One day on Twitter one of the people I follow says:
Just realized Fall term lectures start a week later than I thought they did. A week more of prep time, here we come!
Or a week free for writing!
What would you do with an extra week?
I suspect that my Twitter correspondent is not alone in thinking of the time “before term starts” as teaching preparation time.
The question is, how much of the summer needs to go into “teaching prep”?
And at what point does the looming beginning of term start to overwhelm your research?
Does teaching feel like your “real” work?
I wonder if there is a deeper problem.
Despite the importance of research to your own career trajectory and to those that hire/tenure/promote you, we live in a culture that doesn’t really understand your research career.
How many people have asked you whether you are working this summer? How many of them meant teaching?
How many people think you get a crazy long summer vacation?
How many people think you have a cushy job because you only teach a couple of days a week?
Most people think they know what teaching is. So they think they understand what you do for a living.
But they have a student’s perspective on teaching. And from a student’s perspective, you are only teaching when you are in the classroom. Just look at the struggles teachers unions have getting time for preparation included in their daily workload.
You are a researcher, too
Despite what your friends and neighbours think, you do much more than teach. You are paid to do more than teach.
It is thus perfectly reasonable to limit the amount of time you spend on teaching preparation. Especially during the summer, the only time of year when you have large blocks of time to devote to research.
So if you suddenly “discover” an extra week before term starts…
Of course, the balance between teaching and research is going to change. And now is probably a good time to start thinking about and planning for that change.
It might be easier to do the initial creative work on an article now. Produce a couple of drafts that can be worked on in 15 or 30 minute chunks of time during term.
If different tasks will take different lengths of time, break your list up into “15 minutes”, “30 minutes”, and “60 minutes” lists so you can quickly find research and writing tasks for the time available.
If you’ve been collecting data or source material, you might want to transition into analysis in August. Set up the analysis or figure out how you want to work with the source material so that you have a rhythm going that can be sustained in 15 minutes a day during term time.
The first week of term is going to be chaos. It is every year. Give yourself permission not to do any research that week.
And since you are going to take a little break at that point, and maybe even the week before to get ready for the chaos, why not set a deadline for some of the writing you are doing.
If you aren’t going to have time to look at that article or grant proposal for a couple of weeks, why not have it sitting on someone else’s desk?
- If you are writing a journal article, submit it before term starts. Then it can sit on reviewers desks in the fall and you might get a reply back early in the new year. You can then do the revisions during winter term and resubmit at the beginning of the summer.
- If you don’t think it is good enough, then arrange for a colleague to read it. Get it to your colleague by your “before term starts” deadline and make an appointment to meet and discuss it in early October. That way you can make a few changes and get it submitted before the Christmas break.
- If you are writing a grant proposal, send it to someone (an editor? a colleague? the associate dean?) and schedule time in mid-September to work on it. You’ll come back to it fresh and you’ll have comments.
- Set an early August deadline for stopping data collection or archive visits. Then a late August deadline for planning the analysis/interpretation work and getting the kinks worked out so you can do it in small chunks of time.
Have you got other ideas?
How can you actively transition from a research-dominant summer to a teaching dominant fall?
Share them in the comments.
This post was edited August 10, 2015.