To introduce myself: I am an academic in the UK, in a middling sort of university (where the Deans and authorities constantly encourage us to produce internationally significant research and achieve excellence in student learning, whilst cutting the funding for any activity that actually contributes to those things), with a middling sort of academic job, and middling sort of teaching load and research success. We have many kinds of snowflakes in the UK, both on the faculty and in the student seats, and some of them try really hard to wear out my good intentions before I even get to a classroom.
I have just returned from study leave, and I am Grumpy.
Today is the first day of the semester. The building is full of new students, looking for their welcome talks and their registration packs and the toilets and the vending machines, and generally milling around and asking questions. How many academics are here to greet them? I've seen five so far... one of whom is currently on study leave and hanging around the staff common room with a mug of coffee in tatty, comfortable jeans and a sweater enjoying the study leave priviledge of being Smug*. No, we are not a small department. Some of my colleagues seem to have had a conscience-ectomy (i.e. feel no obligation to do their share), others have carefully booked urgent research travel for these few days, or booked themselves into a conference in a warm place.
Because today, you understand, is not about the academic part of the programme. Clearly registration is secretarial. And the Head of Department isn't looking, because he's travelling too. Which is why I'm now off to advise little first-years about module choices for a programme I don't teach on, since I'm
a) in the building and
b) a bit too prone to help out a frantic-looking secretary
*There are very few priviledges, I don't begrude this colleague making the most of one of them. Heaven knows I did last semester during my leave...