Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Academic Summer

Is wonderful but also chock full of guilt.  I saw this today:
And it got me thinking.  I have been lamenting how little work I have accomplished in June--starting a new project means reading the literature in the area, and I tend to be slow at that.  I have been particularly distracted and busy with outreach/meetings kind of stuff.

This is where there is a huge contrast between how non-academics view academics in the summer and how academics view summer.  For the observers, summer is when we are "off" since we are not teaching.  They seem to forget this is the time we do that stuff that is actually most of our job--preparing classes, doing service (the one downside of my new-ish job is that we have meetings in the summer including a retreat that took us all the way to our conference room), and research.

So, if I was sufficiently creative, I would create one of those memes that have professors as outsiders see them in the summer and then how they see themselves.  Instead, I just want to let the non-academics know that yes, we academics love summer. That it is the height of our independence--we get to work on what we want to work on, we can and do vacation a bit--but it is also the height of our guilt.  That we are not getting enough done, and time is slip, slip, slipping away.

To be sure, our job (if we can manage to have one especially a tenured one) is swell.  One thing I truly appreciate is how it is never the same for very long.  That we teach a course with one bunch of students, and just as both the course and the students get kind of tiresome, it ends.  We get a quick break over the winter (the length varies quite a bit) to catch up on other parts of our job and to perhaps even shop, ski and hang with family, and then we get a new crop of students and courses.  As we get tired of that, we get summer.  Which allows many of us to focus mostly on research and some service (a good time for tenure letter writing, oy).  But as we get tired of our own research, fall is quickly upon us with new classes and new students. 

So, it is never the same thing for very long.  I love that about the job.  What I don't love is the guilt when I am not getting enough done, but then again, it is a motivator.  Yes, this guilt is mostly self-imposed but it is also largely inherent in the occupation. 

So, when I see that June is ending, summer is half over for me (the joy of the Canadian academic calendar) with so much yet to do.  But two months is still a heap of time.... I hope.

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