Thursday, September 06, 2007

Overwhelmed and Underwhelmed

A colleague stopped by my office today to say that he'd scheduled another committee meeting and so would miss being at the committee meeting I chair. As he told me, he doesn't know what we're doing at the meeting anyway, so it's not important. Right?

Except we all agreed to finish certain tasks X by several days before that meeting so that I can get copies made and we can all read those and make some decisions based on the tasks we've completed.

So, do I send out a reminder about Tasks X to the committee, or do I count on them as adults to do the work they agreed to do?

Because really, I don't have the time or patience to infantalize other adults. I want to whack my head against the wall. Hard.


I've been desperately prepping for one class, a play I've never taught before. My office hours aren't until this afternoon.

One of my first year students in another class stopped by to get some paper from me so she could print out the work due in class (in 40 minutes). I don't have a printer in my office, and I don't have printer paper, sorry.

I turned back to my work, and she started asking me about my day, and telling me about hers.

And dang, I was short with her. I'm pissed at myself now, because now she's probably feeling all unhappy that a prof she was brave enough to come see was short with her. GAH! I want to whack my head on a wall.

There's this boundary thing that's hard to articulate. I'm happy to talk to students during my office hours, and I purposefully don't do things that can't be easily interrupted during those times. But if I'm reading and taking notes, and it's not office hours, then I probably don't want to chat.

It's hard to balance the "being accessible" part with the "I'm desperately busy right now" part.


I sometimes feel totally overwhelmed by things to do and underwhelmed by my ability to do them well. Now is one of those times.


  1. Anonymous8:59 AM

    First, I say send the email about tasks X - at this point in the semester, a lot is going on, and even a well-meaning colleague can lose track of doing task X when s/he is desperately prepping for classes, too! You can also take the opportunity to gently "remind" the committee members that it is crucial the tasks are done so the meeting can be used to make decisions - that way Mr. Clueless and anyone else tempted to blow it off because they've spaced out on the tasks will know why they need to be there.

    As for the incident with the firstie, I'd probably email her an apology, explaining that you were in the middle of a task that could not be put off, but that you would love to chat with her during your office hours. I've found a lot of my firsties just don't get the office hours concept, and think that if I'm in my office, I must be available. An email will reassure her that you really do like to chat with your students, just that you only have time to do so during office hours. (I've snapped at students who show up and want to linger when it isn't office hours, too, and they have all responded pretty well to this kind of email). It sounds like this kid also needs someone to point out some of the differences between college and high school - like if you don't have printer paper, go to a computer lab or the library! Maybe you should invite her to come to a specific office hours, and talk about her transition to college.


  2. Also, I usually shut my door when I'm in my office to work, as opposed to in my office to be available to students, which my students "get" as my code that they can/can't interrupt me; but I guess maybe that wouldn't work with a first-year student...

  3. You know, it's rather comforting to read that someone with experience in this crazy academic world has the overwhelmed/underwhelmed problem, too. That explains my state of mind on a daily basis!

  4. Anonymous11:19 AM

    I agree with Barb, email them. This time of year especially they won't remember. I would also count on 10% replying to your email asking for a refresher on what it is exactly that they were supposed to do and another 10% still blowing it off despite the reminder.

    Or maybe I'm just cynical that way....

  5. I agree. Email them. And as far as stuff to do, I'm tired of always having more things to do than time to do them.