UPDATED ON April 10, 2013.
I'M TRYING TO figure out how to squeeze a free 20 minutes out of a normal afternoon.
It takes me that long to cobble together a blog post but during a normal academic day, I don't have 20 minutes of uninterrupted time--except the blocks of time I spend in the classroom.
This is the worst academic schedule I have ever endured--but I won't bore you with the details. I know that by writing this short post during our Spring Break that I will have alerted people to the need to equitably balance workload.
Part of the difficulty I'm experiencing arises from a three structural changes that evolved on the heels of major decisions made by the Irish Minister for Education three years ago.
First, my former employer (Tipperary Institute) was rolled into the Limerick Institute of Technology. This moved direct management farther way from our teaching premises and means it takes longer to get administrative support through former channels. I simply have not learned how to get high priority support without exerting a lot more effort. This same kind of issue now faces local communities throughout Ireland who are losing their councillors.
Second, we are committed to in-service teaching and learning. This means that to sustain two other departments, I'm detailed to teach in classrooms located 45 minutes away. I believe in the need to support these other vibrant programmes. I don't mind driving (there are no public transport links) but at the time schedules are created, the in-service dimension is often omitted as a consideration on the first iteration of the calendaring. When driving time is factored into the equation, it normally means hitting the road with a sandwich instead of taking the time-honoured tea break. This has little bearing on me, an American who grew up attached to In-And-Out Burgers. I have a belly to prove the impact of that lifestyle and I've never associated freshly brewed Irish tea with quality of life.
Third, to get the highest effeciency out of a revised semesterised schedule, we subordinated the convenience of lecturers to the continuity of education of students. This means my overly ambitious workload needs to be supported with help from other staff members. I updated this post when additional resources were brought to bear on the most difficult hours on my schedule.
I also need to point out that the spring semester of 2013 has exposed deficiencies in my personal time management. Some of these deficiencies come hand-in-glove with the easy access our students enjoy when door-stepping lecturers on our compact campus. Unless I physically remove myself from public spaces, I cannot work e-mail or review course assessments during a 0900-1700 time frame. I have found a quiet space after consulting with a clever facilities manager and won't publicise the location because students read my blog.
FOOTNOTE: Several education aggregators pick up the newsfeed from my blog and I know from personal feedback that some of my rambling commentary has percolated all the way to Ministers' briefing packages. I hope the revision of my blog post has the same effect. I believe the next four years of fiscal austerity means fewer assets for front line staff across the civil service. I'm counting on being asked to carry a bigger load than I expected since becoming a third level lecturer in Ireland.
Bernie Goldbach is the senior creative multimedia lecturer in the Limerick Institute of Technology. He has timetabled himself to review reading items about productivity and scheduling.