Entries for May 2007

academic rhythms

Last month, one of my old posts which received a very high number of hits was the one on work rhythms of academic and professional life. As a followup, I thought I'd write a bit about why I haven't posted in about a month, and comment on the academic rhythms of the end of the semester.

In a nutshell: students don't realize that when they finish their final papers and exams and presentations, a professor's work has just begun!

My last post was April 10. On April 12, the drumrolls of grading began, as my first student teams began delivering presentations to their classes about their final projects. This required that I send each team feedback on their presentations after class -- emails that require tactful phrasing, indeed.

By April 19, I began receiving end-of-semester papers. While I am fortunate to have teaching assistants for both of my courses, I still need to be involved in the grading process, which also takes time.

Classes ended on April 26. Then I needed to pull together my grading spreadsheets, deciding on a final point scheme for class participation, and resolving any problems with missing grades (it always happens, and not just because a student didn't hand anything in). By this point, I also had to deal with two teams in which the members gave each other less-than-satisfactory peer appraisals -- which means that I had to talk to everyone on each of those teams. This is no easy matter when students are cramming for finals and don't want to take time out to visit with a professor in her office.

I extended the deadline for final papers in one of my classes until April 30, which meant that the TA and I had less time to turn them around and get grades back to the students. On May 5 and May 7, those same students delivered presentations to their classmates in lieu of a final exam. There were 26 presentations in all over the 2 dates, and I had to grade all of those and enter the scores into Blackboard (our online course management system.) I finally filed grades on May 14.

For the rest of last week, I took time off, recuperating from the push of four 60-hour weeks in a row. While 60 hours of work in a week didn't seem like a huge burden when I was a college junior taking 21 credits, that was almost half a lifetime ago. Perhaps I'm also wiser, in recognizing the need for my body and my brain to recuperate after running such a mental marathon.

And if anyone comments to me that "it must be nice to have the summer off" I may just bite off their head. The ambitious list of papers to write and projects to wrap up that I composed in early January will be coming back to haunt me this summer. It is nice to be able to work at a coffeeshop or at the library or out on our screened porch, but I definitely have work to do this summer, and less time off than I'd like.