It can be difficult to balance a typical research university professor teaching load with a typical research university professor research activity level, not just in terms of the time required to do both when physically in one's own department but also (and perhaps especially) when some travel is required. I have already been on two major trips this academic year, and have two more scheduled before the term ends. How is this possible for someone who also teaches?
This is a question asked by one of my non-academic friends on Facebook. She was surprised to read that I was on the road yet again last week and wondered how I could do that and teach.
- Very careful scheduling of travel dates, if possible, to minimize classes missed.
- Very careful scheduling so that exams coincide with some missed classes (but only if this doesn't involve strange twisting of the schedule to place exams in times that make no sense with the course schedule).
- Team-teaching (very important for me).
- Selective use of substitutes, possibilities for which include colleagues with whom one trades teaching, postdocs or grad students who want to get some experience teaching a class or two, and postdocs or grad students who are paid to do substitute teaching.
The postdoc/grad substitute option must be done carefully and selectively and not be an oppressive or unfair burden on them or lead to an unpleasant experience for the undergrads in a class because of the challenges of parachuting into someone else's class to teach. Example: Last year a senior grad student wanted to teach a class or two for me; he thought it would help his application for academic jobs to have this experience. I organized the course schedule so that he taught for me while I was at a meeting, he did a terrible job, the students hated him, I had to redo the important parts of the lectures, and I don't think my substitute enjoyed the experience much either. Other substitutes have been great, but it can a bit hard to predict who will do well and who won't.
I have to travel for essential research purposes (it is part of my job) and I have to teach (it is part of my job) and the collision of these two priorities in time and space leads to some complex logistics. I try to work something out that allows both to happen in the best way possible for everyone, but sometimes I succeed in this and sometimes I don't.
11 years ago