Post Academic

Holidays on an academic schedule (with poll!)

"Thanksgiving Postcard circa 1900" (Public Domain)

Watching some of the “news” about Memorial Day traffic got me thinking about academic schedules again, something we covered way, way back.  For many, Memorial Day doesn’t really count as a day-off holiday, since those of you on semester schedules have already started your summer vacations–lucky you!  I’ve only ever been in a quarter system as an undergrad and a grad student, so the last Monday of May has always been a day to look forward to, whether as a chance to tie up loose ends at the end of the term or catch up on school work right before finals week.  The only thing to look out for with Memorial Day is that it can lull you into a false sense that summer’s already here and get in the way of finishing the school year on a strong note.

So maybe everyone in the Hamster World might think academics live in a state of arrested development, but you know they’ve gotta envy the nerds for having a few months of summer vacation and spring break.  Then again, the academic’s flexible time also means you end up grading or writing or grading or researching or grading at times a lot of other folks aren’t in the office, since there’s no boundaries between work hours and after hours.  Holiday days can magnify the academic’s inability to compartmentalize.  Below the fold, I rank the holidays on an academic schedule, in reverse order…

6. Halloween/Valentine’s Day: These “holidays” hardly count as holidays, since you don’t get a day off.  Halloween is probably a little more enjoyable since you can score some free candy in the dept office, but Valentine’s is such a burden and so heteronormative anyway.

5. Christmas: You’d think getting an extended, few weeks break would be great, right?  But for English and lit types, it can be the most excruciating time of year, because that’s when you’re playing the MLA waiting game.  It’s when you wait to hear whether you get convention interviews, have to make a guesstimated decision on whether to plop down about $1000 of money you don’t have to get plane tix and reserve a hotel room for Philly every other year (it seems), then figure out what you need to do to prepare for those (potential) interviews.  And in between prepping anticipated questions–that sometimes never come up!–for those interviews–that sometimes never happen!–you’ve gotta make sure you have a clean suit.  That doesn’t even count your non-school life, in which it’s likely you have to host your family for the holidays or go somewhere to celebrate without all the stuff you think you need, but actually won’t.  Then it’s likely you’ve got to get ready on Christmas Day to fly out the next day, probably to Philly.

The MLA has thankfully changed its between-Christmas-and-New-Year’s schedule, with the convention convening in early January starting this cycle.  So I guess that means Christmas probably moves up in the rankings, though the waiting doesn’t get any better.  And maybe all the nervous energy just gets shifted to New Year’s…

4. New Year’s Day: Okay, you get blow off some steam carousing on New Year’s Eve.  But the older you get, the more overrated New Year’s gets, doesn’t it?  And anyway, do you really get away from it all, when you go to some dept-related New Year’s party, where most of the talk is a MLA post-game dissection, anyway?  Really, for those of us in lit-fields, New Year’s is kind of the extension of the pre-Christmas waiting game, just more intensified as you wonder about how the convention interview turned out and whether you should start prematurely prepping for a campus visit.  Plus, you have to decide whether and when and to whom to send out those post-interview notes too.  And if you’re on the quarter system, you’re probably teaching in a few days.

Hmm…all this makes me wonder why I ranked New Year’s ahead of Christmas?

3. Labor Day: The one-day vacations are really underrated, like Labor Day, if you’re on a semester schedule.  It’s a great way to ease into the school year by getting a long weekend in the first month or so.  Check it: If you’re on a MWF schedule, Labor Day weekend equals a 4-day weekend, since, once you finish the previous week, you don’t have to go back to the classroom until the following Wednesday.  I know, those on a Tues-Thurs schedule don’t get a break, but, hey, you only have to teach two days a week to begin with!

2. MLK Day/President’s Day: Even better if you’re on a MWF schedule are the winter Mondays you get off for MLK Day and President’s Day–non-state school folks get these holidays, right?  Beyond being a great occasion to recognize and to reflect on things, MLK Day is like Labor Day at the beginning of Winter term, a time to take a break and get geared up for the semester/quarter to come.  And both holidays can be useful for jobseekers, since they give you a little extra time to prepare for those campus visits that might have finally come through.  I know, I know, they don’t count as a respite for T/Th folks, but, again, you’re only teaching two days/week, so quit yer whining.

1.Thanksgiving: The fact that everyone gets at least one day off, whether you’re MWF or TTh, for Thanksgiving break is why it’s the best and most equitable holiday.  You might be able to take it easy Wednesday and gorge on Thursday Turkey Day, and still have Friday to do whatever you want, be it something fun or a touch up a few late job applications.  It’s also an odd lull during the academic job application cycle, in between the rush of finishing the big batch of early-/mid-November applications and the interview waiting game that doesn’t begin in earnest until December.  Unless you’re forced to travel, there’s really nothing much you can do for those 4 or 5 days during Thanksgiving break, so you might as well enjoy ’em.

What do you think?  Do I have it completely wrong?  If you’re too lazy enjoying Memorial Day to comment, just vote in the poll below!

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