17 Hours Revisited: A Satire

Children's Reading 1

Melissa Downes reading poetry to an audience of children and adults.

— Melissa K. Downes

Chancellor Brogan says faculty work only 17 hours per week or less. Let’s imagine a world where such a claim is true:

In that world, I won’t be spending my weekends and weekdays preparing lectures, discussions, question sheets, assignments, and small group activities for my classes because I only work 17 hours a week – the 12 hours I’m actually in classes and my five office hours. Instead, I’ll just sit quietly for 12 hours in class, with my hands folded, or I’ll talk about the Steelers, or worse, the Vikings.

In that world, I won’t have the names of my 90 students memorized within two weeks of meeting them. I won’t be filling out any attendance information needed by my university (even if I happen to remember a name). I’ll fill out no forms, surveys, nor pieces of paper for my university because I only work 17 hours a week.

In that world, I won’t be reading the 40 to 80 university-related emails I get each weekday or the 20 or more I get each weekend. Even if I accidentally read one, I won’t respond to it. I’ll hit delete (but only during my 17 hours of work a week).

In Chancellor Brogan’s world, there won’t be a syllabus for any of my classes. There will be no guidelines, no policies, no outcomes, no friendly introductions, descriptions, and suggestions, no comforting assurances, no contact information, and no list of assignments, nor discussion of how students will be evaluated. I won’t have prepared three to four detailed schedules for 15 weeks of classes. As Chancellor Brogan says, I only work 17 hours a week.

In that world, I won’t be developing rich and useful sources – handouts, websites, videos, visuals, and articles – to supplement textbook readings and course concepts nor making these available to my students. I won’t be giving my students multiple points of access into the material and multiple ways to help them remember to do their work nor any strategies to help them do that work well and learn from it. I won’t be posting useful announcements on our online learning platform or emailing my students individually when I see them getting into difficulties. There are only 17 hours in my workweek.

In that world, I won’t assess the annotated bibliography project, the six short analysis papers, the weekly discussion board posts, or the two major essay exams for my 27 British literature students. I won’t spend almost every day of the week inventing or assessing new, interesting assignments and activities for my 20-some freshmen inquiry students in my brand new course. I won’t respond in detail or even assess three major papers, the smaller writing assignments, the discussion board entries, or a final project for my 40-50 composition students. I won’t develop, write, or distribute any assignments for any of my students. I won’t be designing any rubrics or criteria for assessment, either. The fact that responding to and grading one major paper assignment from one section of 25 students takes approximately 10-15 hours demonstrates that I won’t be doing that any more – since I only work 17 hours a week.

In Chancellor Brogan’s world, I don’t read and review textbooks (and their prices) in order to carefully choose the right ones for my classes. Indeed, since I won’t be giving my students any assignments, nor a schedule, why assign textbooks at all? There are only 17 hours in my workweek.

In that world, I won’t meet with, support, or mentor my colleagues as they confront difficult issues in their teaching. What difficulties could they have? We only work 17 hours a week.

In that world, I don’t help plan yearly workshops on best practices in teaching, nor prepare for and present at those workshops, nor attend those workshops. In that world, I don’t spend four to six hours each week brainstorming about, seeking writers for, or editing a weekly teaching blog. Why not? In Chancellor Brogan’s world, I only work 17 hours a week.

In that world, I won’t be reading any literature, scholarship, or pedagogical texts, or, if I do, I’ll keep what I discover to myself. I won’t pursue scholarship nor engage in creative projects, or, if I do, I won’t share these discoveries or my expertise with my students. In that world, I don’t present nor do I publish on scholarly, pedagogical, or professional issues, or if I do, I make it clear that such work has nothing to do with my university, nor with my job. I only work 17 hours a week.

In Chancellor Brogan’s world, I won’t be seeking another degree during my summer “vacations” in hopes that I can further enrich my classes and my students’ learning. If I do get that degree, it will be because I believe in the joy and power of learning, but, with only 17 hours in my week, I won’t be sharing that joy and power with my students. Since I won’t be spending my summer vacations preparing for my classes, either, I won’t be sharing much of anything – except my opinion about the Vikings – or worse, the Steelers.

In that world, I won’t be attending any of the one to five meetings I’m supposed to go to each week. I won’t be serving on university committees that help with first-year students’ transition or retention or help us renew our accreditation. Nor will I be serving on – and certainly not chairing – any other university committees. I won’t serve on or chair four to seven departmental committees. I certainly won’t help develop and implement innovative ways to attract new students to the university and my department. Remember, I only work 17 hours a week.

In that world, I won’t judge poetry contests, or, if I do, I will have to make it very clear that what I do has nothing to do with my university or my job. I won’t help invite creative writers and speakers to come to our university. I won’t negotiate with them, help plan their visits, fret about our lack of budget, greet them, hang out with them, nor formally introduce them at their readings. I won’t give my students a chance to meet them – unless they show up, spontaneously, all by themselves. I only work 17 hours a week.

In Chancellor Brogan’s world, I don’t advise two student organizations. I don’t attend open-mics and listen to and read for my students. In that world, I never prepared a Brazilian meal for 20 Brazilian scholarship students. I didn’t write a paper proposal, find funding, mentor my students, and take them to present at a conference. I don’t attend Honors’ events, nor serve as a rehearsal judge for Honors, nor develop senior projects with Honors students. I certainly never helped an Honors student develop a three-week community service project, bringing (more) poetry into the lives of our community. In that world, I only work 17 hours per week.

In that world, I don’t write any letters of reference or recommendation for students or alumni. I don’t praise alumni when I learn about the great things they do. I don’t write my students or our alumni at all. I don’t think about my students and alumni or advise them unless they come in during my five hours of office hours per week. In that world, I walk away if they greet me on the street. I delete their emails, too. I only work 17 hours a week.

In that world, I don’t give free poetry readings in my community nor on my campus. I don’t lead book discussions at my wonderful public library. I don’t serve my community at all, or, when I do, I have to point out that my service is due only to how much I like and care about my community, and that service has nothing to do with my university nor my job. We can’t forget that I only work 17 hours a week.

In Chancellor Brogan’s world, my friends and I don’t discuss our teaching, our service, our scholarship, or our university because we all only work 17 hours a week.

Would I love my job as much if I only worked the 17 hours some people say I do? Probably not, but, in that world, I’d have a lot of time to think about it. And…my house would be clean, my laundry done, my book finished, my poetry manuscripts growing, and my loved ones well-loved and cared for when I’m not caring for the 2800 students that I’ve taught and mentored these last 14 years in this world.

What won’t you be doing because we only work 17 hours a week? And tell me about your summers, too, when all of us do nothing, nothing at all.


Melissa K. Downes is an associate professor of English at Clarion University. She loves teaching.  She is interested in talking about how people teach and enjoys sharing how she teaches. She is an 18th century specialist, an Anglophile, a cat lover, and a poet. She can be contacted at mdownes@clarion.edu

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2 Responses to 17 Hours Revisited: A Satire

  1. drolivas says:

    Great piece, Melissa!! I hope Chancellor Brogan receives a hard copy!!!

    Like

  2. Very good piece. Well done.

    Like

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