Friday evening. You get home, finally take off the “work” shoes that have been killing your feet all day, change into the comfortable sweatshirt from your undergrad years, and get into the weekend routine. In my household, this means I instantly clean up all of the little disorderly areas from the past week such as the yoga bag by the front door and the pile of file folders that end up on my island cabinet after a week of rushing in and out of the house. I might sort through mail while cooking a little tofu stir-fry or turn up the music while vacuuming. It is thoughtless Friday evening work and it takes place as my mind is mentally transitioning from faculty mode to weekend worker mode. The weekend worker is a role that I love. It involves grading, emailing, and research but it is done with the delightful knowledge that all of that work can be accomplished in pajamas and pigtails and I can take my time doing it — that knowledge makes Friday evening mentally relaxing for me. But this past weekend my work involved a much-dreaded word for most faculty members: committees.
I don’t mind grading on the weekend. I don’t mind researching and writing on the weekend. I, for some inexplicable reason, really resent committee work on the weekends. But there it was. An email with a tiny red exclamation point screaming “urgent” and the follow-up phone call encouraging my immediate attention.
My research sighed in frustration as it felt itself getting pushed to the side. My grading rolled its eyes as it knew that I would find it waiting for me after the committee work ended. As a pre-tenure faculty member sitting on several university committees, I find this balance the hardest to achieve in my work life. How can I put aside work that is required by the administration/institution? How can I balance
that with my own research (which, by the way, is screaming at me, “TICK TOCK, TENURE CLOCK!“)? I spent a few hours working on the urgent committee item and my energy was draining. I got to the emails. I addressed the grading. I got another email with another red exclamation point following up from the work I submitted. By Sunday evening, I had not even touched the research other than a few follow-up communication emails with IRB folks…
And so it goes, the hours on the weekend that I spent working show that I still put my research on the back burner. I wonder at the priorities I set. I can see other faculty members do not all follow the same priority list. In fact, many can easily put research first. For me, teaching is first and teaching preparation work will always get done before research. But I think I must find a way to make research a strong second and so I continue to organize, plot, and restructure my days to try and fit it all in. My best laid plans fall apart whenever that dreaded “committee” word gets thrown in the mix. I imagine the same struggle is felt by many pre-tenure faculty members and perhaps for most of us who work at smaller institutions where the committee load is not spread around easily.
Since there does not appear to be an easy solution, I will try to accomplish as much as possible during the work week so my weekend worker role can once again be enjoyed!
Author of article – Lora Helvie-Mason