11 April 2009

On not so much a job, more a way of life...

Friday—Good Friday—was a sort of second-class public holiday in the UK. (I leave aside the theological dimension.)

Nowadays I work part-time. Sorry. I get paid for working part-time. I was reminded of that yesterday by an email from my "line-manager"...
Digression! Times Higher Education this week has been themed on the interface* between academics and administrators, particularly this article.
However, she or he wrote:
I have checked with HR what happens about your hours and the public holidays. Apparently all public holidays have already been factored into your leave allowance. This means that if you normally work on a day that a public holiday falls then you have to take it off your annual leave allowance, but if you don't normally work that day then it does not affect your leave or hours. So, for example: If you are usually at work on Friday then that day has to come off your annual leave allowance. (My emphasis)

I don't have the kind of mind which wonders whether or not this is fair--and I am thankful that on the whole the system has played fair with me. So far.

No, my issue is rather different. When I worked "full-time" there was no real problem. (There could have been, of course. "Academic freedom" is an important area. But my current concern is much more trivial and domestic.)

Then, I was never not working. My wool-gathering while walking the dog ---was work. My boredom watching an over-hyped film ---was work. My attempts to re-create that Platonic souvlaki I had in Bristol of all places ---were work. My serendipitous encounter with an argument or quote in reading for pleasure in another discipline ---was work. You get the point.

  • Remember, I work in "education", as opposed to, say, quantum physics, or the law of intellectual property, or archaeology. "Work" requires few specialised resources or equipment, at least in its early stages. And the boundaries of the discipline are notoriously fuzzy...
So, much to the annoyance of my wife, who reckons that the boundary was always drawn in favour of "work", I just did not draw the boundary. The same issue is explored here by an academic in the US wondering what compulsory unpaid leave amounts to.

So, again, what does working "0.4" mean, for an academic? Two days a week? Yes, notionally. And I still have default days of attendance at the university, but now that the classes schedules for those days are over, they make no sense...

In the final analysis, "0.4" means 0.6 not at work. And that is hard work. It means gardening (it is not accidental that the civil service calls suspension, "gardening leave") or decorating or anything which precludes thinking... (and much as I dislike both activities, they don't work in that respect). Can't do it. So blow the whole thing. The role of academic, even in a spurious "discipline" like education, is not something one can pick up and put down; it is (for better or for worse) an identity. I am reminded of a point I made in a previous post;
(I asked Mr Lyward what he had asked the student ... to do. "DO?" he replied. "I don't want him to do anything. I want him to be." He would have stood no chance as a "practice teacher" nowadays.)
So am I "at work" as I write this?

* "themed on the interface" I really do have to congratulate myself on coining a truly vacuous example of management-speak which may well become a classic, going forward!

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