Sunday, August 31, 2014

weekend gone! and other academic peeves

When a weekend begins with making a to-do list, it's a sad state of affairs. Especially when that list is overwhelmingly work related. I made the list Friday night and now, close to 48 hours later, I have done two and a half of the seven tasks I set myself--and mind you, that was a pared-down list! I suppose one can take some satisfaction in having spent time doing things that were not on the list--a habit I have mentioned before. But this time I really don't want to talk about the list itself but the tendency many of us seem to have developed of setting goals for weekends. This past week I've read more than one article exhorting us to eschew work emails when we're not at work, or limiting online time when we should be off, and so on. Reading, agreeing with, even sharing on Facebook is one thing, and actually doing what we have so enthusiastically liked, is most emphatically, another.

(alert--moving to an ostensibly unconnected thought)

A couple of years ago a student walked into my office when I was doing what seemed to be ... nothing. In other words, I was staring earnestly into my computer screen and moving my fingers over a keyboard while words were appearing on the monitor in apparent random fashion. He asked me, quite earnestly, "Ma'am, what is it that professors do with their time?" The daggers I threw at him as I paused in the middle of my nothing-activity seemed to have missed their mark, as he continued: "I mean, yeah, you teach a few classes, you grade a few papers, but then, like, that takes just a few hours, right?" More daggers, spiked ones, this time. Again, they miss the target and the voice drones on. "Must be a cushy job, no?"

In my politest tone I replied, "Yes, it is. You get to interact with all kinds, too. And read their work." The smile that went with those words must have made it seem like a pleasantry, because he just smiled back, waved a greeting, and went on his way.

Yes, we've all heard that truism about a woman's work never being done, but no one told me that academics really don't get to have weekends unless they are extraordinarily organized. And tell me, do you know anyone who is, really? And what about academics who also happen to be women? Is that some kind of double whammy?

What I really wanted to tell that student was this: come, be a fly on the wall in my office. Come listen to all the excuses I have to listen to, each time someone doesn't show up for class, or has to turn in an assignment late, or not turn it in at all. Come watch me sit in on meetings that could be wrapped up in twenty minutes but take two hours. Come see me sign scores of forms and type an equal number of letters. All this, at work. By the time I can think about getting down to "real" work, it is time to go home, so I just take it there with me. Between getting dinner ready and clearing up in the kitchen, I am planning tomorrow's lecture. And after everyone else has gone to bed, I am taking notes and grading papers.

So what about that academic output called research? Didn't they tell you? That's what weekends are for!

But wait, that wasn't even on my list....

In short. Tasks incomplete. Weekend over. And out.