uptick in the number of 10-hour-plus days, my back goes “out” (due to a degenerating disc in my lower back, which impinges on the sciatic nerve on the right side of my body). There is an uptick in the number of migraines I suffer (though I know that there are environmental factors involved as well, the fact that stress hormones trigger headaches is well-known and documented).

Then there is the fact that I have two children, ages almost-8 and almost-3 and a half. So when my work day bleeds into my home life (and it does–how can it not?), this is also a problem.  As I write this (while taking a break from grading on a Saturday morning), I can hear my children upstairs throwing a tizzy about something or other. Hubby will fix it. I shudder to think what would happen if Hubby wasn’t here.

This is what the taxpayers of Wisconsin get for their annual $45, 839 (before taxes and pension contributions out of that salary) on a typical day pulled from the last 3 weeks:

Tuesday, 4/17/12

7:45 am: Leave house

8:15 am: Drop Katy off at school

8:25 am: Arrive in office

8:25-8:55 am: Brief prep (made possible by 1 hour worked the previous evening) and email

9:10-10:15 am: ENG 102: Lecture/workshop on how to do an Annotated Bibliography for the research paper; Lecture/workshop on how to use NoodleTools (software program for creating bibliographies)

10:30-11:45 am: Same as above (second section of ENG 102)

11:45-11:55 pm: Scarf down a granola bar

12:00-1:00 pm: Tenure Retention and Promotion committee meeting (prep for which took an hour and a half the previous day)

1:00-2:45 pm: Office Hours: Accelerated/Blended coursework (I’m behind on developing my new course); Prep for poetry in ENG 203/204 (the stacked Creative Writing class I teach on Mon/Wed)

2:45-3:15 pm: Pick up Katy at school and head back to campus; she will have a snack and watch PBS Kids in the faculty lounge up the hallway while I work and feel guilty about it.

3:15-6:00 pm: Reading and prep for the following day’s classes (ENG 285 Literature of Nature and ENG 203/204 Creative Writing). Part of the prep is reading ENG 285 discussions posted on the course learning management system. Another part is finding my favorite Andre Breton poem “Free Union” and coming up with a list-poem assignment for my students to try.

6:30 pm: Arrive home and check non-work email for the first time all day, then get yelled at by Hubby for being on the computer.

So that’s a typical day, though sometimes I do pick Katy up from school and head home if I can bring my work home with me. When I’ve got a lot of copying to do, or work on the LMS, I have to go back to campus.

Notice that I did not mention all of the stuff I did not get to: ordering regalia for graduation; “Sexying up” my course description for the ENG 270 British Lit survey I’m teaching next fall (it’s on monsters and the fantastic in Brit Lit–starting with Beowulf and going through Dracula) to try to convince students to take a course where they actually have to read books, for heaven’s sake; grading the ENG 102 papers that came in the week before. Etc., etc, ad nauseam.

Also, nowhere in there did I have anything about Professional Development. That’s because I would need to clone myself if I were to work on my current project (an article on William Gibson/ a chapbook of nature poems/ the novel I started in January).

This is where I’m forming the basis of my argument that I hope to send to the Chancellor at some point in the near future: If we are to do “less with less,” as he opines, then PD needs to go, or be reduced to just “icing” on the “cake” that is teaching and service. We are a teaching institution, and many of my colleagues do PD related to the scholarship of teaching and learning. That’s fine and dandy, but not really my bag, and the pressure on my tenure-track colleagues to “publish or perish” is ridiculous. I have tenure, so I can let the PD slide if I have to (and I do), but this raises the question: Can you be a good (or dare I say “exceptional”?) teacher without PD? I think so. But many of my colleagues do not. And so they sacrifice personal time to do PD (that’s the only place in a given day that there’s any time “left over” that’s not dedicated to sleeping, eating, and personal care).

I will confess that I am somewhat in awe of my colleagues who work more than I do, if only because I would like the secret of remaining functional on next-to-no sleep. Less than 6 hours for me means that I am a retarded zombie for most of the next day. And I mean “retarded” in the traditional sense of impaired and /or delayed cognitive functioning. Not in the pejorative sense.

So I’m going to keep thinking about this, and I’d appreciate any comments you’d care to make below.

Break’s over. I have 6 more papers to go before I can quit for the day, leaving me the last 7 for tomorrow. But at least I have a boon companion in my slog:


2 thoughts on “Time, Time, Time

  1. Warning. My comment is going to be about as long as your blog post. Sorry. Excellent, excellent, point. Can I give my own perspective on your planned letter to the Chancellor? I’m not trying to change what you’d write, but there’s another side that I feel really strongly about. If it were me, I would modify that argument, actually…I think it isn’t that PD has to go, or be seen as extraneous/superfluous. It’s that we have to have the flexibility to decide HOW to serve the campus/departments. In my opinion and experience, the “service” requirements of the UW Colleges is ridiculous–good in theory, but in actuality, incredibly bloated and resulting in spending HOURS and HOURS in committee meetings that do NOTHING. As for the service that does matter? Well, I’ll talk about that below.

    Me personally? My time is much better spent writing the grants, doing the research with students, and trying to publish this stuff someday. It takes a lot of time and energy–just doing the work (much less traveling to present) is expensive and I have to find creative ways to fund it. It’s also HARD, because I don’t do any PD in my own field anymore, I’ve revamped everything to involve undergraduate students. But, I’ve been able to do that, because it’s something I find rewarding and I have passion for it. I just took seven students to the UW Research Symposium, and it was just about the only good day I’ve had this whole semester. Watching the students present their work was amazing, and brought meaning back to my job. If the Colleges were to tell me that the program I spent all this time building up now didn’t mean as much as teaching and service? Well, I’d be gone so fast, because that would rip out what is left of my academic passion. (I want to say here that this does not mean I value research over teaching. I’ve crafted my research to make me a BETTER teacher, because it relates to my classes, and I use it in my classes extensively)

    Here’s the thing. I don’t think everyone should be like me. I hate doing service, and view it as a necessary evil (with few exceptions), and even the things that are important feel like a chore. But I know there are others who are passionate about service, and are good at it. They should get to focus on that. And there are others who revamp their classes every semester, and offer new classes on a regular basis, and do tons of stuff in their teaching. They should get to focus on that. All of these things that I have mentioned are really “professional development,” in a sense.

    I think the problem in the Colleges is that there isn’t a true division of labors. We aren’t “50% teaching, 25% PD, 25% service” as I’ve heard claimed. We are expected to give 100%, or really 110%, in EVERY area. That’s impossible, unfair, and leads to lower productivity on all accounts.

    Jeez. Sorry for the book, and thanks for reading!

    • No, you are PERFECTLY right!!!

      To use myself as an example: I LOVED being the ESFY coordinator for my campus. During the three years I held the position, ESFY grew and LEC-100 enrollments went up.

      Then my department started to squawk about my lack of PD (despite having published a book chapter and presented a paper every year but one at a national conference) during my fourth and fifth years. In fact, they were adamant that I step down FROM A POSITION I LOVED and one that was doing really positive things for my campus, so that I could concentrate on getting published.

      That’s why PD is stuck in my craw.

      But I think yours is a more elegant solution: allow us to choose. I am better at (and more interested in) service–my energy was greatly appreciated on my campus, and has been missed in the years since I left the position and pulled back on service.

      Something has to give–we are not paid to do all that we do, and unless they want to start paying us, we have to pull back.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

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