The semester started with a freakin' bang. The students are back with a vengeance. I instantaneously went from having some control over my schedule to being booked solid for weeks. I used to hate the oh-so-busy-and-important obnoxious people who could not find half an hour to meet me for weeks and weeks. I still do, only I am now one of these oh-so-busy-and-important obnoxious people: I will tell you that I cannot meet you for lunch before mid-November, and it's really not that I don't want to have lunch with you. I like you, and I looove lunch, and that's why we are scheduling it only 2 months into the future. Ridiculous, you say?
This semester I have a teaching overload, because I want to be free of teaching next semester in order to do work on some new and complex projects but I don't want to spend money on buy-out,** which is a pretty substantial amount and I'd much rather use it to pay students. At my R1 university (or MRU if you prefer), the so-called research active faculty teach one course per semester; definition of "research active" depends a bit on the department, but it is based on advising and financially supporting a certain number of graduate students, having a certain number of papers per year, and so forth, and is based on the annual reports we submit, well, annually. I think this 1-per-semester teaching load is fairly standard at R1's in the physical sciences, at least near as I can tell. People who don't meet the research activity criteria teach 2 courses per semester.
This is my first time doing the overload. I teach 2 courses instead of 1, so my spring will be free. I am teaching a large junior-level undergrad class and a surprisingly large upper-level grad class. Between classes, office hours, my own group meeting, meetings with other people for the ongoing collaborations, 1-on-1 meetings with each one of my research group members, faculty meetings, committee meetings, and undergrad student advising, there is very little time for the actual technical work, which is starting to freak me out as I have a string of papers that need to go out in the fall and a couple of proposals. A few senior colleagues who did the overload/free semester before say that it does end up being worthwhile, but not by a large margin and it surely does not seem like it when you are in the midst of it.
At the same time, I kind of enjoy having my time jam-packed. Being busy makes me feel useful. Being super busy makes me feel, if not super, then very useful. I get bored very easily and am not very good at just chilling, so a smorgasbord of commitments is strangely comforting. Definitely more like a big comfy blanket than a ball-and-chain. There is a fair bit of laziness in this too, as a lot of busy work is easy, and is a good excuse to not do the really hard stuff.
The students seem pretty cool in both my courses. Even in the the large undergrad one things are going pretty well, although I think they may still be scared shitless of me and/or the material. I will bask in their terror while it lasts. :)
** Buy-out: paying a portion of your academic-year salary from a research grant, which enables you to get some teaching release in order to spend more time on the research project supported by said grant.