Monday, April 20, 2009

What I Do For a Living

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.


laughingwolf said...

i see you as: head down, ass up... just a-givin' er, charles ;) lol

google has locked up my blog cuz their moronic automated assessor has determined it's a SPAMMER BLOG... just how the hell do i spam MY OWN BLOG???

except for replies to those posting there, i have to use google's juvenile word verifier to post IN MY OWN BLOG

sure, they say their system is fuzzy and apologize for it, but instead of using technology that works hit/miss, GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME! GRRRRRRR

i have to wait 'two business days' for some idiot to determine if it's a legit blog, and then they may unlock it, or delete it all... but then, i've not known them to give a rat's ass about anyone in the time i've been here


Sidney said...

Interesting picture of your day. I had never really thought about how many courses a week were required.

ANNA-LYS said...

You are excused ;-)
Will be here waiting for You, but, as You know I got the same job, in the same discipline, but at an uni (less class, more research), but I don't write fictions, also. I don't know where You get Your energy, maybe You have home service? LOL

I admire You!

Steve Malley said...

You forgot to mention the long and poisoned daggers of departmental politics....

Travis Erwin said...

Nice to see how your daily grind goes.

Randy Johnson said...

We'll catch you on the flip side.

ivan said...

Ah. Grading papers. I had let my wife do it. There were so many papers that it finally ovewhelmed both her and me.

I hoarded my energies to publish.
I did publish, and for gain. It was in literature, my specialty.

(Later, the therapist had said she had divorced me for grading all those papers).
But no, it was something else.
Tragedy is not Greek. It is caused by a big mouth over the breakafast table.
She had asked, "Why is it that your have to be right all the time?
I had snorted, "Don't argue with me. I got the advanced degree. You just grade papers."

Oh hubris. She went to night school, got her degree and ran off with her prof.
Leads to gallows humour.
I think a taxi driver who would beat her often would have been a better choice.
Now she's got another Ivan.
Grading papers, probably.
I think I read too much olf old Jules Pfeiffer.
Leave one trap for another trap.
And I fear my subsequent womanizing has given me the clap.

Oh yeah. We are so edjucated

Travis Cody said...

That's quite fascinating. But as I look at my calendar, it seems that a summer break should be looming somewhere on the other side of those final exams and papers.

AvDB said...

Erh, you managed a chicken house? I've been in one once, and I can honestly say I never, ever want to go back in. It's bad enough the smell is pretty much standard in the air around here in the humid summertime.

I hope your feast ends soon.

Cloudia said...

Thanks for taking us to work today!

Lana Gramlich said...

Repeat to yourself; Caribbean cruise, Caribbean cruise...

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Charles - I'm entering it also. But I don't like to call it feast as feast is a good thing. I like to call it hell. Cuz I'm old fashioned that way.

Good luck!


Erik Donald France said...

You've put it succinctly and well, from my experience/observation. Shudder.

Usually, it beats breaking rocks in the hot sun, I guess ;->

LoveRundle said...

Wow. That's all I'm really sure I can say. It appears more complicated then I'm willing to get involved with. Maybe I'll hold off getting my M.F.A. Not sure I'd have the patience to teach.

the walking man said...

How long have you been teaching Charles? What i liked about this summary is that throughout you weren't bitching but rather seemed like you appreciate your work...maybe even enjoy it all.

Mary Witzl said...

We're feasting here too, and it's sheer hell...

Ever have anyone tell you that teaching must be an easy job, or that you earn too much money? What you get per hour of teaching ends up being close to zip-all when you factor in student contact time, class preparation, grading papers, counseling, consulting with colleagues, and sitting through endless committee meetings. Teaching is an easy job like writing is a piece of cake...

BernardL said...

Does repetition ever get to you, Charles?

L.A. Mitchell said...

Very interesting, C. Lucky students you have to have such a positive professor :)

Lauren said...

That is a very interesting picture of your day. I actually have a couple adjunct professor friends, but since they are not tenured and both work in the industry in addition to teaching (one teaches web design, the other interior design so it's very important in their fields to stay on both sides). It is very interesting to hear about your job.

What are some of your recent publications in your field? I'd be interested in checking them out.

Good luck with finals. I always wonder how profs get it all done with grades being due within a couple days of everything being done.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, at Wayne State University, you are expected to write articles or books on a fairly regular basis--although if you're willing to get small raisies, you can taper off after tenure. To get tenure you need 7-10 articles in fairly good journals or a book and and a few articles. Teaching is evaluated but not as stringently. The teaching load is 2/2 but each class meets four hours a week. So you are in the classroom 8 hours a week.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I bet you dress more conservatively for your day job than your profile picture. I would have loved to have been taught by Arkansas Slim.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hell, I've got to be in the classroom thirty-two hours a week with a bunch of whackadoodle prisoners. The remaining eight hours are for checking email, bathroom, and prep (not necessarily in that order).

I guess I'm bitching. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Dam Dude, that was actually pretty informative and dare I say, fascinating.

Wil (NSFW)

Middle Ditch said...

Tough schedule. I'm glad I'm not a teacher. My daughter is. She's in a very deprived area in Coventry with terribly bad behaving kids, but she's good at it.

Roll on Summer holidays.

Heff said...

I don't see how you find time to blog AT ALL.

Greg said...

wow, sounds busy. good luck!

Leigh Russell said...

Hope you finish your marking quickly and return to the blog soon. I miss your pithy comments on my blog. Please check out my Virtual Book Launch when you have time.

David Cranmer said...

My friend, after reading that, I'm impressed you still have time to write and blog. Very impressive.

jodi said...

Charles, how nice to be "in on" your day! Please defer to your wife on this one!

SzélsőFa said...

Thank you for the informative post. My husband works at a University, too and his daily routine pretty much looks similar to yours.
I've never heard of the saying 'publish or perish' - but I experienced it.
DH works in the field of agricultural entomology so he has to do lots of field work as well. He likes it, though.
The one bit he hates is doing administrative chores, filling up papers and answering emails. Fieldwork and/or classroom activities do not exhauste him, but administration does.
The number of helping hands keeps decreasing (lack of budget) and qualified teachers (my husband for example has got a PhD Degree) has to do many uninteresting paper work normally a PA would have to do.

SQT said...

Well, as busy as you are, it's gotta be better than the smell in a chicken house. Hope you see daylight soon.

Miladysa said...

Very interesting. I had no idea how complicated it was. I just imagined a few hours in the lecture room followed by some marking!

I would like to attend one of your lectures some day but I suspect it would all be very much above me.

"Caribbean cruise, Caribbean cruise..."

You've certainly earned one!

You would never believe me if I wrote about one of my working days ;D

Danette Haworth said...

I'm already tired.

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks for the condolences everyone. Through heroic efforts I've made a serious dent in the grading. If I can finish up tomorrow I'll have the weekend free, and then start on the next round Monday and Tuesday.

the walking man said...

Charles...Thank you so much for the signed copy of Cold in the Light. I wait for the thundering night to get started on it.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

Wow! That's a lot of work.

Shauna Roberts said...

Another difference between academics and most jobs is that is a seven day a week job. My husband spends only 10 to 15 hours a week at the university, but he works on papers, committee matters, and other school stuff every day and almost every evening.

Chris Eldin said...

That sounds really interesting, and along the lines of what I always pictured. I think it would be fun to teach at a community college, where there is no stress about publishing, but you're still surrounded by learning and students.

Synchronicity said...

It is a lot of work to be in academics. My sister got out of it to do consulting and run her own business. I think she misses the interactions with her students most but does not miss the behind the scenes politics.

I had not known that you write about psychology. Very cool.

Maybe I should interview you sometime for the depression site I am managing for Health Central.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to always come and comment on my blog. You are quite amazing in all that you do.

Merisi said...

Your workday reads more or less what I imagined it to be. Ever since I started reading your blog have I been fascinated by the sheer energy and enthusiasm that shows through in your postings. You are an incredibly positive human being. I am sure there are many fine young people out there whose life is the better for having had you as a teacher. I wish you and your loved ones the best that life can give!

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, Geeze, that’s screwed up. Hope you get that straightened.

Sidney, It doesn’t seem like much.

ANNA-LYS, Sometimes I don’t get much fiction written either.

Steve Malley, fortunately, my current department doesn’t go in for that sort of thing. But I’ve been there, done that and it really sucks.

Travis Erwin, grind is the word at the moment

Randy Johnson, see you then.

ivan, my wife helps me with the scantrons but is not really ready to grade the essays and papers. I found out “after” grad school about some budding romances between faculty and students. Didn’t hear much about it at the time.

Travis, yes, summer is only a couple weeks away. Looking forward to it.

Avery DeBow, I helped a guy clean out a chicken house one time after nearly 5,000 birds had died in it when the AC cut off in the middle of the summer. That was truly pleasant. Not!

Cloudia, yes, it was “take your blog friends to work day”

Lana Gramlich, yesssssssssssss.

Ello, your name is more apt.

Erik Donald France, it definitely beats breaking rocks and digging ditches at my age, although when I was young and in shape not so much

Christina, I don’t have much patience and I still teach. So you too can do it.

the walking man, Mark, I’ve been teaching at Xavier since 1986, and taught in grad school a couple of years before that. I always say that I love everything I do. I just sometimes wish there wasn’t so much to love. Glad you got the copy of “Cold in the Light.” Hope you enjoy.

Mary Witzl, yes, I’ve had lots of folks tell me how envious they are of me having an easy job. I don’t even argue any more. Some folks you just can’t Teach!

BernardL, I’ve definitely experienced some burnout over the years, which is why it’s so important to me to take off during the summer and do something completely different.

L.A. Mitchell, some fo those students would disagree with you.

Lauren, I’ll have to do a post about that one day. I’ve been doing a fair amount of work for scientific reference books lately. I’ll put some of this stuff up one of these days.

pattinase (abbott), Typical classroom hours at Xavier would be 12 hours in the classroom per week. I teach 9 because of the release time. Our requirements for tenure aren’t as high as Wayne State in publication, but are pretty high in teaching, with the need for doing some kinds of pedagogical improvement or curriculum development. Most universities evaluate the same things, just in somewhat different concentrations.

ARCHAVIST, I don’t wear the coat and hat and guns. But I typically do wear jeans and often a t-shirt.

JR's Thumbprints, Yes, I bow to you. That would kick my ass!

Wil, Lol, thanks dude.

Middle Ditch, I used to be better. I’m a bit burned out these days.

Heff, during the lean times at school there’s more time for blogging.

Greg Schwartz, it certainly is right now.

Leigh Russell, I will do so.

David Cranmer, thanks, but the weight of it varies from week to week so sometimes it’s not so bad.

jodi, I almost always defer to my wife!

SzélsőFa, yes, the administrative stuff is the worst. It’s soooo boring and so often a waste of time. Our work load increased after Hurricane Katrina when Xavier fired so many faculty.

SQT, I’m sure you’re right there.

Miladysa, I always figure most jobs are probably more complicated than they appear from the outside. So tell me about your working days!

Danette Haworth, Me too.

Rachel, keeps me out of trouble.

Shauna Roberts, good point. My schedule is relatively flexible, but that usually means a lot of work outside the school setting.

Chris Eldin, the publishing is really stressful at the beginning, or it was for me. It was stressful enough that it actually probably decreased my productivity because I spent so much time worrying about it.

Merelyme, I do generally enjoy the actual teaching aspects, seeing the students pick up information, getting good questions, seeing the “light” come on.

Charles Gramlich said...

Merisi, thank you. That's very nice of you to say.

Ralph Ivy said...

Razored Zen? I'm signing in. Grin. I like your subject here. Triggered my own view of academia. From age 21 to 33 I was a regular attendee. First and only one in my family to move beyond high school. An art addict. I'd joined the army at age 17, and when I was discarged 3 years later my family had moved to Pasadena California, and the junior college there was cheap. And I enrolled. Wow!
Art. On to Chicago. American Academy of Art. Back to California. Long Beach State. Back to Chicago. Art Institute. Doing whatever part-time work to pay the way. Then the G.I.('cause of Vietnam) kicked back in and was made retroactive for ex-GI's like me - Bingo! I had four more years I could attends school. And even pay my rent. Finally got a BFA. and then an assistant-ship toward an MFA. (Which I actually did not receive. I had done all the class work, artwork, final art show, etc. but...being an iconoclast as heart - I refused to write a thesis. I'm into drawing more than writing I said, jokingly asking "Why do I have to write about why I draw? Do you require MFA students in creative writing to draw why they write?"

Got a blank look. I laughed. And left. Still like colleges. Retired at age 70 I still live near a college campus. (UofA - Fayetteville). Still draw. A lot. Ironically enough. I also write. A lot. Enjoying all.

I like the world you are a part of. I also like living a little off the mark. Thanks.

david mcmahon said...

Hats off to you, Charles. I am deeply indebted to many amazing people who taught me - some of them are mentioned by name on the acknowledgement page of my first novel.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

excellent! Congrats on your POTD!

Cath said...

Not sure how I missed this first time round but got here via David and your visit in the end! (Thnx for visiting).
It's great to get a rundown of what you do. Especially since I am not familiar with the American education system so a lot of the terminology is a bit alien to me. It sounds exhausting in the "feast" times. Glad you get some famine too!

See you on the flip side of this one.

Cheffie-Mom said...

Great! Congratulations on the Post of the Day Award from authorblog!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ralph Ivy, thanks for visiting. Great bio there. Good question about the creative writing MFAs. Do they have to draw what they write? I never would have thoguht of that.

david mcmahon, thanks David, and thanks for recognizing me in your Post of the day! I appreciate that.

Sniffles and Smiles, thanks. And thanks for visiting.

Cath, All in all, I like my job very much and although I someitmes complain I probably shouldn't.

Cheffie-Mom, thanks very much and I appreciate you visiting.