What Do Professors Do All Week?

Last year, I wrote a two-part series describing what the life of a history professor involved for our department blog. Kansas State University English professor Philip Nel went even further, chronicling a week in his life. (Make sure you read each day’s post.)

I applaud him for making several important points, including these two: 1) professors typically don’t teach for a couple of hours and then take the rest of the day off; and 2) professors don’t spend their summers relaxing on the beach. (If you know a professor who does these things, please report them to the Professor Awareness Team, which stands against these practices.)

Outside of course preparation, grading, and actual classroom time, my week is filled with administrative meetings and paperwork, student appointments/conferences, and speaking engagements. The time committed to most of these duties varies, of course, so some weeks are less full than others. Professional service (grant and manuscript reviews, book reviews, etc.) takes away a few more hours. What’s left of my workweek is spent researching and writing. Often, many of the above responsibilities bleed into the evenings and weekends at home, although I’ve been more careful about that separation recently. Throw in conference attendance and trips to archives, and I probably work close to what Nel calculated as his usual hours during the academic year.

Summers are different, of course. I don’t teach during the summer, so I spend those months catching up on reading, research, and writing. Despite being on a nine-month contract, administrative duties slow down but don’t disappear just because the weather is hotter.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that what I do doesn’t require the physical labor expected of a construction worker, doesn’t carry the stress borne by police officers, and isn’t as critically important as members of the medical profession. I also realize that I have a fairly flexible work schedule and a (mostly) stress-free occupation. My job keeps me busy and sometimes has its drawbacks, but I’m fortunate to do something I love.

And on that note, see you after spring break!

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