My So-Called Academic Life

Three More Weeks

bannerfans_16248261I have exactly eight more classes to teach, a pile of essays to grade, and thirteen final exams to grade before the spring semester — and my first year as a full-time professor — ends. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my working methods this year. I learned that I have a really hard time balancing teaching and my Live Lab duties with my research and personal interests. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve neither read one book this entire school year, nor have I done any papers or editing. I barely stayed afloat as I navigated on-line teaching for the first time, packed for my big move to Texas, unpacked, and bought a house in a state that I barely know. Sure, I had teaching assistants … but I still don’t know how to manage them yet or what jobs they can do to make my life easier. I’ve been an adjunct professor for eleven years and I’m used to doing a huge amount of teaching work by myself. However, as an adjunct I didn’t have service work and I wasn’t required by contract to produce writing and research in my field. This has been the biggest struggle this year: managing my time to do everything I need and want to do … and honestly, I’ve failed miserably.

I’ve had really great weeks when I was able to plow through my “to do” list and get things done for teaching, Live Lab, and other service initiatives, usually at the expense of my own work and personal time. And then I’ve had weeks like this week where everything went wrong and everyone drove me to utter frustration and tears.

When I do have some downtime, I’m so exhausted from the day that I end up sitting in front of the television watching political commentary, which makes me even more anxious and upset. I often spend time in the mornings procrastinating on-line because I don’t want to grade another 70 essays or write another batch of Student Learning Objectives. Sure, we’ve taken Saturdays to unpack or go antique shopping … but I always feel guilty afterwards and it always sets me behind in my work. As I write this I’m torn between working out, dying my hair, and reading for fun, and editing my paper, grading some essays, and working on the SLOs. I know that I’m going to work this weekend, it’s inevitable. But what should I do today? Should I — could I — allow myself a minute to rest and take care of myself? Logically, I know the answer is yes. But …

And there’s the crux of the issue: how to allow myself downtime that’s fun and restful, while accomplishing my goals and getting necessary work done. How do I juggle teaching duties, service duties, AND my own research and writing while having time to do pursue my personal interests. Heck, I’ve been waking up at 5:00 am just to see what I can accomplish! I end up using that time to grade or organize my lectures for the week. This is a topic that has been written about time and again by more seasoned scholars. I know the suggestions, I know the mantras. Why do I resist implementing them into my life? Why do I find all of this so difficult to manage? These are the questions that I need to think about going forward. I need some space and quiet time to come up with a working solution, or I’ll be in the same predicament next semester.

9 thoughts on “Three More Weeks”

  1. Sounds like you’re accomplishing an amazing amount! It makes my head spin just thinking about it — which is saying a lot since I’m in a total haze after another night of no sleep. Hopefully during the summer you can treat yourself a bit? Or is that when your own research kicks in? I’m impressed, either way, and am so happy to hear that you landed such a great position — I’m sure you’re making a huge impact on the lives of your students. Xoxo

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    1. Thanks! This summer is most definitely my time to research and write. I have a paper and a book proposal to get out before October/November. We’re spending the month of June in NYC so that we can visit family and so that I can get my research done. And alas, I agreed to summer teaching, second session (July-August). Thankfully it’s on-line … but it’s still 70 students.

      I’ll feel better once this semester is over and I can really reflect on what I’ve done. Thanks so much for this. It means a lot.

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      1. Oh man! Not much break time! It’ll feel good to be back in NYC for a bit though, I bet. Try and get a real mini vacay in this summer too! It could rejuvenate and inspire you and you seriously deserve it.

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  2. Perhaps the resistance you’re perceiving is not necessarily conscious because you resist the advice, but that it simply isn’t compatible with your life in general. I know it’s trite to say, but what works for others, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.

    You and my husband are so alike, it’s uncanny. I try to teach him to enjoy himself and let go of work for a bit, and in turn he’s tried to teach me the importance of self discipline and structure. Everyone brings something, hehe.
    To echo the above sentiment, I hope with the coming summer you’re able to find the time for yourself!

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    1. It’s true. I am completely focused on my work … yet, technically my “work” is what makes my heart sing, so is it really work? I dunno.

      I’m hoping for a least a week or two to breath. I know that I won’t get that much, so maybe weekends?

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  3. Big supportive hug! Each university is different, which I know you know but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of that. You just learned an entirely new place after moving from a home of many years. You’ll find your balance! In three weeks you’ll have time to reflect, organize, and plan. Sending light and love, friend! You’ve accomplished so much!

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    1. So mote it be … to all of this. The size of this university and the scope of its work is astounding, and humbling. I can only hope that I’m on the right track and doing enough for next year’s review. sigh …

      And thank you! Sending you lots of love!

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  4. Wow, that some schedule, I am not really familiar with the education system, by gum you have a lot on your plate. Also, not to forgetting about becoming emotionally settle in your new home and environment.One of my random interest is the American death penalty debate, strange being British. This has taught me a lot of about the cultural and by Odin Texas yah we is not New York state. It traditional bible belt republican compare to the liberal East coast, basically New York. It completes cultural shock which had to content with but I guess we all have our weakness. Finger crossed sending all love from the NCL (Newcastle) I hope find your way.

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  5. I know that it can be hard when work bleeds over into your personal life. Make sure you try to take some time for yourself if possible, it’s hard to do good work when that’s all you end up doing!

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