Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tales from Faculty Life

I've been sort of lame about keeping up with my posts the last three weeks. But that is only because teaching a summer class has been keeping me away from the computer, and, more specifically, the internet. Big J ask me last night about something I have on my iGoogle page and I had no idea what he was talking about. Now that's bizarre!

I've learned a lot about myself over the past three weeks. One is that apparently they don't just hand out PhDs to anyone, you really have to know something. And that is to say -- I know stuff and I can teach other people about stuff.

Another realization is one about the nature of work. I was at the gym a couple weeks ago and it was probably around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I looked at the other people in the gym and realized that we were, for the most part, teaching faculty. And I thought how is it that we could justify taking time out in the middle of the day to exercise? How decadent is that? And I realized that my perception of work is one in which I put in a good 8 to 10 hours of labor and then head home; one in which there is not the flexibility to work-out, run errands, or other non-work-related activities.

Undoubtedly, this understanding of the nature of work comes from my family background -- a family of blue collar workers. But I realize that the time I spend in the middle of the day not at work related things is offset by the amount of time I spend in the evening at work related things, as well as the nature of the work itself -- there are very busy times in which I work 12-15 hour days and there are times that I work 6 hour days (maybe 4 hour days). And that is okay. My work as an academic is different than the type of work I understood as I grew up. Because of that background I was having a difficult time placing value on the type of work I do now. But I shouldn't because it isn't better or worse, it is simply different.

Finally, in the last three weeks I have come to understand, at least partially, how students view faculty. Students would email me or meet with me and apologize for taking my time or thank me profusely for taking time out of my day. I finally had to tell them, "This is my job. I am here for you. You don't have to apologize because it's what I chose to do and what I expect to do." They seemed surprised to hear that. But it's true. It is my primary role to be available to help them learn and grow academically, intellectually, and professionally. In retrospect, no teacher or professor ever said that to me either. Maybe it's something we should tell students more often.

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