Some of you are faculty type folks, or have been, and know the kinds of things a college teacher does on a day to day basis, but even among faculty members there is a wide range of duties. We don't all do the same thing. Also, although I've mentioned my job here quite a bit, I've never really taken you through a blow by blow account of my version of academic life. Here's the nutshell version.
Normal faculty load at Xavier is four courses a week with at least three different "preps," meaning different courses. I only teach three courses (3 preps) a week because I have "release" time for a committee I'm the head of. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I have two classes of 50 minutes each. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have one class that lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes. That's not a lot of hours in the actual classroom, but there are quite a few additional hours involved in preparing for class, going over notes, doing background reading, preparing examples or demonstrations, etc. And there is a lot of time spent grading student papers, although that isn't usually an everyday thing.
Most bigger universities require two classes, 2 preps a week, but they also generally require a greater amount of orginal research productivity. This is where that famous dictum of, "publish or perish" comes in. At big universities, Ohio State, Stanford, Yale, etc, this is the rule and most faculty put a lot of time in on research and correspondingly less time on teaching. At Xavier the rule is more "publish or languish." You have to publish some to get tenure, but you don't necessarily have to publish on a regular basis, and the university is a little more general in what it considers scholarship. Still, unless you publish within your "field" fairly regularly, you are unlikely to receive promotions or merit raises. For me, this means that the nonfiction articles I do on writing and writers do not generally count. Only articles published in psychology count, and preferably articles in peer-reviewed journals on the subject of biological psychology. Peer-reviewed means that experts in the field review submitted articles and judge them acceptable, unacceptable, or in need of revision.
Besides teaching and scholarship, faculty members also must engage in "university service." This means either being chairperson of a department, or, most commonly, serving on university committees. Some committees are so time consuming that faculty actually get some release time from teaching to manage those committees. At Xavier, the Rank and Tenure Committee, which decides on tenure for faculty, is such a committee. I'm also chair of the Human Subjects committee (IRB), and I get a one class teaching reduction because of how time consumming it is.
Today was a pretty typical Monday for me. I got into the office around 8:20, and first responded to emails. There weren't many this morning but sometimes there are a lot. I then made some calls concerning IRB issues to Xavier's research supervisor, and picked up a 70 some odd page IRB proposal from a researcher at Boston College that had been mailed to me. I took 15 minutes to prepare for my first class, at 10:00, in the Psychology of Learning. Sometimes it takes me a lot longer to prepare but the topic for today is one I know very well. Lunch ran between 11:20 and 12:15/12:20 and I came back to prepare for my 1:00 class. This was again lighter than usual because we were getting ready for final exams and most of my class today was reviewing.
I picked up 26 assigned essays from the 1:00 class, which is called Historical and Applied Perspectives, and will grade those as soon as I finish this post. Then I'll start on the IRB proposal. I'm unlikely to finish going through that by the time I leave around 4:30, so I'll be working on that tonight and possibly some tomorrow.
A major difference I see between an academic job and most other jobs I've held (Dishwasher, Librarian Floor Supervisor, Chicken House Manager, Factory Worker) is the "feast or famine aspect. There will be weeks here and there where I'll have little grading to do, no IRB projects to approve, and no committee meetings. Those weeks are nice and it's then that I write most of my nonfiction and fiction. Other weeks are feast, in the sense of having a lot to do in every aspect of my job: reseearch, teaching/grading, and committee work.
I'm entering one of those "feast" times now. I'm getting final papers from my writing class tomorrow, giving a big exam on Wednesday, and giving two big exams next Monday. Just to let you know, I probably won't be posting much on my own blog, or visiting others' blogs after today. I'll be back once most of that grading is done.