Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Academia = Lifetime of Homework

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I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure this out… But choosing an academic life seems to mean accepting (embracing?) a lifetime of homework. I mean, I sort of understood this early on, but not like this.

Think about it. A huge portion of what we do requires work that won’t be happening inside a classroom or meeting or office. Well it could happen in the office, if you could spend enough ALONE time in said office without students and colleagues and meetings getting in the way.

So if you teach, you spend time preparing for class and grading student work. I never EVER have enough time to do that in the office. Grading student work is largely a midnight or early morning thing. Only very low stakes stuff can get graded in the office. I say “get graded” because, like, it’s not as conscious an activity.

If you give lots of workshops like I do, you can get a lot done in the office but very often need to spend time working at home to refine. I can’t focus as well in the office. Is it just me? I put up signs of “please do not disturb unless urgent” and like, unless it’s really clear I am on a conference call (even then actually!) I get interrupted. It’s ok. It’s just not conducive to getting anything done. And that’s fine. I love all the stuff that ends up happening in the office with people and stuff 🙂 There is just so much I need to do without other people physically present.

For every research project, I cannot imagine getting all that work done during “work hours”. Not the research nor the writing. For every conference presentation, I usually work at home. I don’t Think I even write conference proposals from the office. For every article or even blogpost I write – those I work on around the clock. Occasionally I will write something from the office on a day without meetings or classes, but those days are rare. That’s why I am on my phone so much. Writing during my commute to/from work, or taking any opportunity my daughter is napping to get a bit of work done wherever I find myself.

For things like academic peer reviews. That doesn’t feel like something I should be doing while at work. So I do those outside the office.

And then of course everything that involves collaboration gets more complex for me because of timezones. I am not even talking about the FUN things like Twitter chats or Virtually Connecting sessions. I am talking actual work on academic papers and preparing conference presentations.

Honestly, I can’t imagine how anyone can choose this life unless they really love it. Work-life balance? Pfft. How many times would I have to say “no” to achieve THAT?

Ya can’t blame me for not sleeping. I swear if I sleep too much (aka more than 5 hours) for a whole week in a row my entire work (aka homework stuff) becomes overwhelming. Of course also when I don’t sleep at all because of a family thing (e.g. sick child) I end up both tired AND unproductive.

I’m rereading this and thinking I must be absolutely crazy. But I have a feeling I am not alone in this.

Update: and speaking of how busy i am and needing to say no…i…uh…just signed up for a MOOC! #curiouscolab. More info here

4 Comments

  1. When is what u do work?

    • Yeah. That’s a problem. But it’s also got deadlines and stuff

      • I had that pb of deadlines so I decided to get ahead of myself by doing as much as possible to suit my lifelines.

        Ironic really had article “ready” 4 months before deadline so went off to do other stuff then 3 wks before we decide to rewrite the whole thing. So eventually it all comes back to…I do it cos I like it even if it’s dumb.

        But if I do it cos I like it – it’s not really proper work like rubbish jobs I did before. Go figure…

  2. Totally not alone, but the academic life is more of a vocation than a profession. We do this in part because we are called to do it … and sometimes it is even fun. But alas, marking for me is homework but it is also teaching … I love giving each student meaningful feedback … I hate having to associate “grades” to the meaningful feedback …

    It is also why I love working from home. I miss the collegial environment of having a collaborative office space but the reality is that I’m not in a place where that is even an option. Is working at home one day a week an option? Is that even a “thing” in Egypt? Some high tech companies allow it – others frown on it – but really the hybrid is the best option – in the office for a few days and home for a few days .. so you can do different types of work that are conducive to the different environments.

    What the heck would we ever do if we couldn’t work on our phones?

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