Everyday Tips asks: “Aren’t you off during the summer? I would think you could have a ton of fun!”
Off the payroll– YES. Not working? HAHAHAAHAHA
We actually get this question a lot from non-academics. One of us is often asked why she puts her child in preschool over the summer since neither parent is working.
Contrary to common misconception, the primary part of a university professor’s job is not teaching or doing administration (though many of us do a bang-up job of both)… it’s producing research. (N.B.: This is different at some small liberal arts colleges, and at community colleges. But both of us are at universities.) Here’s a great explanation of what one professor did all week.
Summer is the time when we can do real work because there aren’t students stopping by every 15 minutes, and there aren’t many committee meetings about service. We get a little work done during the school year and a lot done during summer. In the summer we can generally put a full 8 hours in and our brains are full for the day. During the school year we probably do work more hours, but that’s because we work a lot more than full-time to keep up with classes and service and our professional obligations. True, we get more choice about when and where to work, but we have to pay for that by working more hours for crappy money.
Being able to do research work in the summer also means that we can do fulfilling work with uninterrupted time for thinking. During the school year it is hard to not have one’s thoughts scattered. Neither one of us gets that much fulfillment from teaching, though #1 does more so than #2.* We got PhDs so that we could research the things that interest us, not so that we could answer a million whiny emails from students who want exceptions to the rules. Having a break from that is essential to our mental health. It’s worth pointing out that this “real work” of research and writing is what gets us tenure. Teaching does not get us tenure. We are expected to be adequate in teaching and outstanding in research, which is why we have to guard against the time-suck of teaching.
Summer is also for conferences. One reason one of us is not so big on travel is because there is SO MUCH travel for work. She even has favorite places she visits in Boston and DC because she goes those places 1-3 times a year, usually in July and August. Conferences are fun, but they’re definitely not vacation. (Note: times vary by discipline and even sub-discipline. Most of #2’s conferences are in November or April.)
This educational post has been sent to you by Grumpy Rumblings, who remind you that they are still untenured and therefore work all the time.
Do you get your summers off?
*One of #1’s back up careers is to teach either 4th grade or high school math. She is AWESOME at teaching math