Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Part-time job, full-time teacher; full-time job, part-time teacher

As I sit here just having finished some grading at nine in the evening, I have to ask myself something: why the heck am I grading at nine in the evening?

I am a full-time, tenure-track, professional College Teacher™ now, with my own office and everything. Shouldn't I be getting this stuff done on campus? Especially on days like today, when I was there for over eight hours without any classes?

Back in the day when I was a Freeway Flyer®, I frequently taught 19 to 27 credits each quarter, with four or five preps, usually at three different schools. I always had a bag of books and papers slung over my shoulder, and I felt like I spent half my life in my car, and I often left the house packing two brown-bags - one for lunch and one for dinner. In all that hubbub, I don't remember feeling really overwhelmed. Sure, I was busy, but most of my work was one and done: come in, teach a class, get out. Drive to the next campus, teach, go home. Then grade, grade, grade - and I spent some long weekend mornings at the Phinney Ridge Starbucks and the Wallingford Tully's, to be sure. But it all seemed doable: I ate it up and moved on.

Now, I only teach 15 credits a quarter, usually with only two preps, and at only one campus. It should be a piece of cake, yet I feel that I am always running to keep up. Part of it is the actual work of acquiring tenure - attending meetings and writing annual portfolios - but that is only a small fraction of what fills my time. Mostly, it is all the stuff that I do that I later write about in those portfolios: Serving on committees. Attending professional development activities. Facilitating professional development activities. Serving on committees about professional development activities. And so on.

Today, I had all this time without classes to get caught up. But what did I do? I first responded to some email, either from students or about committee stuff, and created some of my own. A new hire colleague came into the office to chat about some current concerns of his. Getting coffee, I ran into the president of the college and had an impromptu discussion around the budget process (I am on the budget committee). In response to an email, I climbed to the third floor for a debrief with a member of my tenure committee who had observed my class the day before. Then I had a scheduled meeting with some English types about the workshop we are putting on in a few weeks. I ate microwaved spaghetti leftovers at my desk before I climbed back to third floor to get some materials for a new lesson plan, and then wrangled the copier for a while. Back in my office, I had to make time for a former student who needed to vent about some current challenges he is having. I did manage to get an hour or so of grading in before I had to have a conversation with another colleague about a possible interdisciplinary learning community. By then, it was almost time for the union meeting that took up the last hour-and-a-half on campus.

And this kind of thing is getting to be pretty typical.

I'm not complaining, mind you; I have got a great job and I wouldn't trade it. It has been a surprise just how much of the time I feel like I am running behind, and how much of my work comprises responsibilities outside the classroom. Our official workload documents say 15%, but it is to laugh. Today was easily the equivalent of my 15% for this week, and it's not like I didn't do this stuff yesterday and won't do it tomorrow, too. How do we do it, then?

I've figured it out. We grade at nine in the evening.

Here's an example of Rhythmic Gymnastics with Apparatus, my favorite Olympic event. This video is even cooler if you pretend it's a bowling ball that she has there:


Jon said...

So, how many committees are you on?, how many committees do you want to be on, and how many committees does your contract and/or common practice suggest you should be on?

I found the 'committeeing' to be the biggest drain on my time but I have gotten it down to the one that I am expected to be on for contract purposes plus of course the mentoring and the informal departmental meetings and - oh what do I know?

WV = tylzzi sounds like your schedule?

Diane said...

OK, now watch the video and imagine the ball is your head, attached to your body.

Walaka said...

As I said, our workload calculations go by percentage of time not number of committees; theoretically, I spend 85% of my time (34 hours a week) on Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, and 5% (2 hrs) each on Professional Development, Institutional Service, and Student Advising, in whatever form those activities take. As if that polite fiction has any basis in reality.

Of course, besides contractual obligations, there are cultural pressures and political considerations that all come into play. The only way to have power is to take it, and to take it, you have to be at the table, so faculty participate in a lot of stuff by choice. Cascadia is also a young institution, with a tradition of heavy service, since people are still wearing so many hats so much of the time.

So it goes.