Professor, Interrupted

You might think professors lounge around on leather recliners sipping brandy in the afternoon. Not true. My workday doesn’t stop, and I work from home a lot, including evenings. Why? Because when I’m on campus, I’m barraged by students. Not mine. Other people’s.

Proof? Just an hour ago, a lady wandered into my office with a confused look. She showed me a crumpled map, asking me how to find a building on campus. I left my desk and led her outside, pointing toward a brick block in the distance. She smiled. I returned to my work.

Five minutes later, she came back. “It’s just that I don’t know where my classroom is, either. It doesn’t say on the schedule I printed out. Can you help me?”

We logged onto her student account, using my computer. It’s a good thing I wasn’t watching porn. I leave that on in the background sometimes. Yeah, I like to live dangerously.

Why am I constantly interrupted? Maybe because I don’t look like a professor. I look like a secretary, or a student aid. Pay no attention to my diploma or all my shelves with big heavy books. I don’t have two courses to teach, or articles to write, or committee meetings to show up late for, or a blog to piddle with. I’m here to handle every little trifling problem you have.

Technically, I’m not just a professor. I’m an associate chair. Do I look a little young to be running a department? Yeah, plus I’m pre-tenure. But it turns out a lot of faculty hate administrative work, even when it carries extra pay and course releases. I have student debt, so I’ll happily do more work. I’m starting to see why other faculty will take less money for more research and prep time. My office sits at the front of our building. That means I catch most of the errant traffic, even before our office manager does. I would bitch about it and insist on switching, but mine’s really big. I like having a big office. It even has a walk-in closet where I keep my regalia and a few outfits. I could hide a dead body in there if I wanted.

Anyway, the downside to my job and my location is the constant interruption. Last week, a retired gentlemen came by wanting an override into a class. “We’re two weeks into the semester,” I explained. “Sorry, but no.”

“Are you sure?” he begged. “It’s just that my friend teaches this class, and I’d love to see her.”

I sighed heavily. “Fine, can you write down your contact information?”

He scratched his head. “My…what?”

As I explained what contact information meant, I watched emails pile up on my screen. I wished I could’ve been playing hashtag games. The man explained that he didn’t know his email address and didn’t have a phone. So I told him to come by at noon tomorrow for an answer.

When he left, I called the instructor. She said, “Hell no. That guy’s a pain. He’s taken my class twice now. I don’t want him.”

The guy didn’t show up the next day anyway. The good news? I only lost an hour of work time.

Some interruptions are daily: Students come in wanting me to show them how to check their email, or they want to know what classes we’re offering next semester. Parents call wanting to know how their child’s doing, and I have to explain FERPA and tell them about the waiver process. I have to explain why this or that student failed a class. More students come in asking why their scholarships haven’t come through yet, and I have to tell them how to find the financial aid office. None of this is my job, but if I don’t do it then I look like a huge bitch, and would probably get fired anyway.

Yesterday was the worst though. The Student Records Office sent back a late registration form because it didn’t have letterhead. Our letterhead isn’t digitized, and they wouldn’t accept a photocopy. So we had to run it through the mill again — chair’s signature, dean’s signature, registrar’s signature. While that was happening, another student wandered into the office. “I’m wondering if you can help me,” she began. “I’m trying to find an old professor of mine. She was real pretty, with red hair.”

We have no pretty professors with red hair. So I had two choices: Tell her to fuck off, or try to assist the quest. I asked what course, and she didn’t remember. What did she want? She wanted to know if the professor still had one of her papers, because she planned to try and publish it in an online magazine. I got her contact information, and now I have to figure out who the hell this pretty redhead is who apparently taught for us five years ago, before I was ever hired here.