Unwritten rule #723: On spring break, real faculty work at home

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgEven though it's spring break, I'm in my office today because I need access to some software and datasets that I don't have at home, and because, frankly, I work more efficiently and with less guilt at school than at home. (Unless I'm blogging, that is!)

I didn't ask very many colleagues about their spring break plans, maybe because the internet consensus was that spring break was a time to recuperate from teaching and get some research done, and those were basically my plans, too. (Plus taxes, whee!) I assumed my colleagues here at Mystery U would do some variation on the same themes.

So today, when I showed up in my building, I was surprised by the reception I got. Here are the actual comments I got when I was in the hallway or working with my office door open:

"What's a nice girl like you doing in here on spring break?" (from an administrator/colleague)
"Why are you doing here on such a nice day?" (from a student working in a lab)
"I'm surprised to see you here. Faculty aren't around much this week." (from a clerical worker)

So clearly, the message from these conversations (and the rows of closed doors) is this: Faculty don't belong in their offices during this week.

But, given our teaching loads, the demands for research productivity, and the continual stream of email and requests from the administration, it is ridiculous to think that all of the faculty are at the beach for the week. In fact, of the few faculty I asked about spring break plans, all of them mentioned getting some research done, while maybe working shorter/fewer days and getting caught up on pesky errands. But, if that research isn't being done at the office, it's probably being done at home. Which brings me to unwritten rule #724:

Real faculty have fully-equipped home offices where they work highly efficiently, fee of distractions from small children, pets, and teetering piles of bills and laundry.

Of course, my home office looks something like this:
A scene from Mommy's Office
So, here I am at school on spring break. Feeling guilty for having my child in daycare, while I'm "on vacation." Feeling guilty for not getting more research done this week, because I am working shorter days so we can have more time together. And now I'm behind a closed door, because I now know I'm violating the unwritten code of professor-dom. Sometimes academic traditions, like rules 723 and 724, make life more lonely for those who don't fit the mold. And that's a bummer.

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I guess the difference is because I work through a medical center, and the PIs here teach mostly medical students and graduate students, and thus do not have a regular undergraduate course load... but this week is spring break, and EVERYBODY is here. In fact, I did not even know it was actually spring break at all until this morning. Obviously, all the graduate students and post-docs are still here, but I still see every single faculty member in the hallways just like always, even though it is still their spring break, and they do not have to teach their graduate/medical school courses. I guess things never shut down on a medical campus?

I went in yesterday for a while, to pick up papers that I need to grade. But campus is pretty much closed, and I needed food and coffee, so I went to a coffee shop (which was also mostly empty) and graded there.

Today, I'm in my home office, doing taxes. When I'm done with those, I'm going to pick up legos.

Next year, the school vacation is going to finally align with the college's. That will be good in many ways (such as not needing a babysitter and/or a good video to show my classes), but it will make it more difficult to get taxes done. Do you think the IRS accepts forms with pictures of rockets and volcanoes on them?

I hear you! We are on spring break, my boy is in day care, and I am at work. Will this pile of work ever get smaller? Or do I just take the pile with me on vacation?

You know, I never thought about where faculty went over spring break. As students we avoided the academic end of campus (except to race chairs in the hallways in the middle of the night), but it would not surprise me at all to have found many profs there. Then again, I also found profs in their offices on Saturday afternoons, so there was no predicting them.

The students? Asleep, working, or trying to figure out that big blue room with the green carpet (ie outside).
So don't let anyone make you feel guilty for 1) working or 2) working in your office.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 11 Mar 2009 #permalink

Ha ha ha. Thanks for letting me know that I'm not real faculty! Well-equipped home office indeed. I keep my desk at home about half cleaned off, which is an enormous accomplishment. Only one teetering pile of bills on it, a toy space shuttle, some xmas arts and crafts in need of repair, buttons to sew on. I'm just happy there's room enough for my laptop. Who are these real faculty anyway?

By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 Mar 2009 #permalink

FWIW, I'll probably be one of the few people in my hallway during spring break. Occasionally somebody offers a good-natured "Shouldn't you be at the beach right now?" comment, but it's just harmless chit-chat, not an attempt to pass judgment on me for working when my colleagues are away. I'm guessing that the people who remark on you being there are pleasantly surprised and making some good-natured chit-chat, and are not trying to ostracize you for working on campus during break.

So keep the door open: You'll get more light, and hopefully somebody will drop by and you'll be less lonely.

"Real faculty work at home?" Not according to the former president of my school: he told students several times that "Faculty have an easy job, because the classroom and the office are the only places they work."

We are very, very, glad, he's our former president.

Since my spring break didn't match up with the one for my sons' school, travel wasn't an option, so I did work from home.

dont worry science woman! in a few years, you'll be one of the faculty on the beach. and then it will be even more important because minnow will remember it! i always try to keep that in mind when i get guilty about working & not seeing my 2 year old.

Why do you beat yourself up like this? You are real faculty.
Don't worry - it can/will get better. Ever since I got tenure, we take spring break off in our family.
But there was one really productive pre-tenure spring break that I got a journal article out of.

By Female Enginee… (not verified) on 11 Mar 2009 #permalink

You know, I get guilt the other way--I was one of very few professors not spending the whole week either in my office or at the bench (we actually went to the beach)! But given the state of my office, I think we should have taken a shorter vacation and made a swat at the mountains on my desk....

By gymlabrat (not verified) on 16 Mar 2009 #permalink