Right now, as the end of the university term looms, I feel like the people in this picture. I’m juggling a lot of balls right now and trying to make sure nothing gets dropped. As a sessional instructor (or, as I like to call it, an itinerant professor) at three different universities, I am teaching four courses this term. Four very different courses (research methods, children and youth services, Web 2.0, and collection management), on three different online course management systems. Each university and program has its own rules and regulations, calendar, deadlines, and dates. Trying to meet various deadlines for grading and submitting final grades over the next two weeks is just one of the balls I am trying to keep in the air. In addition to my teaching responsibilities for this term, I am also preparing for a presentation later this week, trying to work on (or at least think about) next term’s courses, get ready for Christmas, and find some time to do non-work things with my family.
Some days I feel like I’m managing it all quite well…and other days, well, let’s just say at least a few of those balls end up falling to the ground.
One of the things I have learned over the last few years of teaching in this itinerant model is that it is feast or famine. During the regular term, I often teach between 3 and 6 courses for two or three different universities. For the 13 or 16 weeks of the term, then, I am constantly busy. I’m online regularly, teaching, emailing students, posting lectures, monitoring discussions, answering questions, guiding, leading, learning. And grading…always grading. During the spring or summer, sometimes I teach one or two classes, or sometimes none at all. Those ‘quieter’ months seems very strange, particularly if I am not teaching at all, in part because I don’t earn any pay cheque during those times, but perhaps more importantly, because I am not juggling quite so many balls. And I never know quite what to do with myself.
Although I value my down time and miss having regular time to do things I really enjoy, such as quilting or reading for pleasure, I have also found that I usually do better when I have many balls in the air that need to be juggled. I tend to be more productive when I am busy and take great satisfaction in crossing things off my long (and growing) list of things to do. So, I will keep that in mind over the next few days and weeks as I work hard to grade papers, submit final grades, meet deadlines, and prepare for next term. Hopefully nothing gets dropped and hopefully I can continue to find satisfaction in crossing things off my very long to do list.