Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In Which I Whine about How I Hate (HATE) My Schedule This Semester

Because I am a good department citizen and because it's good to pick one's battles and because life's too short to fight about every single thing that is unpleasant, I agreed a year ago that this fall I would teach just two days a week.

What a sweet schedule, you say! How dare you complain about this schedule? Are you crazy?

Well, I am Crazy, but I'm not crazy. This schedule sucks.

I can, if I'm honest, imagine a way in which a 2-day-a-week schedule would suck less. If, for example, I weren't also teaching two night classes. But because of the night classes, that means that both teaching days (which also often have meetings scheduled in the morning) are long as shit. I've got to be on campus for no fewer than 9 hours - during four of which I'm teaching - on each of these days, and if I have meetings before teaching, which is not at all as unusual as I'd like, that stretches to 10-12 hours. And that's only with three classes spread out over the two days - the fourth class I teach online.

On paper, this doesn't seem that awful, I'll admit. Normal people are at work 8 hours or more a day five whole days a week On paper, you look at the Five Whole Days on which I don't teach, and you say, but that's five whole days! Four of which are in a row! Where you don't have to go to your job! This is excellent!

Except no. What this means is that 2 of the five days that I don't teach I pretty much feel like I've been run over by a truck. Also, because I'm not a shirker, even that on paper 5-days-not-on-campus is a lie, as just because I don't teach doesn't mean there may not be a meeting that I must attend. And I'm not including any reading or prep or grading, little of which I can accomplish on the teaching days, for they are booked pretty much solid with teaching and office hours and meetings. And to add insult to injury, one of my classes is an entirely new prep and I have to do the reading for it each week, for most of what I'm assigning is stuff I've not read in its entirety since graduate school. I suppose we could say that this part of things is my fault (the not having read the stuff on the syllabus more recently) but I teach four courses a semester and I really do not want to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Teaching stuff that I haven't read or haven't reread recently is one way of actually making my life manageable. Or used to be, anyway.

But so anyway, I'm hoping that I can get into a rhythm as the semester progresses, and that maybe I will come to hate the schedule less. I think what's difficult, though, is that it's difficult to establish a rhythm given the fact that each week has (so far) had a different set of meetings and time commitments outside of my teaching. And so I find myself looking back fondly on when I had a shitty five-day-a-week schedule, which did suck, but at least I had more of a routine. And I was done with teaching by noon each day, which gave me, in some ways, a lot more flexibility than I currently have.

I guess the thing that is bothering me most is that I feel like this schedule is having a negative impact both on my scholarship and on my teaching. By the time I reach the halfway point in my second night class, I'm positively fried. Not cool, as the second night class is the new prep and the class that I really need the most energy to teach. And scholarship? What is that? I've got all of these big plans for it (worked on my sabbatical application this weekend) but I've got no energy to follow through on the plans (even in the most preliminary of ways) right now because I'm so beaten down by the schedule.

But enough of this whining. I've got to find a way to cope. The first step to that, I think, was actually cooking all day yesterday. At least now I've come to terms with the fact that this schedule means that I really need to plan out meals and to have the daily living parts of my life much more regimented so that they don't seem like an additional burden. Also, I think that I need to make a commitment this weekend to tying up loose ends on a bunch of researchy things (I've got a reader's report that I need to polish and send off for a journal; a book review for another journal to revise and send off; minor revisions on an article for yet another journal to complete; two more funding applications - to be submitted by the same deadline as the sabbatical app - to complete; a conference abstract to write - though this is silly, I won't get travel money for it, and really it's just an excuse for a long weekend with BFF and FBA) and I think getting all or a good portion of that done will make me feel less swamped. And you know, if teaching suffers next week because of that, so be it. I can only do so much.

And finally, as I've been writing this, something occurred to me. It's somewhat typical in my department, and I imagine in a lot of other departments, for at least some faculty with children to lobby for a two-day-a-week schedule. In my department, these people intend to teach 4 classes back-to-back on those two days, so that then they can be around for childcare stuff on the other three days a week. In the case of academic couples, they try for opposite schedules - one partner teaching 3 days a week while the other does two days a week, thus meaning that one parent is available full-time on every day of the week. As I look at the way I'm managing (or not managing) my current schedule, I've got to wonder about the wisdom of this, especially if the people in question don't teach anything online and if the parents in question don't have at least a few hours of childcare on each of the days that they aren't teaching. This is a full-time job no matter what one's teaching schedule - and loading all of one's classes into two days, and attempting to limit one's time on campus to those days, with a 4/4 load, can actually make the job harder and more time-consuming as opposed to the opposite, if one actually meets all of the full-time responsibilities of the job. This isn't an attack on faculty parents at all - it's just an observation. And, assuming I stay in the world of the 4/4 load and if someday I end up having a kid, I'm filing this information away in my noggen. Because, dude, teaching two days a week is beating me down, and that's even with the luxury of collapsing when the time in the classroom is done.

(Note: I think the 2-day-a-week schedule is entirely reasonable if one teaches a 2/2, and maybe even ok if one has a 3/3 or a 3/2. It's the fourth class that makes this ENTIRELY unreasonable.)


Anonymous said...

I totally agree that cramming it all into two days doesn't seem like the best way to to balance kids and the job. At best, you'd be fried on your off days and not feeling like being with the kids *or* working.

Flavia said...

Yeah. For the first time ever, my night class is no longer on a day that I teach my other 2 classes, and it makes a world of difference to be teaching for ONLY 3 hours a day each of those three days. So, my sympathies!

And funny: many of the parents in my dept (or at least those who live right near campus) choose to teach as many days as possible, I think on the logic that if they have a sick child, or whatever, on a day they teach, they'll only have to be on campus for an hour or so (or only have to miss a single class)--rather than getting into a situation where they either have to leave the child for a whole day or cancel everything.

gwinne said...

When I was doing a 3-1-3 load at the SLAC, it was customary in my department for most people to teach 4-5 days per week. It was actually an ideal situation for me as a parent of an infant, as I was usually only on campus from 9-4 (with exceptions for meetings and such). I found I was much more balanced personally, even before I added a kid to the mix.

kermitthefrog said...

I can totally imagine the crashing feeling coming down from 9 straight hours of performance (which is how I think of teaching)--I too would vastly prefer a more regular routine.

If the conference abstract you're working up is for something in February, in a state that rhymes with "ducky," I would love to meet up if you end up going!

Janice said...

My first year at Hinterlands U they gave me a two day a week schedule (but I was only teaching 3-3). They'd felt if whoever they hired was tied to the major city four hours south, this schedule would allow for commuting.

It was very draining and I wouldn't recommend it. With 4/4? I definitely would be worried that it would totally drain your personal batteries.

I'm a weirdo in that I like teaching four or five days a week but my department's pretty stuck on the idea of having us all teach three days a week at most (we still need a fourth day for committee meetings in many cases, but the fifth day is supposed to be sacred unto research and writing). Having the high-energy teaching duties spread out over four or five days is a lot easier than crammed into two!

life_of_a_fool said...

I very much prefer a T/Th schedule (though with a 3-3, and most meetings on a third day). It's just too distracting and draining for me to teach more days.

However. What would do me in with your schedule is the two night classes. I have one -- on Th nights, which means I'm teaching over a 10.5 hour span that day -- and I'm WIRED and DRAINED by the end. Fridays are useless (and so it helps me to just accept that). To do that twice in a week? No way.

Doctor Pion said...

I feel your pain ... because I have three days like that! But I don't have to maintain a research program, so I also have some classes the other two days.

One thing I realized when I did it last year was that I was going to be on campus after that last class got out, no matter what, so I put some office hour time there this time around. That seems to have helped a lot, since I can meet my office hour requirements and take off much earlier on my "off" days.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I did a T/Th 4/4, plus department chair stuff while I was in Chemo... I was lucky because I didn't need to do much prep and I planned my semester with less grading, since I knew I'd be in chemo during the semester.

It still was draining -- so much so that I needed to go home for a nap in the middle of Tuesdays -- I taught 75 minute classes at 7:45, 9:30, and 2:15 -- then a Tuesday night class. I also planned to spend Wednesday in bed -- and Friday doing chemo... So, I ended up with some decent prep time on Saturdays because of the steroid-boost... and I more or less refused ANY extra meetings.

I think you have good reason to avoid morning meetings on days when you teach at night -- just say you aren't available and, if pushed, say that your evening class suffers on days when you're on campus early.

This semester I'm doing two nights and Monday is my teach-a-thon days (classes at 2:15, 4:00 and 6:00-8:50..), but the rest of the week is ok.

MommyProf said...

I have two 3-hour grad classes back to back one day a week. This is the 3rd year I have had this in the fall, and you'd think I'd remember that I am pretty much useless the day after, but not so much.

I feel your pain!

Belle said...

Whhh... whnnn...whiiiiiine... that's me, getting my comeuppance as I read your post and the comments. I'm drained after my four day schedule that starts at noon. By the time I finish at 5:15, I probably shouldn't drive home with brain at 1/2 speed.