Because life is a series of edits

The Professor’s Office

In Thought on June 30, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Beginning this summer, Learner is teaching/research assistant for a very popular professor here on campus. Basic responsibilities include grading one-page reflection papers in which people interact with assigned books read, as well as longer 10-15 page papers that are actually apologetic letters students are assigned to write to a non-believer they know.

But on top of these duties (and other more academic ones to come), most of Learner’s work for the professor this summer has been a major office organization overhaul Learner has dubbed “The Genesis 1:2a Project” (“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep…”).

Five full trash bags and twenty hours later, Learner has yet to really make much of a dent in the deep. Sitting facing the desk, here’s what you would see:

Table to the right: three file holders with a collection of files in them. The furthest one to the right holds files on literary figures, the middle one holds small random folders, and the one to the left holds other various folders. These will all get assimilated into the filing cabinets, but Learner had to do something with them until then.

Continuing to the left of the three file holders, there are two stacks and a box. These are what the professor needs to go through and decide what he wants to keep and what Learner can pitch. Whatever he doesn’t throw away, Learner must find a place for it. The remaining things on the far end of the table are just waiting to find a file home.

Across the desk, you would notice that both it and the two tables on the rug are clear of files. This was Learner’s progress yesterday. On the righthand corner of your desk is a package on top and underneath are some bags of books the professor wanted bibliographed. On the left hand corner of the desk, there are four different pages that were most current and Learner wondered if the prof needed them.

As you continue to look to your left, you would notice that Learner cleaned out the shelf above. There are only two files there now (there were dozens before): the first is a Faculty folder the professor used to take to such meetings; the red folder is a file on higher education training and development. Learner thought the two tied together, so he put them there for now.

In the closet behind you, you would notice some stacks, but they are quite condensed from what they were. These are the professor’s edited class files, put here to get them out of the way before Learner places them (either as is or even further segregated) into the archival filing cabinets across the room. They’re grouped by class/like topic right now (and some stacks are bigger than others – apologetics files, for instance), and Learner is planning to group them as such in the cabinets or break them down further to lighten their loads.

Learner’s plan was to have the professor go through what he did/didn’t want of the two stacks and the box, and then hit the archive filing cabinets (three in all, including three rows of full shelves above). He was planning to get the cabinets consolidated and then rearrange the books (7 bookcases’ worth) according to what the prof wanted. This all seemed

However, the good-natured professor sprung a surprise on Learner this afternoon, showing him the attached bathroom on the side of his office where, to the professor’s visibly embarrassed chagrin, a box of papers sits behind the door and a bathtub/shower literally filled with boxes of files as well. This, Learner says, will easily add another 15 hours to the project, not even counting the work aforementioned (which will easily be twenty hours or more).

Learner’s application: If becoming a professor, learn to love organizing as much as teaching. Or, just get an idealistic, sucker-of-an-assistant who is more than willing to do it for you.

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