Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hiram on the Netflix.

Two people on the blog, and two in emails forwarded by the RGM, have expressed a range of responses to me watching Netflix at school.

I'm not taking about bingewatching Orange is the New Black. I'm talking about watching the occasional half hour of something funny or distracting instead of staring at my computer screen and watching YouTube videos of cats falling off of pianos.

I do my job, and sometimes a bit more than what might be considered my job, and I'm not going to feel ashamed about how I practice my particular profession.

We all do things differently. I have a colleague who scurries around campus as if he's on fire. He doesn't utter anything without prefacing it with, "I don't know how I'm going to get through this day!" He burns the morning oil, noontime oil, midnight oil as well. And he makes sure that everyone he ever bumps into knows it. (He would have made an excellent Puritan.) He only grins when he says, "Oh, I see you're going home early today; what a nice treat for you."

I just smile and say something as inane like, "Well, I got around to my work, so, yes, I'm going home. You keep beating the Spartans back."

My whole life has been college. It doesn't feel like a place that I need to or want to run from at the end of my duties. So, instead of driving home, I might watch some Netflix, visit some colleagues - shoeless (but with CLEAN socks, thanks for that insult Nate) - and then do whatever it is that is needed to be the best teacher and human I can be.

If that's not enough, then so be it. There was a time in my career when I might have let myself be made to feel bad about myself, but I'm past that now.

22 comments:

  1. My retort when a coworker like that said something like "Oh, you're done with your work already?"

    "Yes, I did it right the first time."

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  2. And I wanted to add publicly that I hesitated about sending along those messages because they verged on just being assholery. But I felt you'd be okay with their content. I hope I didn't add to the misery, Hiram.

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  3. Hiram, I'm a big fan of yours, and in all of your posts your hard work and care about the profession is present.

    Don't let four jagoffs on this page (or your nutty colleague) make you feel bad one minute about how you do YOUR job.

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  4. I'm currently in my office reading the Reddit saga of Jenny, Carly, Zach, and X. I'm good with that because at 10 pm tonight I'll be updating LMS content, or running some analyses, or reading a document, rather than watching whatever crap is on prime time these days.
    Haters gonna hate.

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  5. Just now, I'm flipping between catching up on this blog and working on updating courses in the LMS for the start of the semester next week. When I'm on campus eight to ten hours a day four days a week, I have my FB tab open and I read i09 posts and look at cat pictures when I want a break from reading horrifically composed student prose. I also have been known to pull up an episode of Archer on Netflix while eating at my desk during office hours (to which students rarely come despite entreaties in class and over the LMS). I tweak my courses every semester but I haven't had to start from square one for years (that changes next year with a total course overhaul for something I haven't taught in 8 years). As Prof. Poopiehead put it so succinctly above, haters gonna hate. I don't give a fuck.

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  6. Wait, seriously: You got judged for watching Netflix at work and it's not something you do that prevents you from completing your other work (I missed that whole post)? What's the deal? Are you paid by the hour? Are you slacking in your classes? If not, then who cares (I mean that nicely; as in, why is it anyone else's concern if you're able to do your work AND find time to watch Netflix). I suspect half the people judging you are on Facebook or spend time chatting with colleagues about non-work related topics for the same amount of time that you're on Netflix.

    Professors aren't on regular 9-5 schedules, so whatever we don't accomplish during the time at the office (which, for me, is most of my reading, grading, and planning for the next day, since I'm constantly interrupted by colleagues and students at work), we take home with us. If you are able to get your work done and have time to relax with Netflix, what's the big deal?

    I do get that certain professors have more prep/grading than others in certain disciplines. Some of my colleagues don't have long essays to grade, or pages to read, etc. But they, in turn, lecture to large classes and spend 50-minute periods lecturing nonstop while I lecture for maybe 15-20 minutes and then have my students work on something. Does that mean we're slacking? NO. We're just different and have different disciplines and different paces of working.

    My colleagues also accuse me of "working fast." I have noticed, though, that I don't work any "faster" than anyone else; I simply don't procrastinate. When I have a task, I just dive in and do it to get it out of the way. Instead, I notice colleagues chatting and eating and on Facebook or YouTube, then they see that I've finished and go, "Oh, you work so fast." Um... no... The actual amount of time I took to complete the task if the same as it would take anyone else (maybe even longer, which is why I don't procrastinate); I just started sooner on it than others.

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  7. from Cisco in Frisco:

    It's Hiram's arrogance, in these recent posts and others, that probably set some readers off. He's always so smug about what a good teacher is, how easy the job is, how he pays no attention to others in the profession. That's super nice for someone with tenure at a top tier school.

    But that's not who this page is for. This page is for the miserable, the downtrodden, the ones that Hiram and his crew have taken a shit on.

    I don't begrudge him his effort or work, but I detest his holier than attitude.

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    1. Hey, quit picking on Hiram. I've abused him plenty of times, and I admire the way he still keeps swinging, even if he's still baffled most of the time---although with modern students being modern students, who can blame him?

      I am sympathetic to the lot of the Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor, having spent too many years as one myself. So, if Hiram were to work 80-100 hours per week every week, would they be happy then? It's not very good logic.

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    2. Wait, so now we have to rate each other's misery before we're allowed to post or allowed to comment? If you're more miserable than me, then I don't get to complain about MY misery?

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    3. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I don't have the impression that Hiram is at a top tier school (however you define that, but I suspect you may be thinking in terms of well-prepared, relatively easy-to-teach, students). And if he's teaching a lot of composition, he's definitely not teaching what "privileged" English proffies usually teach. I suspect he's just had time to get to know the student population he does teach, and has found ways to do that effectively and efficiently. It's hard to consider that a bad thing, and it certainly doesn't sound arrogant to me.

      In fact, as a semi-downtrodden non-tenure-track type (I haven't been "Visiting" for a decade or so, but that's only because they changed the title, not the nature of the job), I think he's setting an example that I should, ideally, follow. I'd feel fully justified in working efficiently enough to have time to work on research (which is not part of my job) or even freelance work during whatever 40 hours of the week count as my "work week," since I make at least 1/3 less than my tenure-track colleagues (even those considerably less experienced than I), and need to be prepared to look for another job if need be (research would probably help with that). In fact, I periodically resolve to do just that, and sometimes even semi-succeed for a semester or so, but then there's a new initiative, or I get a schedule with a new permutation, or whatever, and my plans for getting into a teaching routine that is both effective and efficient go by the wayside yet again (the advent of online and hybrid classes definitely adds to this problem, since teaching the same class on a different platform can require considerable revision/adaptation, and there are more permutations in total of any particular class one might teach). One thing that probably happens to non-tenure-track faculty more than tenure-track ones, whatever the frequency of such events at the particular institution, is this sort of constant, unpredictable schedule/prep change, which makes it hard to get into the sort of routine Hiram describes. On the other hand, a willingness on the part of a tenure-track faculty member to teach a lot of definitely non-prestigious intro/core classes can offer considerable stability to the faculty member (and certainly counts as a major contribution to the well-being of the institution, and the students, who all too often encounter ill-prepared/oriented or simply overwhelmed contingent faculty in such classes). Sometimes people find a groove that works well for them, and their institutions. Maybe we should be fighting for the chance for more of us to do that, rather than fighting with each other.

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    4. I'm just not seeing this alleged smugness. Never have, not from Hiram.

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    5. Right. It's not just Hiram that's baffled now.

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  8. As one of the originals: It wasn't so much the watching Netflix (after all, I seem to have racked up 700 hours of playing FTL, according to Steam) but that it seemed that some people seemed to be saying that office hours were incompatible with other work getting done.

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  9. I'm currently in my office reading THIS BLOG. OH, NO! I'm an awful, awful professor for taking a break between classes when students haven't shown up for my office hours. I'm actually really baffled by the criticism and the fact that people seem it's OK to criticize on the basis of their perception that Hiram has it easier than others.

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  10. Hiram has bent over backwards for his students in previous posts. And this shouldn't be a misery competition.

    That said, I have about 200 students per semester and no grader other than myself. I make the Little Dears write a fair bit even though it's science. And I have learned that the paperwork, including the less complicated grading, goes faster while I listen to TED talks. I also zealously guard my lunchtime appointment with The Onion and CM on those days when I don't have to eat in the corridor between classes. My door stays closed and I ignore knocking for those 20 precious, peaceful minutes before my office hour.

    If no one shows up, as is often the case, there's always plenty of adminicrap to do. I think it's somehow more respectful to students if they see me doing college work rather than fun stuff when they show up at my office.

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  11. I intensely dislike busybodies. I sit in my office and, in addition to working, read the Times, the Guardian, sometimes Der Spiegel; or take a peek at Facebook or this page. Who cares? I go home and work on my research too, into the night and on weekends. I'm evaluated for results, not for putting in the time.

    I doubt people who don't deeply enjoy and cultivate apparent idleness are creative enough to do anything interesting.

    Also: for what it's worth I'm tenured faculty at a land-grant R1, with a 2+1 teaching load, plus a graduate seminar for my PhD students. "Fat cat", or maybe even "silverback", from a certain perspective. Yet I find more than enough absurdity in my daily professional life to identify with much of what I read here, and would post my own stories if I weren't so lazy. I'm sure my highly paid colleagues at prestigious places have their own complaints. So yeah, this "my misery if more real than your misery" is silly.

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  12. I'm quite on record as NOT teaching at a top tier university, although we all do our best. I'm at a regional campus of a state school in Ohio, and my students are reading and writing at 9th-11th grade levels when they come in.

    My only smugness is that I know I'm giving it my all. I'm not a perfect professor, but try to learn ways to do a better job as I go. And as a human being, I like to have fun, too, even if I'm on campus. I know some people can't wait to get away from the college, but it's a choice I made and so I arrange the activities in such a way that it's not an unpleasant place to spend some time.

    If I've said things in the past that offended others who aren't as fortunate as I know I am - to have tenure, for example - it wasn't my intention.

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    Replies
    1. you could always go to teach in Athens. Much nicer. ;)

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    2. I've been re-reading your posts looking for a smug attitude and can't see it. I think this is one of those deals where it says more about those who criticize than about you.

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    3. I don't see what those others are on about. I don't see smug at all.

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