Am I working right now?

30 11 2010

Yesterday’s early thirsty at College Misery is about the working hours that we proffies put in. It references an interesting series of posts from the late, lamented Rate Your Students and then asks “How Much Do You Work?” Read the comments there and you’ll see that some people are very dedicated to their jobs, while others appear to be putting one over on their administrations and giving the rest of us a bad name.

Personally, I object to the premise of the question. Thanks to committee work (mostly), I’m literally putting in a twelve hour day today (8:30AM-8:30PM). Does that mean I’m on the clock every second of the day? Today’s the campus Christmas party. Does that count? How about if I read a history book because I enjoy it?

More importantly, am I working right now as I write this post? If you ever bother to look at the very early posts on this blog, you’d see that it didn’t have much point in the great scheme of things. Over time though, the general rantings of a liberal academic have become a much more focused series of posts on history, historical pedagogy and, of course, academic labor.

Blogging about history may not end up on my c.v., but it’s certainly taught me more than a few things that have improved my knowledge of the subject and improved the quality of my classes. In fact, I think I made one of the most important pedagogical decisions in ten years of teaching solely because of this blog. So it’s kind of like work, but it kind of isn’t. This is the basis of my objection: There is no bright line between work and everything else. Work is (mostly) fun, and a lot of my fun is work-related. The most important thing about my job though is that as long as I make it to class on time, my schedule is my own.

There are good and bad things about this. On the one hand, I usually have to work at least some on weekends (particularly if I ever want to publish anything) and the more than occasional weekday evening. On the other hand, I can almost always schedule time to take my son to karate class, watch at least some TV from the DVR with the rest of my family or hit the gym at 8:30AM.

When I do hit the gym in the morning, the guy behind the desk who takes my keys always asks me if I’m working today and I haven’t bothered to object to the premise of that question yet. However, the fact that a lot of professors themselves don’t seem to understand the root of my objection to counting hours really worries me as it bodes badly for all of us the next time anti-higher education state legislators start looking around for a new scapegoat.


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