Sunday, July 29, 2007

Where We Discuss How Hard We Work

I teach Biology at a large community college and have for decades.

One year, from August 20th until about May 20th, I tracked how many days I didn't work. I counted six. That meant for about 40 weeks (280 days), I worked 274 days. Not all of those days were full days but most were. During the summer, I also worked five weeks of summer school. That leaves seven weeks. For four of those, I was on campus a minimum of two days a week.

So for the entire year of 365 days, I had off about 50 days. Most workers (non-educators) get two days off each week, so about 100 days a year, plus vacation and holidays. So who has more days off? Not teachers.

So what is our work week like? I start prepping on Sunday afternoon about 1 until 5, then again about 7-10. Mondays through Thursday start at about 7 AM and finish on campus about 4 with almost never having a lunch break or coffee break (I eat in my office while answering email). I then correct papers (or other task) from about 7-10. Friday, start at 7, go until about 1, then back to papers about 7-10. Saturday, I might work in the lab, correct papers, or prepare so about another 6-8 hours. Total for an average typical week, about 70 hours. That isn't a busy week. Many weeks I have a night or two seminar, symposium, etc. or administrative task requiring more time.

So while most workers may work about 2080 hours a year, I and my colleagues put in about 2,800 hours from August to May...add in a few hundred more over the summer months. So who works more hours? Overtime? Not for us. Also, I am not even close to being the hardest worker on our campus. Everyone in my department keeps similar hours.

I love my job, students and teaching but don't ever tell me how easy my job is. I'd love a 40 hour work week but it doesn't happen when teaching.

Friday, July 27, 2007

On Striking a Balance

"Few professors teach because they have a burning desire to do so. Most of us do what we do because we love our fields and in order to do research we have to teach. It is a necessity that most of us try our best at, but few of us have any real talent for."
- from July 20

The writer above paints a pretty dismal picture of the profession. The sentiment seems to be that "if it weren't for the damned students, this would be a great job." I take issue with several of the points.

First, how does the writer know what "most of us" are motivated by? I know that many of my colleagues at Generic State University enjoy both teaching and research and some even seem to enjoy the community engagement aspects of the job.

Second, to say that "few of us have any real talent" for teaching is ridiculous. I have known a number of faculty who are both excellent teachers and good scholars. Is there a teaching versus research trade-off? Yes there is but it doesn't mean that a person can't strive to find balance between the two. Perhaps the writer has forgotten that there are many professors working outside of Research I schools.

I chose such a school because I wanted a reasonable balance between teaching and research expectations. Sure there are times (especially at the end of the semester) where I am cussing the students and the amount of time I have to spend grading papers and exams. Sure there are times when I wish I had more time for research. All in all, the job is good, the pay is decent, and the teaching is all right. Some of the students even think I'm doing a good job and think what I'm teaching will be useful to them in their work lives.

Imagine that!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where We Let One More Reader Take a Crack at the "Why Don't You Quit" Jackass

A point by point reply to the Top Ten Jackass:
  1. Research and writing are more important than students, because promotions, raises, and the ability to get competing job offers are all predicated on my publication record. There are exactly zero professional rewards or incentives for teaching at my university.

  2. I agree that students need guidance, but most students do not even want that. They just want to check the box, get their grade, and move on, which is why I am forced to make stupid rules.

  3. Can I get a hit off that crack pipe you are smoking? Our actual workload is the biggest misconception in circulation about the academic profession. When exactly do you think I get the time to do all that research and writing so I can get my raises and promotions? Not during the school year, when I have classes to teach, graduate students to supervise, undergraduate thesis students to watch over, exams and papers to grade, and committees to serve on. I do it during all that "time off" in the summer.

  4. If you'd like me to believe that there's a source out there that says degrees no longer matter, you will have to supply a more precise reference than See this is the kind of sloppy crap that gets you those Cs you undoubtedly get and so richly deserve. At any rate, I believe people with degrees still earn more over a lifetime than those without, pace Bill Gates (if you do not know what that means, look it up in the OED, jackass).

  5. I like my job. I even like many of my students. I just cannot abide whiny, misinformed, know-it-all little weasels with no life experience such as yourself presuming to lecture me on what the "real world" is all about.

  6. I will not speak for others, however, I bring all that work I do during the summer into the classroom with me every year. To be a productive scholar I have to keep up on what is going on in my field, which keeps the teaching fresh. From where you sit, you cannot see the effort that goes into it, but that does not make it any less real.

  7. Many students complain if they do not get power point slides in class, but next time they do, I will explain how you, in all your wisdom, taught me that it is a stale old tool for washed up fogies.

  8. Good luck earning your education on your own. When you are being interviewed for a job, be sure to explain why you, as an autodidact, are surely more qualified than all those other people with degrees. I'm sure the nice night manager at McDonald's will agree with you and give you the job.

  9. I would hope you do care more about your education than I do. I am paid to teach intellectual skills and impart specific bodies of knowledge. I certainly do not have time to care about your individual education, or any other individual's for that matter. If you do not care, then no one else will, or should either.

  10. I'm not good enough to do what exactly? I was good enough to get an advanced degree. I was good enough to get several job offers in my field. I have been good enough to publish peer-reviewed work. I've been good at lots of other things in my life. I was good at being an army ranger back when I did that. You, as far as I can tell, are only good at blowing hot air. Since you clearly have not the foggiest notion of what we do, your little whining jag does not really even sting. However, on behalf of professors everywhere, you can kiss my highly educated ass.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Top Ten Reasons To Keep Doing This Job

One of scores of responses we've received to a recent nutjob:

  1. Because the research I do benefits the discipline and thus ultimately benefits students.

  2. Because students need rules in order to give them guidance. No one likes dealing with disciplinary issues. I guarantee future employers won't be happy with workers who show up late or not at all, cheat, or turn in all their work past the deadline.

  3. Because I teach year-round to pay my bills and have the pleasure of working with summer students, most of whom actually want to be there.

  4. Because post-secondary education of some type is a necessity in order to get a decent job, and my discipline's courses are a requirement for almost any degree or certificate.

  5. Because despite the fact that some of us vent on this site, we still enjoy doing what we do most of the time. Perhaps you also think all the students who complain on RMP should drop out of school.

  6. Because experience and wisdom are important to successful teaching. New ideas are great, but a lot of material stays the same in many fields.

  7. Because someone needs to stick around to teach you how to use quotation marks correctly.

  8. Because no one is going to hire someone who claims to be self-taught by using the Internet as his or her sole source of education.

  9. Because I do care deeply about the education of my students, at least as much as they do and even more in some cases.

  10. Because I, like most of my colleagues, am good at what I do and want to make a difference in the lives of students and the world of academic knowledge.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Where the Summer Readers Go Wild and Then Head Straight Back to Their Four Months (Or More!) of Vacation.

Oh my goodness. Yesterday's insanity really got the summer readers stirred up. It was a big night at the compound and we've sorted through more than 140 emails (some very long!) to bring you these quick clips. We've saved a couple of the longer pieces to post later in the week. As our European colleague says, "Please to enjoy":

  • With exemplary students like you filling classroom chairs -- and then, after vacating those chairs, gumming up message boards, blogs and anywhere you can air your groundless, ill-informed opinions in order to satisfy your rampant insecurity -- why dodo you even have to wonder why we're unhappy with our jobs? Friend, you are part of the problem. Once you get over feeling chuffed about that C- and look past your own ego, you might see that we're not so bad, and we might even have something to teach you. That's a hard pill for you to swallow, I realize, as you're so used to being the smartest guy in the chatroom. But those of us who've spent a lot of time not only studying a subject but teaching it too might be able to offer you new ideas and perspectives on the world that you -- no really -- wouldn't be able to find in your own puttering about on the internet. Why wouldn't you choose to "learn?"

  • Go ahead and think I am stooping to a “low height” with this response but no other post has made me feel so strongly about writing in. Ever heard the cliché ‘If you can read this, thank a teacher’? Some of us ARE good enough. You are, in your own very angry way, proof of that. But you made me laugh, and I do appreciate that. So here’s a little unsolicited advice. I can’t speak for everyone else who frequents this site, but I don’t hate my job. I occasionally hate the attitudes and actions of SOME of my students and coworkers. But I love to teach. There’s a pretty big difference. I think if you read more of the posts carefully, you will find more frustration than hatred. And I really hope you DO care more about your education than I do. I can’t care about the education of all 250 of my students. I can care that I am teaching them the material they need to know and that I am doing it well. I can care that I am doing what I can in the classroom and am there within reason for anyone who needs extra help outside of the classroom. But I can’t actually care about the education of everyone who passes through every single semester. I would hope that as adults, they could understand and deal with that. If a student needs someone to care about their education more than they themselves do, they should move back home with mom and dad. They’ll care.

  • Since you're so ignorant as to the politics of the Academy, you don't know that professors earned their degrees to become SCHOLARS not teachers. As scholars, we all knew teaching was part of the package. But, dumbass idiots like you NEVER get that. Dude, you're just a means to an end. I know being the center of the universe is all you're used to, little snowflake, but it's not how Academe works.

  • Professors only work 8 months out of the year? Are you on crack? Oh no, that's right. You think our only job is to teach you, right? Guess what, snowflake, most professors work under an old maxim: "publish or perish." That means they work CONSTANTLY just to do that unnecessary research so that they don't lose tenure and are forced out of their jobs. You see, it's a relatively rare college campus where a professor's sole duty is to teach. But you seem completely ignorant of that fact. And it is a fact. That's why most professors work 60+ hours every week prepping for class, teaching, grading, serving on University committees, editing journals, and conducting research and writing books and journal articles. It's what they are PAID TO DO. Did you know that some professors actually pay themselves by getting grant money for the University? Did you? Bet you didn't. You think things in the Academy work like in the "real world" [as if the University isn't as real as any other job]. Most other workers have a 9-to-5 job, perhaps with some over-time, with extended paid vacations. Yeah, you know those "summers off" most professors have? They're usually spent catching up with family [who get ignored the rest of the year], and furiously researching, writing and doing course prep. Oh sure, some take time off for a month or two, which is well-deserved and necessary after trying to teach students like you for the previous months. How dare they take a vacation!

  • You can gain knowledge by reading books, but you don't necessarily become educated. Being educated is not just about gaining knowledge; it's about gaining knowledge along with skills [usually analytical skills] within a structured framework with the result being some sort of social affirmation of that knowledge-skill acquisition [your degree]. Just going and reading a web-site does not make you smarter, nor does it make you informed. Being able to evaluate different knowledge bases DOES make you educated [and smart too]. Therefore, understanding why Wikipedia is not the be-all, end-all makes you smarter than being able to comprehend a single article there. Knowing the limitations and agenda of CNN [and other news outlets] does too. I doubt you understand this difference. I suspect, for you, all knowledge is the same. To me [and many other educated people] that just signifies you as dumb [and uneducated]. So, go read your books and websites. That won't make you educated, nor will you earn that social affirmation called a degree.

Monday, July 23, 2007

We Were Just Starting to Enjoy the Summer

I dare you to publish this on your inconsequential blog!

Ten Reasons To Quit Your Jobs
(and don't replace my title with your usual glib and unfunny 'attempts' at humor.
  1. Because you think your own 'research' is more important than students. (PS: nobody reads academic books except other academics.)
  2. Because students need guidance not disciplinary punishments and 'rules'.

  3. Because you only work 8 months of the year while many of your students and the rest of the 'real' world work 12 or more.

  4. Because an 'academic' degree means less and less in this world. (Check out to see why.)

  5. Because on this site you all complain so much about hating it. Why wouldn't you choose to be 'happy'?

  6. Because too many of you have taught for too long and are 'burnt out' and have stopped bringing new material into the classroom anyway.

  7. Because too many of you rely on Powerpoint and old notes.

  8. Because I can 'earn' my education through books and the internet without having to pay a dime of your overpriced tuition.

  9. Because I care more about my education than you 'ever' did.

  10. Because you aren't good enough.

I have read most of your entries and am disgusted. I think it's repulsive that an 'authority' figure would stoop to such a low height to make fun of students like you do. I know you'll just delete this, but I think you should have an alternative position on your blog to show what a farce you are.

Friday, July 20, 2007

When is a Small Victory Just Too Damn Small?

I would like to chime in and offer some advice to the student who wonders whether she is cut out to be a professor.

Do not decide whether to pursue a degree based upon possible career options. Pursue a degree because it is what you are passionate about. Achieving an advanced degree requires a huge investment of time and effort. If you decide to pursue a degree in something you are not passionate about, but has lots of possible "career outlets," you will hate it. So, if you love Social Psychology, go for it, and let the career work itself out later. You might be surprised at how many career opportunities are available for PhDs.

As for whether you are cut out to be a professor: who among us is? Few professors teach because they have a burning desire to do so. Most of us do what we do because we love our fields and in order to do research we have to teach. It is a necessity that most of us try our best at, but few of us have any real talent for.

But, be prepared. Be prepared to face a roomful of 19-year-olds who think the subject you love so much and have devoted your life to is duller than dirt and a complete waste of their precious time. Say you're teaching your beloved Social Psychology to a class of undergrads. Know that most of them are there to fill some requirement, and would much prefer to be almost anywhere else. No matter what you do, no matter how passionate you are or how interesting you think the subject is, they will still resent you for making them read boring articles or write stupid papers. Think of the worst class you ever took. That professor thought that subject was fascinating while you hated every minute of it. Imagine being that professor faced with 100 people who all think as you did. Can you stand that? If so, congratulations, you're qualified to teach at the university level. The material is what it is, and someone will either be interested or they will not. Be happy if one or two of them find the subject as fascinating as you do.

One of the greatest compliments I've ever received as a professor was the student who informed me that mine was the only non-major class he's taken that he didn't hate. You have to savor the small victories.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where We Turn the Future of Education Over To The Summer School Students

There seem to be defining moments when you start to realize that no matter what you do as a college professor, your efforts are doomed to fail. I'm now convinced that the roots of the problems we see in the classroom can, ironically, be traced back to every school or college of education in this country. I may exaggerate a bit, but maybe this little story will illustrate the point.

This summer, I decided to teach a social science course that was listed as an option for students to fulfill a university wide requirement. As a result, close to 2/3 of my students are college of education majors (mostly people seeking to become high school or elementary teachers).

One of the lectures that I gave was on organized crime and how organized crime boomed during prohibition. I asked my students, in that Socratic way everybody loves, what social forces may have led to the implementation of prohibition. One of my college of education students blurted out to me: "Why would we have to know US history? We're just going to be teachers."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What The Others Think of Us

Having only been a college professor for a single year, I'm a newbie when it comes to dealing with "others," people outside the academy.

But I've already had some odd comments from people. "Boy, that must be nice to have the summer off." "What do you do with the other 20 hours of the day you're not teaching class?" "Oh, you never grew up, huh?" "So, you're the one up in the ivory tower!"

The first time I got hit with the "summer off" comment, I tried to explain that I wrote two articles, did research in Italy for a book, and taught a second summer session class that took up 5 hours a day for 5 days a week.

What do "others" think of your academic career? What kind of insults do you hear, and what do you reply with?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

We Let A Smartass Correspondent Reply to an Otherwise Innocuous Query From a Student Reader - And We're a Little Ashamed

I'm a college student and I have been exploring many majors and careers. (You mean drinking and whoring? Yes, those were our favorites, too.) So I've finally found something that I'm interested in and something that I'm good at: Social Psychology and Research! (The exclamation point brings us such sadness. The word research should be followed by a skull and crossbones instead.)

Now I know there are very few career options for someone who has a PhD in Social Psychology and wants to do research, and I also know that becoming a University Professor is one of the most common career outlets. (Oh, are you looking for a fall-back position? That'd be great. The academy is full of people who don't have the ability or the nuts to make it in the real world. You'll be able to be bitter alongside the rest of us. Nothing is as exciting as someone who is looking for a "common career outlet." We wouldn't want you to teach because it was a burning desire or anything, or because you wanted to help young people develop into mature and exciting adults.)

But here's the deal, I don't really know if I'm cut out to a be Professor. So I've decided to come to you very opinionated professors to ask some questions. (Sure, it's summer. We're mostly just drinking umbrella drinks and watching HGTV.)

Why did you become a Professor? (I did it to avoid becoming a corporate drone. And then when I got here, I realized that all academic administrators dream about turning the academy into a mini-General Motors. We have just as much excess and stultification as any corporation, so I've made a huge mistake.)

What do you think are qualities of a good Professor? (I'd say that you need to completely strip away any ego. You also will need to have to be able to give up all hope for the future. Once you get a load of the students, you'll mostly want to plunge a knife into your brain. And that's on a normal day. On bad days, you'll be on your office computer looking for plastique recipes.)

What do you think makes you qualified to teach (besides having a PhD)? (Nothing at all. That's the crackerjack part of it. If you can just put the years in to grad school, people will imagine you're qualified to teach. It's one of the great cons of all time. I teach and am probably just as professionally prepared to be a rodeo clown. But don't worry about being qualified to teach. The modern classroom is just a place for the young swingles to hang between the caf, the rec, and the dorm, and as for you, the classroom is just a place for you to work out various frustrations in front of a docile and supplicating mass. Feel free to tell everyone what you really think of Al Gore, express your disdain for the people you work with, give bad advice in your own discipline - you don't want any of your students to become professors down the road and push you to the side.

Do you find it easy to teach students a subject that you're passionate about? (Seriously. You're cracking us up. You can't teach students anything.)

How do you create an interest in students to learn a subject you love? (You're killing us. Is this a put on? There are so few students who are interested in ANYTHING, that we're not even thinking about it anymore. We're doing this job because there is a tiny shred of us still invested in our own discipline, or own work. Occasionally we find a student or two who wants to know more, and those tiny successes are a minor balm for the otherwise hateful and mind-numbing drudgery of the rest of the semester. And you've caught us on a good day.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

We Know It's a Put-On, But We Like To Think We Welcome All Voices. Even Those That Are Insane.

I am a large advocate your Webs site. I find the stories to maintain and terrific. I hope that participants of course find and carry out this side, that a terrible problem they are for the USA. I wish others understand that the formation is not a right.

It is a responsibility which must be assumed with the serious one. Many of my participants of course treat their category like designation. They believe them to be interested and that verhaetschelt would have and I believe that they should be informed with of Strictness and quality. It is of no hard use to let them smoking and hot make away with the Perversion.

Hurra with you for pullig the sheet far from the dirty secrecies.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Death By Office

For the first time in 6 weeks I walked on campus this morning. I don't know why I did it. I'm old enough to know better.

It was quiet, of course, pleasant. A greensward of land just open and pretty. I waved at someone I knew who was across the quad from me. I strolled in an unseasonably cool morning to my office.

My eyes settled on my bookshelves, and I pulled a couple of volumes out I wanted to read at home. The life of the mind, I was reminded.

Then I sat down and looked at the surface of my desk where the remains of my final grading sessions remained. I saw the names of the petulant punks who had made my Spring semester one big fucking nightmare. Complaints. Whining. "I have to get ready for SongFest! Can I do my paper next week instead?"

A sour feeling took over my stomach and I just wanted to go home and black out the windows for a while.

So much of my job is wonderful. The parts that kill my spirit are all tied up in that list of names, the students. They come in to the classroom - and more will come in the Fall semester - and everything I dreamed about for my career gets dashed against their pointy heads and limited ambition.

I could not get out of that room fast enough.