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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Never-ending prep time

Last week, one of my friends from college (now a professor) posted an update on her Facebook that she "has not yet learned that teaching eats up all available time. well, I've learned that, just not learned how to control it...", to which I commented "Amen sister! If you figure out that control part, do let me know!" I thought of that again when reading an article on Inside Higher Ed that was giving advice to new faculty about aligning your time with your priorities. Specifically, if you're at an institution where you need to do research in order to get tenure, then your to-do list and time map should reflect that. This is not rocket science and certainly not news to any academic. But the challenge is HOW do you do that? I know that for me, unless I have a co-author breathing down my neck, or a specific external deadline coming up (like a conference), my time during the semester is invariably eaten up by teaching-related stuff. Some of it is unavoidable - I'm obviously not going to walk into the classroom unprepared. But even when I know I'm prepared, prepping classes still has a way of simply expanding to take up whatever time I have. For example, my principles class is pretty much entirely prepped - I've taught it several times, the slides are pretty much the same every semester and I'm not making any major changes. But this morning, when just 'looking over' my slides for tomorrow, I decided that I need to update some of my clicker questions. And then I started thinking that maybe it would flow better if I just changed things around a little. Next thing you know, two hours have gone by, hours when I was supposed to be working on research.

You would think that after fourteen years, I would know better, but at some point, I just sort of accepted that this is what I do. Of course, I'm at an institution where good teaching matters, and I do get research done (I've gotten good about creating deadlines for myself), but I'm still always sort of amazed at how teaching manages to fill up so much time...

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