Summertime and the livin’s measly

(BTW, for those who view my home page, sorry for the recent lack of “Continue Reading” buttons; I just kept forgetting them, and kept forgetting to view the home page to see what it was looking like, as opposed to the “Dashboard” which is the “man behind the curtain” for a WordPress blog.)

So, summer is rushing by, but I’m making great progress on research.  Yeah, right.  Although I will get about a week’s worth of research done, I’m actually ass-deep in major course/curriculum development.

I’m in the physical sciences, so it’s not like I can put together a class akin to “writing the great American novel” where I get to pick and choose all of the cool topics I want.  I have a list of topics and learning outcomes to follow, so I can’t get too cute.  Granted, in this case I’m the putz who wrote those lists, but with significant institutional, departmental, and logical constraints.  Like nearly 100% of my teaching, these are classes that are specifically required by one or more degree programs, so they have to fit the program(s).  One of the courses has a laboratory component, so on top of “normal” course development, I basically have to figure out how to write a lab manual in my free time, which is about as fun as it sounds.

I’m not sure why all of this unpaid work is bothering me so much this particular summer.  My long-term average is about 1 month per summer of unpaid research time and a half-month of unpaid teaching-related time, with an average of close to a half-month of paid time each for teaching and research (the latter usually not both in the same summer).  This summer, I’m getting a week’s pay for something specific, and the other 8 weeks or so are gratis.  The joys of a 9-month contract for an 11-month (or more) job.  [For those not familiar with such things, note that we do get benefits the entire year on the 9-month contract and have the option of spreading the pay across the entire year.]

Maybe what’s getting me down is putting in so much unpaid time on something that’s critically important for my department.  I might literally be the only faculty member on my campus regularly this summer who isn’t getting paid for it.  Of course, they’re mostly getting paid to teach classes, so they’re doing legitimate work.  On the other hand, nearly all of the summer teaching is done by people who aren’t expected to do research, or even people who aren’t capable of doing research.

Doing research for free off-contract doesn’t seem quite as bad because that can help one professionally, and you sort of *have* to do things like that at an institution like mine.  Research can actually be fun if you are lucky enough to be doing something in which you are truly interested.  (It’s been about 5 years, but I can still remember it.)  Doing major course development for free off-contract to make sure an ill-conceived degree program is viable at the expense of doing research for which one is evaluated irrespective if one is given time to do it…par for the course, I guess.  Doesn’t make me feel any better about it and my therapist hasn’t had much luck making me feel any better about it, either.

The good news is that I’m still more or less on track to take the vacation time I would hope to be able to take.  At one point, I was thrown into the in the “work 11 months straight without a vacation” thing and that took way too much of a toll on my health.  Never again.  At least that was all paid work and helped me buy a new car.

The other good news is that every time I give up on the tremendously expensive fantasy facility my department was asked to flesh out, I get a piece of information that suggests that it is still on the table.  Of course, when it doesn’t happen it will be even more disappointing, but hope springs eternal, and just having the idea out there could eventually make a difference.


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