Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to school

Today is the day we have to begin regular work hours again. It'll be a 16-week grueling marathon of meetings, teaching, and stress until Christmas, followed by about four weeks of sanity, followed by another 16 week marathon until next summer, when we will again be relatively sane.

The Toad Work.

I never minded work much because I long ago mastered the trick of only doing things I actually enjoy doing for money. I love teaching sustainability and ecological economics, and really there's only an imaginary firewall between my work life and homestead life. And I certainly can't be accused of not practicing what I preach. That means that I tend to blend fairly seamlessly from one activity to the other, the big difference being that at home I work alone a lot, while at college I'm always working with someone else.

Aimee has a slightly different approach. She keeps a stronger firewall. And she also puts more overall effort into her career, I think. I don't skive, but I do try to take things steadily, and I usually manage to get my work done in less time.

No, the difficulty in being a college teacher is neither the teaching nor the students. It's the other faculty. There's so much management by committee, and so little able, practical leadership in college and universities. Such a lot of fuss and bother. As a former tradesman and aircraft engineer who regularly has to take on big building or retrofit projects, I generally don't make a big fuss about actually doing something. I just get it done. Some of my colleagues, on the other hand...

Gary Wareham, a famous RAF Mountain Rescue troop, once noted the American military's much higher propensity to hand out medals than the British. A US Air National Guard squadron, flying Corsairs, had a practice deployment to RAF Leeming, took over Number 1 Hangar, and operated out of there on practice missions for a few weeks. We were amazed that all these part-time airmen had long rows of medal ribbons, while we RAFMRS full-timer airmen, who regularly rescued people from mountaintops and cliffs at some risk to life and limb, would be lucky if we got even one medal in a life's service to mountain rescue and the RAF.

Said Gary, very contemptuously in his Sussex accent, "these Americans, they get a medal if they do two s...s in a day."

Now before I get inundated with nasty comments, remember folks, this is Gary speaking, not me. My admiration for the American military knows no bounds. And Gary was just a bit jealous.

But some of our college colleagues seem to think they deserve medals for doing the slightest bit of work beyond their alloted classes. And they never get anything done! It makes life difficult for those of us who are in the habit of getting things done. And it's a self-reinforcing cycle. After a while, the Administrators and bosses, who are always hard pressed for time and money, realize that some individuals can never get anything done, so they hand out the extra jobs, committee assignments and chairships, reports, paperwork, to the ones who can.

The upshot is, some folks easily work twice as hard as others. I generally am not afraid of hard work, but it feels pretty lousy to be stressed and pressed for time when you look around and see the nice easy time some of your colleagues are having. It can also be annoying to have to put up with some individuals complaining about how hard they work, when you know for a fact they're never at work before 9.30 am and they leave at 3.30 pm, and no, they don't really do a lot of work at home.

That's the problem with the college teaching life. It's the same everywhere I've been. The great Universities of Montana, Maryland and Georgia all have much the same problem as little Unity College when it comes to these extra jobs. Nowhere I've seen has a fair system.

Still, there are only 32 weeks of the year when I have to put up with this. While I still do academic work, especially renewable energy and sustainability work, during the breaks, I get to pick who I work with.

And the students are generally a lot nicer to deal with. Not that they are universally free of human vices. Some students lie, cheat, and steal, especially ideas, others are lazy, and some are just dense. But generally speaking, I enjoy the company of young people in the college setting. It keeps me feeling a bit younger myself. And I find their antics humorous.

Anyway. Enough. I have one and a half hours more freedom before the onslaught. Time to prepare.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

The earliest posts, at the very end of the blog, tell the story of the Great Farm, our purchase of a fragment of that farm, the renovation of the homestead and its populating with people and animals. Go all the way to the last post in the archive and read backwards from there to get it in chronological order.

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