Saturday, August 26, 2006

Multiplying Like Rabbits

As we begin the speedy descent into our first "real" week of school, I can't help but be reminded of one of the most frustrating parts of my job--attending to the little crap. It seems that every academic activity--a course, a major, a social event, a series--requires not just the expected thinking about the thing itself, but also a multitude of errands, phone calls, emails, and effluvia that take an extended period of time away from the activity itself.

A case in point: on Thursday, I planned to attend our convocation, skip the affiliated workshops, run to my office and finish one of my syllabi, which was very close to done. Ha. I repeat for emphasis: ha, ha. No dice. Not just because the convocation was a trainwreck (which it was, for any number of reasons that I will spare you here), but also because when I finally DID get back to my office, I had to return 3 phone calls for my little Academic Unit (ACUN) and attend to the emails that had piled up for the same thing. One of the phone calls was a follow-up to the internship debacle detailed below (yup. still not done, but did get a slightly sheepish reply from my student after I had gently clued her into the amount of work that goes into setting up internships); another was from an adjunct who just wanted to touch see how this works. By the time I had replied to all contacts, I had just enough time to physically walk sets of flyers for the series we've been planning to each school secretary on campus.

Lest you think this is just the kind of crap that attends to administrative work, let's do a list for planning a class.
1. Order books.
2. Give book orders to secretary to order desk copies.
3. Respond to publishers who have been sent the wrong request.
4. Decide to use online component for course.
5. Walk over to assigned classroom to make sure that room is wired for online course.
6. Log in to online service to see class list.
7. Email tech guy who has not added my courses to the online service.
8. Login to service to see that my courses have been added to my roster, as have Mr. Fluff's, because tech guy refuses to tell us apart.
9. Curse tech guy to the seventh generation, because this is the 5th semester he's done this.
10. Begin to write syllabus. Search frantically through old email for the boilerplate language about learning differences to put in syllabus.
11. Spend many hours hemming and hawing over which assignments go where.
12. Finish syllabus.
13. Discover that school printing policy has changed, and thus syllabus should have been submitted to copy shop days ago.
14. Realize student readings for beginning of semester are in the public domain, and thus could be located online and printed by students for class, thus sidestepping the print policy which discriminates against people who can't get their shit together.
15. Locate reliable websites housing readings, and add urls to syllabus.
16. Plan to get up at the ass-crack of dawn on Monday to print said syllabus at clandestine location on campus.

Right. So all I'm saying is--why are there so many steps? I do, believe it or not, recognize that much of this could be avoided if I started earlier. I know. But isn't it also the case that infrastructure shifts and inconsistencies eat time?

I don't want to become one of those professors who asks that everything is done for me--I believe deeply in an egalitarian system. And yet, contradictorily, I also believe that we're hired to think and write and teach--not to run from copier to copier, not to chase down tech guys, not to spend significant amounts of time taking bugs out of the system so that our teaching can actually work.

I have one more syllabus to finish. And then a series of emails to write requesting classrooms for lab days. And then an email to the librarians asking for research presentations. And then an incomplete grad. student thesis to read.

If anyone has a suggestion as to how to keep these tasks from multiplying, bring it on, I beg of you.


Blogger Megan said...

All I can say is...word.

Saturday, August 26, 2006 4:29:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Look who's getting all uppity on Blogger? Welcome, Ms. M!

Saturday, August 26, 2006 5:29:00 PM  

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