Last year, I was on quasi-sabbatical, meaning that between my administrative release and my research release, I taught one class the entire year. The year before that, I was doing two administrative jobs at once, which meant I taught a whole lot less. And before that, I had been receiving one kind of release or another for administrative this or that.
So this is the first term in a long time since I’ve taught a full load, and also the first time in a long time where I’ve taught all of my classes on campus. And, just to add to the adventure, the graduate course I am teaching is new for me, and, because it’s a theory course called “the rhetoric of science and technology,” it involves a BOATLOAD of new reading. AND I’ve added/modified English 328 (the class I teach all the time) to include a collaborative video project. I have no idea how this is going to translate into the online version of this class.
Anyway, I’m not complaining exactly because I know lots of academics– especially at regional/undergrad-oriented institutions like EMU– teach a 3-3 load along with doing a lot of stuff I don’t have to do, my classes are quite small (I have fewer students in these three different classes than some of my literature colleagues have in one of their three sections), and, as always the case with academic jobs, it’s better than shoveling coal. But it does make me think of a couple of things.
First, I have yet to get my “grading mojo” back. The worst part of the job is reading, commenting on, and grading student essay projects. I don’t say that as a slam to my students at all; they do good things, they’re trying hard, etc., etc. I’m not going to lie and say that they all do really interesting and great work, but enough of them do that I can honestly say that the problem here really isn’t them. I think the problem is it’s just kind of hard work to do that can sometimes be boring and often can be easy to put off. Grading is certainly a lot less “fun” than actually being in class (or online, for that matter) and “teaching,” or planning a class, or just talking with students.
So, the first couple of batches of essays for student projects have just taken me way WAY too long to comment on. It vaguely reminds me of when I started teaching 20 years ago, or, much more recently, when I mentored a bunch of new grad students through their first semester of first year writing here at EMU when I was the temp WPA for a year: I used to (and my recent grad students used to) spend just HOURS on these things, mainly because I didn’t quite know what I was doing in the broadest possible sense. This is what I mean by my “grading mojo:” I am not back to the place where I can sit down with a batch of student projects and give them decent/useful feedback in a reasonable amount of time.
Second, I am reminded once again of how much of the job of being a professor has almost nothing to do with teaching, and that includes people (like me right now) who are teaching “full loads” with no release time to do anything else. This state of affairs has been obvious to me for a long time I suppose, but I do remember how when I started down the tenure-track at Southern Oregon 12 years ago that I was quite surprised by this. I suppose also that I am in the stage of my career where I could blow off a lot of this stuff and become one of those “dead wood” professors, but retirement is still about 25 years off for me and I’ve seen the sort of bad things/bitterness that can happen with senior folks who take the easy road and opt-out of the operations/politics of a department.
And third, I’m not sure which is the better lot in faculty life, the position I was in recently of teaching two and getting a course release to attend to a fair amount of administrative things, or teaching three, doing a few non-teaching things here and there, and largely staying out of the administrative heavy-lifting. There are some quasi-administrative things coming up that I can imagine wanting to do and/or being told that I really need to do, so we’ll see how that works out.
But if I start talking about becoming a full-time administrator, you know that a) I really want the money, and/or b) I’ve gone off the deep end.