Wednesday, May 25, 2016

10 Years Ago on RYS. Some Summer Advice.

Call me Professor Patrice from Pennsylvania, though 2 parts of that are phony! Allow me to offer some advice for professors over the summer:

  1. Don't read your email. In fact, compose a little vacation reply so that you'll be spared the endless questions about grades. There's no sense in you worrying over it. I know you did a good job with grades, and letting the students stew over their Cs and Ds for the summer will do them some good. Most of them will have forgotten your injustices to them by September, so why get involved in it now.
  2. Resist the administration's pleas for summer "help" in registration, advising, and the rest. I know this is a delicate thing. But once you become a 'go-to girl' for problems in June and July, you will be hounded forever for 'extra' duty. Disappear from campus - and from town if possible.
  3. Prepare a LITTLE bit for next Fall. This is probably not your FIRST summer break as an academic, so don't spend a great deal of time worrying about Fall 2006. It'll come. You'll be fine that first day. You know what to do in a class. If you have a brand new offering, then by all means do some reading for it. But a sure recipe for burnout is to worry away summer while thinking about Fall.
  4. Keep in contact with a few grad school friends, especially the ones who have good jobs at good schools. It's always good to see how the 'other half' lives, and it's even better to stay connected to a little network of other profs who can be useful to you for future job searches, setting up of seminars, etc.
  5. Do something mindless. Do a lot of things mindless, in fact. You've chosen a career of the mind for some nutty reason, but the job has a built-in 'recuperation' period. This is it, baby. Go bowling. Put on a floppy hat and go get some margaritas. Drive to the ocean and put your toes in the sand. Let your brain have a break.


  1. Excellent advice, though it does seem to rely on having a job that is pretty good by some definitions: tenured, tenure-track with reasonable requirements for tenure, or at least full-time and (apparently) reliably renewable, with a salary commensurate with local cost of living/one's family responsibilities.

    Sadly, even a lot of pretty good jobs don't meet these criteria anymore, so many of us will be toiling away this summer, teaching summer school, frantically working to meet ever-increasing publication/grant-getting expectations, or both.

    But even if many of us can't take it, it's still good advice.

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  2. While I'm very grateful to have any job at all at this point, I kinda wish I had summers off. I'm staff, not faculty, but I'm still a practicing academic with (almost) a book contract and I'd really like to not have to come in and sit here (with so few students it's almost not worth bothering) for 37.5 hours a week.

  3. I'm lucky enough to have one of the good jobs--summers off, tenure. Although I knew going in that this time off was a big perk, I wasn't aware of how much I would need it to recover. I feel for those who don't get this release valve. I did teach summers for six years as an adjunct and one year as a full-timer, but these days, I'm gone, gone, gone.

    1. At least periodic summers off is definitely on my list of things I hope to be able to afford sometime soon. On the one hand, I feel sort of wimpy/whiny for saying that, but, as you say (and as the original post points out), they have a very real purpose.

      Of course, I think all Americans should get more (paid) time off, and suspect we would actually be collectively more productive if we did.

  4. If I may:
    The comments on this post from last year  contain some wonderful suggestions for summer out-of-office autoreplies.

  5. I work in the UK where academics on continuing contracts are on 12 month salary and technically therefore get summers for research/recuperation.

    However, in the course of this summer, many things are happening, such as a reorganisation, installation of a new VLE etc., which mean that there are already meetings and trainings and such piling up in June, July and September. And because we're salaried, it's very hard to not go 'just because' I need a break... and the fear of what might happen without even token faculty protest keeps me checking in...

    --Grumpy Academic--