Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Day in the Life of One Education Professor

At social events, I have become used to questions about what professors actually "do". I usually offer a brief overview of the teaching, research, and service responsibilities that characterize most education professors’ workload. If the person doesn’t wander off for another cheese and cracker, I’ll share juicy tales of my field research, traveling to distant lands to present at conferences, editing an academic journal, interviewing participants or working closely with student teachers, classroom teachers, graduate students and many bright and interesting colleagues. Oh, just give us a chance and we professors can become the life of the party!!

During many of these conversations, I almost always get asked, "If you only teach 9 hours per week, what you do with the _rest_ of your time?" There are a number of ways one might answer such a pragmatic question. One way I thought I could explain what professors do with the "rest of their time" is to share a couple "days in the life". Here are a couple of mine.


8:30 - Meet with Associate Dean to discuss course scheduling, staffing and workloads and the development of new courses.

9:00 - Edit academic journal. This role involves (i) receiving manuscripts, (ii) completing an editorial review, (iii) deciding whether to reject or peer review, (iv) sending manuscript to 2–3 peer reviewers, (v) managing the peer review process, (vi) communicating with authors, (vii) selecting manuscripts for inclusion, (viii) creating a table of contents and article order, (ix) writing an editorial, and (x) managing the revision and final layout stages with the copyeditor.

12:00 - Meet with colleague to discuss course development, research projects and graduate supervision.

1:00 - Meet with another colleague to analyze data and prepare a conference presentation about a three year research project.

3:00 - Service: Tenure track position, a committee meeting to discuss and select potential interviewees.

4:30 - Gently stuff 24 student papers in bag to mark at home that night.


7:45 - Prepare letter to support former doctoral student's application for academic position.

8:30 - Prepare and submit proposal on conference website to present results from a year long research project.

10:00 - Read and respond to present doctoral student's draft research proposal.

11:00 - Department meeting, many items on agenda, the most thrilling of which is graduate admissions and how photocopying budgets will be scrutinized.

12:45 - Hasty lunch at desk while reading email and preparing for next net meeting.

1:00 - Login to SL to meet with doctoral student.

2:00 - Review graduate admissions files.

3:00 - Review transcripts from field-based research project.

4:30 - Pack laptop in bag and head to car.


8:00 - Arrive on campus, grab a coffee, blast through a couple dozen emails from solicitors, respond to important emails, listen to phone messages, photocopy an article and refine slides & plans for afternoon class, review a draft of a newsletter, grab snail mail from mailbox, sync iPod, water plants, and read favorite blog.

9:00 - Teleconference with colleagues here and at another university to discuss and negotiate details of a province wide research project.

10:00 - Serve as external examiner on a masters thesis. Think, what a great project!!

12:00 - Eat lunch in car while running a few errands.

1:00 - 4:00 - Lead a doctoral seminar (about which an entire other post can, and probably will be, written!).

4:10 - Grab iPod, stuff a few articles & books in my bag, jog to car.

At some point, if the person isn't shifting uneasily towards the buffet table, or the bar, I launch into an analysis of multi-level committee work in different parts of the academy, and if time permits, end with a thesis on the relative merits of the paper versus electronic daytimer. Uneasily, perhaps, I realize I am only partially joking about this last part.

Still. "If you only teach 9 hours per week, what you do with the rest of your time?"

I estimate I spend at least as much time preparing for a seminar as actually leading it. I read several articles and book chapters before selecting the few that I will assign to students. I browse hundreds of websites, listen to dozens of podcasts and draw upon a vast network of expertise in my own professional network when selecting case studies or exemplars to use or guest talks to highlight in a seminar.

When speaking to a fellow educator or, at the very least, another pedagogical enthusiast, I might launch into my ideas about instructional design, development and assessment, how to review and select good texts (widely defined) that will provoke discussion, why and how I develop tasks and assignments a certain way, the standards and criteria I employ in a rubric, and the joyful time spent reading and responding to student work. Though I am committed to and passionate about my many funded and unfunded research projects, one achievement I am particularly proud of is an excellence in teaching award. Now, that was hard work.

When I started as an junior, assistant professor many years ago, I believed I would spend a great deal of time reading and reflecting upon scholarly works, writing academic papers, going for leisurely lunches once in a while, and working closely with talented students and colleagues. I was correct in that I get to do all of those things, and a great deal more!

1 comment:

Donna said...

Congrats on the launch of girl blog...I am adding it to my blog reader! I am sure it will be an interesting read as you share your experiences with us!