Gone

Flickr_disappear

From a colleague’s e-mail autoreply:

I am away for the summer semester and will return Aug 15, 2007. I will not be able to respond to your e-mail until then.

This is a pretty common occurrence in academia. Postsecondary faculty that aren’t teaching during the summer will disappear for a few months and then resurface in the fall. Many leave answering machine messages and/or e-mail autoreplies that they’re gone, completely unavailable (literally) to anyone who might want to reach them. They’re recharging their batteries and taking advantage of the quiet time to work on articles, books, and other projects. It still strikes me as sort of odd, though, to simply disappear like this.

Other than K-12 teachers, I can’t think of any other professions that simply vanish for months at a time. No postal mail + no telephone + no e-mail = no contact.

[photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/ron_richardson/280329347]

5 Responses to “Gone”

  1. It’s another thing to add to the list of ‘strange cultural and social practices of the 20th Century’ that someone will write in 100 years (rather like we look back at the Edwardians)! Learners expect to be in touch with teachers 24/7 and online environments (like moodle and social networks) facilitate this. Bring on the new generation of teachers who will tune in to this.

  2. Actually, disappearing doesn’t sound like a bad idea. It sounds like a vacation. Though after a few hours, I think I would start shaking with withdrawal symptoms!

  3. I’m a college prof who isn’t teaching over the summer, and all I can say is: Dang right I’m not available. I’m doing other stuff:
    http://www.castingoutnines.net/2007/05/31/the-summer-schedule/
    To that list at my blog, you can add hanging out with my two daughters, and blogging.

    Taking “hermit time” is not the symptom of being in an out-of-date generation like the first commenter suggests. It’s taking time to replenish the intellect and curiosity that I need to teach and get stuff done that I love to do that isn’t teaching, which I can’t do while I am teaching. That includes research, reading, going to conferences, and working on college-related tasks. People outside higher ed don’t often realize that profs need time for both teaching and non-teaching activities, and time well spent in one area will make the other area better.

  4. As an engineer, I could not disappear for months at a time. But as you say, now that I’m a teacher, it is easy to slip into that hibernation period.

  5. I’m one of the founders of an open source software company that works with institutions so I see this practice in my work. I have to admit that I find the idea of disappearing for a such an extended time appealing at the same time I know it’s impractical and would certainly throw me into connection withdrawal. Recently I’ve been thinking about “disconnecting” one day per week essentially aiming for the same thing. Quiet time to recharge, think, and get work on things that don’t fit with the pace of every day… The appeal to disappearing for months, for me, is probably a reaction to the intensity and imbalance of daily life.

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