The academic life
I’ve written a couple of blog posts about the life of writing academics recently – one for my writer’s blog, and one for a writing friend’s new web-site. In both of these I’ve talked about the flexibility of my post and how fortunate I feel to be being paid to do what I’d do even if I wasn’t paid. So, I thought it might be an idea to look closely at just one day.
The first hour at home
If I set off from home between 7.30 and 8.30 it can take me between forty-five minutes and one hour fifteen to get there. If I set off after 9.00 it rarely takes me more than twenty. So, I work for the first hour at home. The first two hours of every day I try to dedicate to my writing. I complete most of the article described above for my friend’s web site before I leave the house.
Why I’m in the office today
Normally I wouldn’t be here on a Friday. Somehow I’ve been here the last four Fridays. This time it’s because I had to cancel my “office hour”, a sort of drop-in surgery, earlier in the week because of a hospital visit. Also, two other students want to see me today.
A part-time colleague can’t set up the DVD in the room she is teaching in this week. The students anyway go to the room where they all were last week. I spend a little time checking that the room is free for the three hours.
One of the ones I expected comes early – or is she really early? It could just be that the time has gone so quickly. She wants to move into one of my programmes. All is fine and we get it sorted out very quickly.
Another student phones. Can he come to see me? He registered late and isn’t able to access all of the systems yet. He’s booked himself into work when he should be in class. However, he now has his timetable and it won’t happen again. I show him how to find all of the work on Blackboard, our Virtual Learning Environment. As we look at the site I realise it’s hard to see exactly when the assignments are due in. I must mention this to a colleague and check that everything is clear on my own sites.
Whilst he is there another student pops by – he has lost his timetable and can’t remember where to go. I print him off another one. The two students happen to have all of their seminars together. They set off confident of finding their way to their Intro to Drama seminar.
The email inbox
I finish my writing and tackle this. I’m always a little nervous. There are often some uncomfortable moments. Not too bad, today, as it happens. There is just one student I’ve asked to contact me because he has a timetable clash. I asked him to come in or I can phone him. He’s picked the phone option. I’d rather he’d come in. We establish the clash wasn’t his fault – he did select his options the correct way, through the online system. The timetabling system just didn’t work for him. I apologise and offer him a series of solutions. He is relatively satisfied with the outcome. We’ve got away with just one timetable clash. My line manager informs me that the London colleges have so many clashes that student often have to change their modules.
I also find out that another student I was expecting can’t get in because her son is poorly. We arrange to meet on Monday instead.
Meeting with a colleague
The colleague with whom I share my office, an office we only moved into a week ago, is a little startled to see me there. She would only be able to spend an hour or so in the office today anyway as she is teaching for five hours. Still, I’m able to give her the key now and talk about how we’ll set up her work area and about one or two teaching matters.
Too late for lunch - Creative Café Project here I come
It’s well after one by the time I’ve finished. The canteen upstairs will be dead and probably out of food at this time on a Friday. I’d been toying anyway with visiting one of the cafés in my Creative Café Project. I decide to go ahead with that.
Do we have an intruder?
I suddenly notice as I go to leave that the door of the office next to mine is open. Do we have an intruder? Did the cleaner leave it open? My two colleagues who share that office are not supposed to be in today. I tap gently on the door and open it. My line manager is on the phone. No intruder then. Just someone needing a bit of privacy.
Creative Café Project alive and well
Even though I arrive at Time for Tea in Prestwich at well after two I’m still able to enjoy a lunch of homemade broth with homemade bread, a pot of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge.
I chat to Julie, the owner, about what she’s doing for the Project. This Project is all about bringing creative practitioners, their peers and their audiences together in a café atmosphere. I want to arrange one of my own readings there again sometime in the near future.
It’s an extremely relaxing place – with its dainty tablecloths and lovely china, despite being near the main road. I get talking to a gentleman who is involved in the University of the Third Age. Something for me to think about for my retirement in just under three years? He also points me towards some other cafés.
I’m delighted that my bill only comes to £5.69.
Writing a lecture and preparing a seminar
I’m home at just after three and spend most of that time between then and half past nine, with a short break for some supper, preparing a lecture and notes for the accompanying seminars on emergent readers and the books created for them.
Good job I looked at my email again
Yes, as I left the office quite early I do look at my email again. A good job too. A document, the writing of which is possibly my least favourite aspect of my job, is due in on Monday. I was vaguely aware that this would need to be done sometime soon but was expecting notes on procedure to be forwarded. It would have all then been diarised. I think I’ve been missed off a distribution list. A colleague has a similar reaction.
Never mind. The first time I completed one of these, it scared me and took weeks. The second time it scared me and took hours. This time it doesn’t scare me. I start Saturday afternoon and get half of it done in a couple of hours. Later today I shall finish all but the bits I’ll need to complete on campus.
Not, it doesn’t scare me anymore but it does dominate my weekend. Even so, it absorbs me and I can see the positives in doing it. So if that’s the worst aspect of my job… my job is not bad at all!