1. All. The. Emails.
Truly, while I was thinking about being a full-time professor with a full-time workload, I was thinking about all of the papers, and the meetings, and the paperwork, and the meetings, and the class preps, and the meetings …but even if someone had told me “be prepared for emails” I couldn’t have imagined how many emails I would receive every day. I have very quickly grown very selective about which ones I actually open. If it has an exclamation mark next to it, or a student’s or fellow faculty member’s name attached to it, I open it; otherwise, it just sits in my Inbox for the magical day when I will have time to go through the non-urgent emails. (I assume that magical day will come. Sometime.)
2. How Long It Takes To Get Everything Done
Planning classes takes forever. Grading assignments takes forever. Answering emails takes forever. Writing an abstract takes forever. Reading an article takes forever. Getting to class in the building next door takes forever. Brushing my hair and teeth takes forever. I wake up at 5:00 a.m. and I’m still not on campus until almost 9 or 10 most mornings, because mornings take forever. I finish teaching at 3:45 on T/R and 5:15 on M/W/F and I’m still not home until after 7 most nights, because everything takes forever. I’ve taken to giving myself two or three times as much time as I think I need for anything and everything. This never used to be the case. Literally every task I set out to accomplish takes almost twice as long as I think it is going to. I have no idea why.
3. How Quickly You Fall Behind And Stay There
I’ve written before about my wonderful committee member who used to say that the Academic Year is a roller-coaster for faculty–it always starts out nice and clean-slated, and by October she was behind; and by the Spring she was crazy behind; and then May rolled around and the roller coaster paused until the next Fall. I now have carnal knowledge of this phenomenon. The first few weeks of the term I was on top of everything, returning all emails, answering all requests, assessing student work immediately. By Week Five, forgetaboutit. If I think “hey, wow, look, I’m on top of things” it is only because I have conveniently forgotten at least ten things I am supposed to be doing. It does not matter how much time and effort I put into getting things caught up. I am never going to be caught up. That this is every faculty member’s truth is one of the dirty little secrets of academia. Fortunately, because this is true for everyone, just about everyone will cut me some slack here and there; otherwise I’d be totally, utterly manically overwhelmed instead of just mildly so.
4. How Appreciative You Will Be Of Great Colleagues
Boy, have I lucked out in this department. I can’t overstate how generous and welcoming my colleagues have been as I make this transition into full-time professorship. There’s a true sense of “we’re in this together” that makes the hard days a little easier to get through, and the easier days just really a pleasure. When everything seems to be going wrong and I’m totally overwhelmed, confused, anxious, or just exhausted and frustrated, I know there’s someone here who has my back, who is willing to talk with me about it or coach me through it or just offer a sympathetic ear. That collegiality is such an important lifeline for new faculty. I genuinely appreciate every kind gesture and encouraging chat.
5. All. The. Emails.
Honestly, nothing can prepare you for this.
How about you, Readers–What aspects of the job were you unprepared for when you first entered academia? What aspects of the job are still astonishing now, if you’ve been a professor for a while?