Saturday, April 26, 2008


One of the nice things about working in academia is that the job changes according to the time of the year. The rhythms of starting a semester, midterm, and finals -- not to mention the relative downtime of summer -- provide a cycle to the year that an office job just can't match.

We're entering final exam week for the spring semester now. Some of the features and feelings of this time of year are easily understood by anyone who's ever been in school. There's pressure to respond quickly to student work, to get everything graded. Exams have to be created, proctored, and graded in short order. (Since I give assignments for collaborative final projects in lieu of individual tests given at a specific final exam period, I end up doing a lot more preparation and structuring ahead of time and monitoring of student progress during the two weeks or so that they are working, and much less reading through stacks of essays after the students have emptied the dorms.) There are commencements and banquets and deadlines for turning in final grades.

But here's what I'm up to that people who've never been on this side of the desk might not expect:
  • Awards. Many departments give awards for outstanding student, or hold competitions for the best student work in a given area. My college gives special recognition to the senior theses that meet exacting criteria -- we can give as many awards as we like, or none at all. This year there are thirteen theses nominated by their advisers. The entire faculty reads the nominated theses, and the vote has to be unanimous for a thesis to win the award. One of the theses this year is a 200-page novel.
  • Commencement x 3. Each faculty member is supposed to attend one of the 90-minute ceremonies held next Saturday. But as longtime readers of this blog will recall, the administration (including deans and associate deans) attend all three.
  • Summer research. Every year I begin the summer break with plans to finish papers, submit proposals, and get an administrative handle on my various external duties with boards, encyclopediae, etc. And every year my year-round administrative position winds up actually taking twelve months instead of nine, and the stuff that gets me promoted but for which I am not paid takes a back seat. I've got high hopes for July, despite previous experience.
How does your life change as summer approaches?


Adam Villani said...

Very little change. It stays lighter later in the evening. It's more likely to be unrelentlessly sunny. I can watch baseball games.

It affects travel plans more. Once Jen finishes with school and we have more flexibility with vacations, we'll want to basically restrict ourselves to the West Coast during the summer to avoid the muggy weather in the East. We're going to try to visit hot areas like Florida only during January-February or thereabouts, and hit the Northeast in maybe Spring or Fall. There are a bunch of amusement parks up there that I'd like to visit someday, but those are mostly only open May - September... we'll maybe have to catch those places only during the beginning and end of their seasons.

Justin Ray said...

Even if it doesn't affect my schedule, seasonal change still has a big impact on life in general. Fireplaces vs. open windows. The air goes from crisp to pollen-laden to stifling to vegetative. I love setting in my truck and watching the ice melt off the windshield in the winter...not so much sweating my ass off in the summer.

Ya know--the little things.

Eric Grubbs said...

Overall, the change is small: take walks/jogs at about 7pm (after the sun goes down), and traffic is less during rush hour.

doafy said...

As a high school teacher, my schedule is similar to yours. However, summer is currently just a far-off rumor. We're not done until June 10, and I have an entire novel or play to teach in each of my classes, and 86 research papers coming in on May 6th.

Exam time is actually my favorite time of the year, if I've managed to catch up on all of the pre-exam grading. Exams are mostly objective, as there isn't enough time to grade essay tests in the two or three days before grades are due. So my girls take their comprehensive tests on Scantrons, and all I have to do is add things up. Add in half days, and I'm a happy happy girl, especially after the six-week-long grading push to simply get to exams.

This summer I will be crocheting and stressing out about where I will be working next year.

the secret knitter said...

The college calendar is nice to experience from the administrative side, although we still have a month-plus remaining in the academic year. I like how it breaks up the year even if it may not have a major impact on what I do. Summers are a lot slower, though. Gotta love that.