Sunday, November 4, 2007

VAPs, New Preps, AALS Recruitment and Time

Well, it sure has been a busy few weeks on my end (I’m writing this on an airplane).  This post is intended for the first time Civ Pro prof who is not yet in a tenure track position (all the VAP’s out there).  One of the things I did not anticipate as a new professor, was just how much out of class prep time I would require.

Civil Procedure is one of my two new preps this semester, I’m also teaching a required upper level course.  For each class session I spend approximately 4 hours prepping.  My more experienced mentors informed me that I should expect to spend that much time preparing, but I didn’t believe them.  Those of you reading this who are coming up on your first prep in Civ Pro (or any other class for that matter) take heed.  Similarly, students reading this who think all professors do is show up and teach for 4-5 hours a week, bear this in mind:  Your professor probably spends 4 hours preparing for each class session, that’s because they not only read the material which they’ve assigned, but they’re also reading other materials, developing examples, hypotheticals, slides, etc.  4.5 hours of teaching a week plus 12 hours of prep, just for one course.  If they’re teaching another course, you can see how the prep time adds up.   Factor in 3 hours a week answering student questions, maybe an hour (or more) for faculty and committee meetings, way too much time responding to emails, work shopping papers, trying to mentor students and help them in their career search, chatting with colleagues, blogging, plus attempting to engage in some scholarship, and very quickly the time seems to disappear.

Now let me be honest, the job is unbelievable, the work I’ve described above is intellectually challenging and overwhelmingly rewarding and it is the best job I’ve ever had in my life, and the best I think I ever will have.  But juggling being the best professor one can be and developing an ambitious scholarly agenda is very difficult while prepping a course for the first time, let alone while prepping two new courses.  I’m getting about 25% of the research done that I want to, and none of the writing!  So I clearly did not anticipate the amount of time required for all of these tasks.

And I left out perhaps the biggest time drain in the middle of the fall semester--- the AALS Recruitment Market!  Of course Sept-Oct was consumed with fretting over and worrying about getting interviews, then preparing for the interviews I was offered.  This involved the time consuming task of researching each school in depth, cyberstalking the professors who will be interviewing me, researching the towns where the schools are located, reading the scholarship of all of the interviewers, and preparing for the actual interview questions (what’s your research agenda, what’s your ideal teaching package, tell us about article x that you wrote years ago, tell us about page __ in your book, etc. etc.).  Plus the 4 days of the conference itself.

November is of course consumed by the call-back interviews.  I was lucky enough to get 4 (some candidates out there with double digit call backs are probably laughing, but I consider 4 to be pretty lucky!).  With that said, I don’t know how someone with double digit call backs who’s also teaching could possibly work that schedule out (nice problem to have).  I have an interview a week through the end of November, and need to have my job talk polished.  That’s in addition to prepping my  classes (while I look elsewhere for work---weird).  I know some may be tempted to shirk their teaching responsibilities at this stage of the game, however I can’t stomach the thought of half a$$ing my teaching when my students are shelling out as much cash as they are.  No matter how self interested I may want to be, I’m trying to do it all and not let myself or anyone else down.  It’s exhausting.  Believe it or not, I’m actually looking forward to grading exams in the solitude of a Starbucks somewhere this December.  First though, I need to write those exams! 

New VAPs take heed, no matter how much you plan, it is tough to find enough time to do it all! 

-Lex

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