Saturday, June 28, 2008

My summer job

Back in late May when the excitement of having all my grades finished and turned in to the Registrar was still fresh in my gut, I came across this excellent essay (click the title of this post). As a faculty member of a small, private Evangelical college, I would be lying through the Cheshire-cat grin on my face if I didn't say that summer was my favorite time of year. But many of my coworkers (staff and administration more than other faculty) seem to think that I look forward to summer break with tears in my eyes because I get to sit in my air-conditioned house watching Judge Judy and eating Doritos for three months. Even when I explain that summer is actually a busier time of my year (though I wouldn't say busiest), the response I get (nearly word-for-word) is, "Yeah, but you're working on personal things."

I don't need to describe the blood, sweat, and tears that go into producing academic papers, articles, and monographs, and most of us are only too painfully aware of how much effort goes into class prep from June through August. Rachel Toor poetically describes the banality of academic work if not academic life. But I would like to make one point, which I suspect applies to many — if not most — of us: I look forward to the summer months with such passion not because these are the "lazy days of summer" where I can begin to catch up with my over-worked DVR. My enthusiasm for the summer springs from the fact that, during these months more than the other nine, I can choose what work will command my attention and what work will gather dust on my desk. No grading, no lectures, no exam writing, no student complaints . . . from June to August I get to pursue my own interests. Does this mean that I'm "working on personal things"? Maybe. But this work also serves the interests of my students, my classes, and my institution. It is work properly called. It is my summer job.

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