A semi-rant about my ‘cushy’ gig

At least once a month a friend or colleague reminds me that I’ve got it made. I have the cushiest teaching gig around, they say. I work from home 95% of the time. I do that work at my convenience and from a table overlooking a lake. I don’t punch a clock or observe a dress code.

If you think that’s cushy, you don’t have a clue what I do every day. So give me five minutes and we’ll fix that.

People get the wrong impression of my work, and that’s partially my fault. I talk too much on social media, you see. And people use my posts to create their own misdirected narratives. If I post a photo of my one-hour ski run around Sandy Lake, for example, people assume I’ve checked out for the day to frolic in the snow. I reality, that’s my daily workout. If I take a trail ride early in the morning and share a nature photo, people conclude that I’m on vacation or generally goofing off.

And I do take vacations from time to time, almost all of them working vacations. You see, the teaching schedule I’ve chosen in the online world is inflexible and year-round, so my work goes where I go and sometimes that’s a beach house or a mountain cabin. But when I travel, I still do the work and I still meet my deadlines. So far, not one student has complained of being neglected.

What’s different about teaching online?

Just about everything in my program, but let me give you a short list.

I don’t actually teach. All the course materials – videos, lectures, assignments, and the like – are prepared long before the first “class” convenes. Once the course launches, my job is to provide one-on-one guidance and tutoring to every student. Much of that feedback is included with the grading of weekly assignments, 2-3 per week (times 32-36 students). It works out to about one hour per student – or between 32 to 36 hours committed to teaching. Every 7 weeks we do it again.

I’m a student AND an instructor. I spend 6-8 hours a week, independent of class, immersed in the course materials and related research. Each time we offer a course (only about every 16 months for most of them) instructors must re-read and digest the voluminous course materials. It’s part of preparation. This preparation also involves external research on case studies and academic publications related to the course topic, since students expect me to introduce new information in discussion forums and as part of the feedback content.

My work is 90% productive. I accomplish a lot because I don’t work in a traditional office with built-in distractions. I don’t have coffee-room chit-chat, and colleagues don’t drop in to talk about weekend plans or the grandkids. I’m also dragged into a lot fewer meetings — a major time suck. Yeah, my work isolates me from colleagues, but my connection to students is stronger than it ever was when I worked in a bricks-and-mortar classroom.

I get to know my students well. Far better than I ever did in the F2F world. I chat with every one of them, often multiple times each week. My relationship with online students is closer and more productive than it ever was in the F2F environment.

So you see, this is no “cushy gig.” And, in fact, my 20+ years in the F2F environment was cushy by comparison. I also produce a lot more revenue than in the past, since I teach more classes and more students than I ever did in the bricks-and-mortar world.

I’m not complaining about my gig. I like it a lot, and it works well for the students, for the school and for me. But there’s nothing cushy about it. Nothing at all.

6 thoughts on “A semi-rant about my ‘cushy’ gig

    • Duane: Thanks for dropping in. No one comments on blogs anymore. College professors are generally perceived as underworked and overpaid. Which is why most of them whine constantly about their workload. Oh, the angst.

  1. My former job situation isn’t apples to apples with yours, but I worked for a publishing company from home. I had the same responsibilities as people who worked in the office, but I was told by most people my job was easy or “cushy” because I could do it in my P.J.’s and didn’t have to drive to the office.
    In my experience, since I didn’t have the 9-5 structure, I always felt like I should do more work. My boss/employer appreciated my work ethic and what I produced, but those who knew nothing about what it took to get the job done, all had an uninformed opinion about my “luck” or “ease” of my role.
    As someone who received her Master’s degree from the program in which you teach, I know that you are essentially always working. There are pros and cons to every job. It does get old though hearing from others that what you put your heart and soul into is easy.

  2. Of all my profs in the online Kent St. program, you were my favorite. Fact. There were many very good instructor and only one bad one throughout my experience there. You always gave thoughtful feedback and made extra time for email or social media interaction. It made some of my courses actually fun! That’s an accomplishment. A job is a job is a job. Whether it’s in a virtual classroom or a brick and mortar setting, good teachers put in the hours. Count yourself in that good group, Bill.

  3. When someone starts asking how many classes I teach, I know they are doing the calculation in their head and wondering how I spend my “free time.” I enjoyed reading this. I taught my first online class last semester.

  4. Hah. I stand corrected. People do post comments to blogs.

    Jessica, thanks for sharing that story. As a grad of our online program, you know a bit about the work faculty must do when teaching online. And congrats on the new gig. I’ve not heard the official announcement, so I’ll keep it under my hat.

    And Rick, thanks for the props on what I do here, but we do have some great instructors in the program. Finally, Kelli, welcome to the world of online education. I know you have the mojo required to be a star.

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