I spent the better part of the summer working full time. When I wasn’t on my laptop conducting my three online courses, I was creating how-to videos. When I had a break from all that, I was trying to pull together my research (three articles in progress). So, I didn’t blog much.
But now it’s a new semester, fresh with possibilities! My pencils are, both physically and metaphorically, sharpened. I have extra classes to teach, lessons to revise, new duties to navigate, and all the usual meetings that accompany the start of a term.
It’s a lot, of course, so recently I read an advice piece called “Face It: Your Decks Will Never Be Cleared” on the Chronicle of Higher Education looking for inspiration. I agree with the overarching premise of the article: there is always something on a teacher’s desk. I agree that ten minutes a day for research writing is a small bit to carve out, but those minutes add up (personally, I try for at least 30 minutes each day). I disagree, however, with the importance attributed to research:
The key is to remember that your scholarly work is not just one more commitment. It is not “one more thing.” It is the main thing in your professional life. It is what you need to do to be happy in your chosen field. And it can be a rewarding thing, once you establish frequent, low-stress, high-reward encounters, in a supportive environment, with a project you care about.
My research is not the main thing in my professional life — not even close. While I enjoy my writing and scholarly projects, they really are not my source of professional happiness. Sure, it’s a nice buzz to see my name in a table of contents or on Google Books, but the main thing in my professional life always has been, and I hope always will be, the success of my students.
I do work at a teaching-intensive university, where the typical load is a 4/4, not a 2/2, so maybe my perspective is different. I still am expected to produce scholarship regularly, and even though folks might argue that my research activities raise the level of discourse in the classroom, I rarely teach anything related to my scholarly areas.
I like research, but as I keep telling people lately, “I wouldn’t have gotten a Ph.D. in English unless I wanted to teach at the college level.”
If it’s a choice between redoing a lecture for one of my classes and putting in 15 more minutes on an article, my students will win, 99 times out of 100.