Day of Higher Ed

I’m a bit skeptical of this #dayofhighered social media campaign, not because I don’t think it’s about something important, but because I worry that the people in my social networks are already well aware of the labor that goes into an academic career and thus I really won’t be helping that much by tweeting about my day (and I think the people in my networks who are not academics would as likely be alienated as informed by the tweets). That said, I did find it to be an interesting exercise to keep track of the academic labor I did today:

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8am: wake up and read Twitter (feed is mostly students, academics, and research-related), respond to student tweet about reading

8:30: commute to campus, read student emails on phone

9:30-10:45: lecture

10:45-12:30: check twitter, bookmark articles for teaching; read media studies blogs while eating lunch; photocopy quiz for 12:30 class; finalize and print lecture notes for 12:30 class; while skimming readings for class, take notes on book manuscript; input attendance and participation grades for 9:30 class

12:30-1:45: lecture

1:45-3:30: grade quizzes from previous class and input scores into Blackboard; write up paper assignment description for class; meet with current student about class project; meet with another student to arrange independent study for next school year; locate clips to show in 3:30 class; respond to emails from graduate students; respond to student tweets

3:30-4:45: lecture

at home after hours: write up another paper assignment description for a different class; read twitter, bookmark articles & teaching blogs for future teaching ideas

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I think there are two things worth noting here. One, much of the “labor” was about being socially engaged with students and colleagues via Twitter and email. This reminds me of the historically invisible labor that is often associated with female workers. I can’t put “responded to student tweets” on my CV, but I do think it makes a difference in the pedagogical success of my teaching. My hope is that by communicating and enacting my own investment in my courses and in my students, they will reciprocate with their own investment in the courses, and thus learn more. This is something I can mention in a job letter or a teaching statement or an annual review, but there’s no doubt this would be worth less than a publication line on my CV.

Which leads me to my second note. There is only one bit of work in here that has to do with my own research and writing, and it was an incidental note I made in my moleskine to look up a reference for my book manuscript. It’s possible that my priorities are way out of whack, and I’m setting myself up for imminent failure when I go back on the tenure-track job market by devoting a disproportionate amount of my day to teaching-related tasks (and this is what The Professor would say, I’m sure). On the other hand, I have organized my weekly schedule so that my three classes all meet on the same two days of the week, so that Tuesdays and Thursdays-Sundays are much more amenable to doing research and writing. Had the DayOfHigherEd fallen on one of those days, the labor breakdown would have looked different (basically swap out the lecture periods for research/note-taking/writing time).

I found this exercise useful more for myself than I see it being for educating anyone else about academic labor. I may try to do it more often!