Monday, August 18, 2008

A dirge for summer

Coming to work this morning, there was an energy in the air that has been missing for months. The groundskeepers were busy mowing, pruning, and primping plants. The parking lot was filled by 8am. The vending machine which had sat empty since May was suddenly full. With all these omens of doom and gloom in the air, I finally had to confront is about to start.

After hiding under my desk weeping uncontrollably this morning for the demise of my beloved summer, I decided to focus my post today on the good things about the school year..... ..... .... ..... ......

Alright, maybe I need to try this again.

Perhaps I should start slow and focus on why I dread the school year. Unquestionably, I dread the school year because my time is not my own. During the summer, I refuse to schedule meetings with anyone. Even General Disarray cannot get me to commit to scheduling anything work-related (I don't know if he has noticed this, but I guess he will now). This is not to say that I am unproductive during the summer - in fact I was insanely productive this summer (a thought that still gives me a little glow). However my brain (and we've already discussed how my brain is a capricious despot who rules my life with an iron fist) sometimes requires long periods of time to mull things over or long periods of time to focus on a topic. There is nothing worse than feeling the brain revving up to finally tackle that tricky discussion paragraph of a complicated concept and at that exact moment have to go off to some boring ass meeting on something I really don't care about where my sole contribution is that they needed a woman breathing in the room and so there I am.

And there it is, in a nutshell, the reason I hate the school year...all the boring ass meetings which shackle me to someone else's work schedule. They cut up my work day. They are completely pointless to my career, or frankly the working of the university, 98% of the time. They contain at least 1 royal gasbag who loves to talk about issues not related to the committee and thus extends the meeting to twice its necessary length. I resent them (both the meetings and the gasbags) with a deep-seated hatred I normally reserve for people who write boring-ass scientific papers on really cool topics (I will never understand how someone can treat their own results so poorly by refusing to buy them a nice set of clothes before sending them out into the cruel cruel world). No wonder I view the students with such dread. Their return marks the beginning of the "university-sanctioned faculty hunting season", when the Department Head wandering the hallways is someone to be avoided with all due haste because the fact that he's out of his office undoubtedly means he's on the prowl for another victim for a committee. (I actually really like my Department Head, but I have to admit I like him a lot more during the summer when I don't have to eye him with fear)

The good thing, which I have realized in using you all as a cheap therapist, is that my dread for the coming school year has nothing to do with the teaching components of my job. I love interacting with my graduate students, I get a real kick out of them as I expose to them to new concepts and see them run with the ideas in ways I never thought of. I love teaching graduate classes - they keep me on my toes and challenge me to think about things I wouldn't have thought about on my own. I really enjoy the undergraduates who work in my lab because they continually remind me of that excitement I felt when I realized that science was about finally being allowed to let my curiosity off its tight leash. This is a good thing because it will make me feel less like an ogre when the first student of the school year enters my office and I start crying. Now I know I'll actually be crying in relief that it wasn't my department head!


JaneB said...

Ah, meetings. The joys... but I'm with you on the students. It'll be nice to see them back (even if I will be cursing when I have to stop in the middle of an idea to get to class...). One advantage of my Head of Department's reluctance to sort out teaching issues is that I've ended up with slightly more classes than I should have but in return I'm no longer on any non-departmental committees. Now, if I could also get out of the departmental meetings, I'd be overjoyed, but that's a good start!

DamnGoodTechnician said...

As a not-faculty person, I'm not a big fan of the fall out here. This here city becomes rotten with students over Labor Day weekend. Can't park anywhere; can't get through Target without throwing some wicked elbows; grocery store sells out of Ramen, etc etc. I forget how much I like not having them around until September starts.