I have always aspired to have the kind of comments section that you can see on just about every post chez Historiann. Smart, collegial and usually very interesting, the comments at her place are about the only blog comments on the whole Internet that I always bother to read. I think this space might finally have started to approach that high bar with the responses so far to my post about students blogging. It’s particularly nice to read a self-confessed longtime lurker pipe up for the first time.
So let’s face it, SouthernProf makes a very good point:
I am not going to let my work interfere with my personal life and time anymore that it already does, and continually logging in to a chat situation in the evenings and/or weekends is beyond the pale for me. I realize that you and many of the readers of this blog may find no such angst with this teaching tool, and I applaud you for it if you can do it. But, as your posts have seemed to suggest, students are not necessarily receiving a better learning experience via these herculean faculty efforts, so I fail to see the value in exerting so much extra effort in teaching in a way that is far too intrusive and time consuming.
I was working on the assumption that anyone who bothered to learn blogging well enough to instruct students in it has to be very dedicated to their work, but certainly there are limits. In order to limit the amount of overwork I have to put in today, let me quote myself here:
For all our bitching, what separates professors from most workers is the ability to control when we do what we have to do. Speaking for myself at least, there are very few places I need to be any given time besides my classes and office hours. This is a good thing as the fact that I can control when to do what I have to do makes a huge difference to my life. If I want to go to the gym in the morning, I can usually do it. If my wife needs me to pick up my daughter at school, I can usually do that. Working nights and weekends is the price for that kind of flexibility, but I’ve been able to keep the weekends to a minimum lately (except for when I have grading to do like this one coming up).
That said, I won’t overwork myself for just anything. I am a fundamentally lazy person. If I’m going to do anything well enough to be good at it, I better be for darned sure that I like what I’m doing. Blogging is fun for me. Half the time I can’t tell if I’m working or procrastinating because I tend to enjoy what I’m writing about, yet I learn a ton about history and how to be a better teacher by reading the comments here and other people’s posts. Unfortunately, it appears that most of my undergraduates don’t share this assessment of blogging, and considering that they’re not historians I’m not entirely sure that I can blame them.
The more I think about it, the more it seems as if I have been asking them to do something that I don’t want to do myself. You see, I suspect that the reason that I don’t have the comment section that Historiann has is that I am nowhere near as diligent as she is at checking back and participating in the conversations that break out under her posts. Trust me, I read all the comments made here, but the prolonged work required to keep a good conversation going just might be over my own line. I greatly prefer writing to chatting. Since we switched from cable Internet to a mobile hotspot, I can’t even get a wifi signal at home unless my wife happens to be around. Perhaps this is why I decided never to teach an online class before I even realized just how awful they can be.
Yet blogs, wikis and online courses are hardly the sole representatives of this problem. Even e-mail can be an unwelcome intrusion into non-work time if you let it control you rather than you control it. Perhaps the only sensible suggestion that Tim Ferriss has ever made is to not check your e-mail first thing when you get up in the morning. I haven’t been able to adhere to that suggestion yet. The funny thing though is that almost every time I do that, there’s at least one e-mail in my inbox from my illustrious department chair sent at some point during the last hour that I was sleeping. Who’s crazier, him for sending them or me for looking? Don’t answer that.
Answer this one instead: How has technology affected your line between your work and home lives? I promise to do my best Historiann imitation this time around and write interesting comments about your answers to this question, assuming you’re brave enough to leave them in the first place.