I didn’t mark a single paper or set foot in a classroom. Here’s why this prof is tired from a hard, productive work day.

I submitted my final grades a few weeks ago. Yes, it was a great relief. Yes, the pace of my job changed drastically. But I still have plenty of work to do before I get a chance to rest.

Yes, I did take a whole day off last Friday, in order to help move boxes and wash windows for a local theater company where I volunteer.

Yes, I have started reading to my 11yo daughter until midnight. (We homeschool, and now that my classes are over it really doesn’t matter when either of us gets up in the morning.)

Yes, “summer vacation” means I have a lot more freedom in terms of what tasks I choose to do, and when I do them. I didn’t grade a single paper or set foot in a classroom today. But I’m not on vacation.

Although I am not teaching any classes over the summer, today I wrote 17 emails, and wrote 1200 words (a mixture of pseudocode and academic text). While I’ve had other work days with more impressive statistics in those areas, here is a list of what I did accomplish:

  • Wrote an encouraging email to a student who was placed on academic suspension (offering to meet with him over the summer).
  • Read and commented on writing samples submitted by a student who is doing a summer internship.
  • Blogged an infographic on 21st Century learning skills and the interface for the “Write or Die” website.
  • In response to a request from a faculty colleague, searched for blog entries written by students who are currently on an Italy trip, added those blogs to an aggregator, fought with the anti-spam filter that temporarily blocked my IP address from accessing my own blog, and shared the aggregated results with colleagues.
  • Engaged in multiple emails with theater department faculty members, about
    1. getting students in one of my journalism classes to practice video reporting by making promotional videos for theater performances, and
    2. arranging some kind of collaboration between my Shakespeare class and the cast of a student production of A Comedy of Errors.
  • Worked out the basic schedule of this fall’s Shakespeare class. (Should I teach As You Like It, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Should I teach Julius Caesar, or Anthony and Cleopatra? Whoops, does the textbook I already told the bookstore I was using even have Anthony and Cleopatra? Could I really call myself a Shakespeare teacher if I didn’t teach Hamlet? Are there any good video versions of Tom Stoppard’s “15 Minute Hamlet” online? Are there any Shakespeare-related iPad apps I could work into the syllabus? If I collect the term paper final draft before Thanksgiving break, will my family plans permit me to commit to returning the papers right after break is over? Will my kids or I have any events that conflict with any of the scheduled class meetings?)
  • Explained to the business manager of the student paper what “rates for a 1X, 3X and 12X frequency for a Full Page, Half page and Junior Page B/W AND 4C” means (this passage is from an email with the subject line “URGENT NEEBO REQUEST!”, sent today by a broker who places the ads that the student paper depends upon to pay its bills.)
  • I started some advance research on potential field trips. I emailed the student activities director asking whether the date for a fall field trip to Washington DC is set. (In the past, I have taken or sent my students to the journalism museum there.) I also looked for any professional productions of Shakespeare that might be in the Pittsburgh region this fall. (I didn’t find any… maybe it’s too early to look.)

I am also scheduled to deliver three different papers at the “Computers and Writing” conference in about 2 weeks. I already did some of the conceptual work when I proposed the papers in the first place, but participating in a scholarly conference means I am presenting my own original work. (An active research program is considered a necessary part of a faculty development plan. When I speak at a conference or publish in a journal, the conference organizers or the journal editors don’t pay me; my salary as a faculty member comes with the understanding I will do research. During the school year, I put the needs of my students first. Now that it’s summer, I can focus on the learning I need to do in order to meet my professional obligations.)

  1. One of my papers is pedagogical and reflective; I had this project in mind a few weeks ago when I wrote up my annual report, so I should be able to recycle some of what I have already written. Still, it will probably take three or four days to write that paper.
  2. A second paper involves writing a discourse analysis of contributions to a coding archive. (I’ll look closely at three or four out of a dozen or so different versions of the “same” computer program; the “same” because it performs the same tasks, but completely different because the programs are written in completely different programming languages. To gear up for this project, I am writing my own versions of the program in three coding environments that are not already in the archive; and I’m also, for the sake of comparison, attempting to write a prose narrative version of the same program.)
  3. Yet a third paper involves presenting archival work with collaborators. I’ve been in touch with those collaborators on and off throughout the year, but have not been in touch lately. (Writing this blog entry has reminded me that I owe them an email.)

I also started working on an outline proposal for a 100-minute series of instructional videos for a textbook publisher. If the proposal is accepted, the work will bring in a little extra income — enough to send my kids to summer camp. I asked my contact whether I could wait to do this after my June conference was over, but they said they might offer the job to someone else if I don’t follow through quickly. The publisher approached me because of some instructional material I had posted for a class I taught last fall; making these videos will not only keep me fresh on that topic, but will also help maintain my professional reputation in this area, so the proposal is not something I can dash off. So I’ll be spending my spare weekend hours working on that outline.

Since we are heading into the long Memorial Day weekend, I opted not to respond to an email I got late yesterday, from the chair of a committee, asking me for my contributions to a project that I didn’t finish working on before classes ended. That will still be on my to-do list when the weekend ends.

I opted not to send reminders to:

  • a publisher who promised to mail me a book 11 days ago
  • administrators whom I asked 7 days ago about how I could spend the $600 I was given for computer upgrades
  • potential collaborators whom I invited 3 days ago to help plan something for a conference in October.

I also haven’t yet:

  • paid the printer’s bill for the most recent issue of the student paper (that should only take a few minutes)
  • rotated all the books I needed for this semester’s teaching off of my “hot shelf” and back onto their storage shelves to make room for this fall’s “hot shelf” dwellers (that will take longer than it would seem, since I’ll sit down to read various books in order to decide whether I want to use them again)
  • created the websites, syllabuses, and day-to-day lesson plans for each of my classes this fall (that always takes at least two days per class)
  • converted my “News Writing” exercises from the previous course management system (which will go offline in a year) to Moodle (this is a tedious process of re-creating multiple choice questions by copy-pasting)
  • re-read 8 or 9 Shakespeare plays (including some I’ve never taught before, and some I haven’t read since I was a student).

I’m sure there are parts of your life that aren’t all that fun. I hate working on my lawn, for example. I hope you’ll forgive me if, during the school year, I am bleary-eyed and crabby because I stayed up until 3am marking a set of quizzes.

Perhaps there are parts of your life that you really and truly enjoy — even the parts that are demanding and time-consuming.

I’m fortunate that much of the work I’ve blocked out for myself this summer (particularly reading Shakespeare and making the instructional videos) is very close to what I might choose to do on my own, if I had infinite free time. But nobody has infinite free time, so my current involvement in non-optional, less-than-enjoyable, time-consuming work (some of which requires concentration) means I still have to juggle the same work/family balance that I face during the school year.

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