Exam Time.

As the academic year comes to a close, the calendar treats those of us in the educational lark to our semi-annual blend of relief and alarm. (My commiserations to those on the quarter system!) Each passing day brings our students closer both to the respite of holidays and the horror of another exam. Until recently, I didn’t appreciate that professors quaffed a similarly pungent brew. The flurry of review sessions, exam composition, exam grading, recommendations, faculty meetings, &c., seems to reach a violent crescendo before the halls fall silent.

For diversion during this tumult, I turn to this kind of thing:

The British (and Irish) seem partial to peddling things with comedy, while Americans apparently prefer the more earnest pitch of upward mobility. And while American soap operas are filled with beautiful people living successful lives, the British gobble up decades of bleak dramas featuring unemployed people kippering themselves in the cigarette smoke of their local pub. But enough pop transatlantic sociology.

What really fascinates me at these busy times is how some of our colleagues in the field manage to sustain an incredible pace of productivity throughout the year: a feat that requires the unusual talent of staying focused through frenzied times such as these as well as during the wide open spaces of mid-summer.

So I’ve attempted to make something of a ludicrously unscientific study of what a week in the life of a super-productive academic looks like. I’ve asked a few people who strike me as fitting that description to describe how they combine the central academic requirement of scholarly output with all the peripheral administrative and personal demands of this business. I’ll report my findings in the coming few posts.

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