Sunday 23 November 2014

Work as if you don’t need the pay

Dream job

In many ways the academic job is the dream one. Part of our work is to do what many people have to do in their free time. In my case, for instance, that might mean getting on with my novel. In any other job I would probably get into trouble for writing in my employer’s time on my employer’s computer. Not so in this case.

Satisfying curiosity

We are fortunate too that we are able to work towards satisfying our curiosity. What would happen if I wrote like this instead of like that? Why does Dickens have to use so much description?  What was it in that writer’s background that made her so intolerant? Part of our day job is to find the answers to such questions.

Marking boycott

Yes, recently there was a marking boycott. That was lifted the other day so marking is now taking place. If we joined the boycott we still did other things.  If we were not marking, we were preparing lectures for next semester, writing academic papers or getting on top of our admin. All of this would be beneficial to students.
And I confess to enjoying marking.  I love seeing what my students have learnt and giving them extra pointers about the aspects of our work that they have not understood so well.

If we’re breathing we’re working

We tend to like our work more than anything else. So basically, if we’re awake and we’re not eating we’re working after a fashion. Talking over lunch with a colleague, identifying story traits in a film and reading a book with one’s editor-head switched on is all work even if for someone else this may seem like leisure. Some work feels more vibrant than other work. Teaching responsive students, reading great literature and writing something good are rewarding. Teaching students who avoid eye-contact, receiving complaints from students and completing tedious admin tasks are less so. But hey, they pay us enough, actually to put up with the latter. And even those are not as boring as, say, making left-hand door panels for minis. (A job my husband took one summer vacation.) There tends to be more of the former anyway.

Privileged position

Yes we academics are in a privileged position. I took on my post at the age of 55, the same age at which I gained my PhD. I’m into my eighth year at the institution where I teach. I intend to work for just one more year after this one and then retire. A great way to finish my working life. Though as a writer, of course, I’ll probably carry on until the day I die.     

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