Thursday, April 2, 2009

It must be nice to have your summers off.

Yeah, it would be, wouldn't it?

Teachers hear this line all the time, usually starting right around now...which, coincidentally, is exactly the same time I'm usually starting to freak out about how full my summer is getting, and wondering how I'm going to get everything done in the pockets that remain.

My father, who was a school administrator, used to tell his teachers to reply to this comment by saying that they weren't "off," they were "seasonally unemployed." Which is true: my contract is only for nine months, and here at WVU we only get paid over nine months (instead of the nine-over-twelve scheme at my previous institution), so it definitely feels a lot more like unemployment.

And yet, summer is often the only time teachers and scholars have to learn...and write.Not to mention prep for fall courses.

So, "summer off": yeah, it's nice not to have to wake up to the alarm, and not to have stacks of papers to grade. It's not nice, though, not to be getting a paycheck, and yet to feel like you'd better be hyper-productive or, a few years down the road when you come up for tenure, you may never get a paycheck again. my anxiety showing?


Jane Kokernak said...

The picture illustrating the post is so apt.

Recently I met a woman who said, after I told her that I teach college writing, "It must be nice to have such a low stress job." (She *was* a lawyer until she had children; now she's a "work at home mom.")

There's no such thing as a summer off, although, yes, summer's are different when you're a teacher.

My dad was a career teacher (high school), and his summers were always filled with employment: coach, summer school, parks & rec, conservation -- anything!

And I too am looking for some summer gigs as well as time for the writing.

Not complaining, but not planning to sit around in my lawn chair, either!

Erica said...

It's always funny how the average person pictures a teacher's summer as completely relaxed -- is it that hard to grasp that "not at work" also means "not getting a paycheck"?

There was a similar logical disconnect when I was an engineer in a auto-parts manufacturing plant, which deals with an occasional excess of labor by having "temporary layoff" (or TLO), ranging from a few hours to days (or weeks, in truly bad times). Workers got to opt-in based on their seniority, and if we still needed to dump labor, we forced people out from lowest seniority up. You could tell which of the employees were the most sensible, by whether they eagerly saw TLO as a chance to get out of work and go goof off, or realized that it could take a huge chunk out of their weekly paycheck...

historiann said...

Academics have the advantage of a more flexible work schedule than most people, but that's the only advantage. Even the very happy, satisfied academics I know are very up front that although their schedule permits them to be home when the school bus drops the kids off (for example), and they can do homework and have down time with the children from 4-8 p.m., they're back at work 8-11 p.m. on class prep, reading, writing, and grading. (I don't do this--but that's because I get up at 4:30 or 5 to finish my work many weekday mornings!) I prefer this flexibility to a more rigid set of work hours, but sometimes I wonder what it must be like to leave my work behind me at work. I guess that's the trade-off.

BTW, I'm paid only for 9 months of work, and yet that doesn't make me feel like I can goof off much during the summer. My summer resolution is to take some time away and really enjoy it, and then get back to work and really work, instead of obsessing about any time I'm not researching or writing. Now THAT's a waste of a perfectly good summer!

Rosemary said...

@Jane--"Low-stress job"! That's funny...she *was* making a joke, right? :^P

@Erica--That's a really interesting parallel. Why do I have a feeling that a lot of folks (and not just in the auto industry) are learning exactly that lesson these days?

@Ann--I do love the relative flexibility of my job, having done the 8-to-5, 51 weeks a year thing. And I agree, the danger of that flexibility is that it makes it all too easy for work to "flex" into every other aspect of one's life.

Unfortunately, I do tend to be one of those folks who figures that if I'm not working, then *worrying* about how much I'm not getting done must "count" for something. Getting over that is a long-term project for me.

Christy said...

I always found teaching to be a 24/7 job, even during the 'off' weeks and months. Paradoxically, I find the 9-5 schedule of a desk job (even when it's sometimes stretched to 9-9) to be a welcome relief I don't think I could trade back anymore. Evenings and weekends are truly times for decompression, rather than worrying over mounting piles of papers to grade/lessons to plan/articles to read/annotated bibliographies to write

Horace said...

You-n-me both, sistah.

Summers off? Or working for free? more the latter than the former in my experience...