One of our brightest students visits me (see why below) and asks me, casually, seeing that I’m still stressed out, what exactly do teachers in July. This is tactful in comparison to the habitual ‘so, you’re already on holiday?’ with which I’m greeted by family and non-academic friends every year at this point. I always wonder why there are not more people queuing to be teachers at any educational stage if everyone believes we have these loongggg holidays…
Between June and July, my dear student, we teachers mark tons of exercises, papers, exams, dissertations as we try to catch up with our reading and writing, perhaps attend a conference, perhaps organize it, and, yes, get ready for the next academic year –design the syllabus, choose the set texts and read them… What do students do, exactly?
This leads me back to a recurrent worry: why is our profession so deeply misunderstood? To begin with, everyone believes that our main job is teaching, when it should actually be doing research. I say it should because teaching and management tasks are taking up more and more of our time, as I’ve been complaining about here again and again. Yet, somehow, teaching hours are the only measurable part of our job and, therefore, the only part that is grasped by the general public, students included. This means that, except for the person who lives with me, and who sees me work at home practically every day, whether I go to UAB or not, everyone else believes I work half the week and only for a few hours.
Even so, the hours spent in front of the computer seem to count for more than the hours we spend working on our backs –I mean reading on the sofa. For my dad, who spent 8 hours everyday standing, operating a machine, the idea that one can work stretched out on a sofa reading a book is absurd. If I told him that after 8 hours of intellectual work of this kind I’m exhausted, particularly when I write (no, none can write for 8 hours…and not on the sofa), he would not understand at all. This generates a peculiar feeling of guilt –yes, guilt– that a) at this time of the year, I am free to choose my daily schedule (except on exam dates –last one 19 July…), 2) I use most of my time to read, which for other people is a pastime.
I wonder if this is why they hate us so much and why ‘they’ (the bureaucrats that oppress us) want to reduce university teaching down to the regimented horror that most jobs are.
See next…

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