Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Deer in the Headlights

That's what I've felt like during my many hours in the office the past week and a half. There are a lot of benefits to being associate chair--a course release each semester, a small stipend (even smaller for me since I'm only doing it for the fall), a get-out-of-other-departmental-committee-work-free card), and let's not forget the soul-corrupting power (bwaa ha ha!)--but parking your computer and a few books in one of the rooms in the departmental office complex is most definitely not one of them.

Back in Fukuoka, my office time was my own. Even though I invited students to visit me every class, I didn't have to post any office hours, most of my students were loath to visit another campus (or university), and my 21st Century Program students were hesitant to intrude on me. Not so in Fredonia. Even though I've kept my office hours to a minimum for me (an hour and a half a day for the first four days of the week), I'm actually spending closer to 12-16 hours a week in that room, for the first month of the semester at least. There's just too much that needs to get done--new faculty need mentoring, advisees need advice, internship seekers need coordinating, students appealing various things need to be heard out and referred to the appropriate people, the spring 2008 schedule needs to be compiled, job ad language needs to be approved, committees need to be formed, minutes for the first department meeting need to be typed up, a colleague's teaching evaluations from last semester need to be summarized, a new dean needs to be consulted, and e-correspondence needs to be maintained. And that's just for starters. Between the departmental secretary and the chair, very little of this is my responsibility alone, but I have my hand in to a greater or lesser degree on just about all of it. The upshot is, very little time is left over for, say, getting my course web pages in shape, learning my students' names, tweaking my lesson plans, getting some reading for my courses in, or surfing the MLA bibliography. You know, the kinds of things I use my time in the office for when I'm not associate chair. It's gotten so bad at times the past two weeks I've found myself bouncing from task to task without finishing any of them. And when I actually get a chance to focus on, say, my own teaching, well, my focus is shot.

I know this, too, will pass, and I'll someday figure out how to be more efficient in the office at Fredonia--just as I eventually adjusted to my commute in Fukuoka and became a champion subway reader. But I'll tell you: a year away from service of any kind sure leaves you rusty. And wondering how you did so much more of it before your leave....

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