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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

I took the day off today.  “Six days shalt thou labor, but the seventh …”

5:30-6:30 p.m. E-mail.  They are having a rousing discussion over on AECM.  It is about whether or not auditors let down the investing public by failing to raise flags about the financial health of banks and other financial institutions.  Of course they did.  If the legal system dispensed justice, we’d have four fewer Big 4 auditing firms after the glut of shareholder lawsuits.   But it doesn’t.

Debit and credit – - David Albrecht

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

Today I am chained to work, with nose to the grindstone, buried under a huge pile of paper, paying for the sin of procrastination.

9:20-10:20 a.m. E-mail.  This is a really light day, but e-mail informs of some gems.  I like How Does a Falling Dollar Impact You? Over at AECM we’ve discussed, and discussed, and discussed,the disastrous ramifications of the Obama administration policies of printing money for stupid, nonsensical purposes.  SNL has a nice skit on the Chinese reaction (thanks Unknown Finance Professor for informing me of it).  Why should China care?  It bought U.S. bonds, then looked in on in horror as Obama burned the through the money.  It might be true that this will be called the Bush recession.  But at this point in his first term, Bush had already turned around the economy after inheriting the Clinton recession.

11:10-11:35 a.m. In transit to favorite coffee shop.

12:00-4:00 p.m. Grading.  Grading takes lots of energy.  Students in Managerial Accounting class will be happy to learn I finished grading their papers.  Students in Intermediate Accounting must be searching for a hanging tree.

Coffee shop denizen Justin, a math professor at MSUM, says that in this job of being a professor, “It is impossible to ever catch up.  There is always something else to do.”

Debit and credit – - David Albrecht

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

11:00a.m.-12:30 p.m. Miscellaneous reflections.  Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA.   Time to take a few minutes and reflect on my life as a professor.

I am thankful for being a professor.  I was not always a professor.  At one time I was a bum whose life revolved alcohol.  Uneducated, unrefined, self-centered and in a death spiral, I was going nowhere.  God, in His love and mercy, intervened and put me on the road to a new life.  When removing self from the equation, being a professor is about serving others.  I’m teaching students how to use accounting once their professional lives begin.  They will live in the real world, not me.  That’s fine, life apart from the hallowed halls of academia is a scary thought.

This year, I’m grateful to be at a new school.  Life at the previous school had become untenable.

I’m grateful for being a professor.  Being a professor gives me time to think.  Thinking is a solitary exercise.  The phrase is, lost in one’s thoughts.  It isn’t, lost in two’s thoughts.  Professors spend only a few hours per week with or in front of others.  Since the advent of personal computers, I quite literally spend my life at a computer.  Metaphorically speaking, my laptop has now become my right arm.

It’s not a bad thing to live much of my professional life alone.  Accountants are stereotyped as dull and boring.  So are professors.  Being both accounting and professor, I’m doubly dull and boring.

Why do some professors work on holidays?  If being dull and boring isn’t enough reason, there are other possibilities.  Whether they like or dislike teaching (many are attracted to academe because of the solitary life of thinking, not the social aspect of helping students learn), teaching eats up time.  Lectures and learning activities must be prepared, papers and tests  graded, and distractions dealt with.  For the organizationally challenged like myself, a holiday is a block of uninterrupted (professors live a solitary life) time to catch up on teaching related responsibilities.  For example, I still have about 20 hours of grading to do before I’m caught up.  Then the assignment list for next week must be finalized.

More than that, a holiday presents the opportunity to put aside teaching activities and work on scholarly pursuits.  It has never been more true than it is in today’s world of AACSB accreditation, an accounting professor must perish or his/her professional life will quite literally perish.  Writing a paper requires long blocks of uninterrupted time.  As chocolate is to a chocoholic, scholarly activity is to a true professor.

12:30- 1:30 p.m. E-mail.  Although the in-box isn’t as full as on a normal day, it will haunt me if I don’t clear it out now.  Personal and professional e-mails combined, there are 95 e-mails now to go through (more will come throughout the day).  Four are from AECM the listserv for accounting professors.  This is way down from a normal dy.  This is disappointing, for today I have time to read and respond, but there is little about which to read and respond.  Most deal with news alerts.  A few are from my favorite merchants, advertising tomorrow’s sales.

Only tangentially related to accounting.  Obama campaign promosed to immediately get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Now comes news that he expects us to be in Afghanistan until 2017, a year after the conclusion of his second term.  Also, Obama’s agenda runs into economic angst in Congress.  Hopefully difficulties will derail his plans to move the country to IFRS.

In Rules? Who Needs Rules?, I think Paul Vigna yearns for tougher American accounting standards that will reveal the true financial condition of the big banks.  There’s an interesting papers on the cost of quality and competition here.

5:40-6:00 p.m. E-mail.

10:00-10:20 p.m. Miscellaneous reflections.  As the day concludes, I see no real work was done today.  I just didn’t feel like it.  A wonderful thing about academia is the flexibility.  Perhaps I can turn tomorrow–Black Friday–into a good day of work.

Debit and credit – - David Albrecht

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

Today is going to be a teaching and learning day.  Notice that so far this week, I haven’t done much on my co-primary responsibility, which is scholarly activity.  There just doesn’t ever seem to be time for that.   I’ll have to tend to that, as soon as possible.  I have two deadlines coming up.  Monday, December 1, for submitting a proposal for an online conference on teaching.  I’ve thought it out, will only take me 30 minutes to get it ready.  Monday, December 8, for submitting proposals for papers, workshops and panel discussions.  This will take some significant amounts of time.  I definitely need to write a paper on this one.  But, the paper is only just begun and no where near where it needs to be.

4:30-5:40 a.m. E-mail.

Sometimes the prof needs to lead and then pull students along.6:00-6:45 a.m. Teaching!  Today will be just like the picture to the right.  In both courses today, new topics (actually new areas), are on the schedule.

In Managerial accounting, up first at 10:30, we’re going to cover budgeting.  Accounting texts do a lousy job of budgeting because they (don’t even try to place students in situations where behaviora and social factors influence the budget preparation process.  It is pretty much taught as crunch a few numbers.  But budgeting is more than that.  It involves making decisions about expanding or contracting certain activities, promoting A or discharging B, and deciding between different strategies such as make or outsource.  No, textbooks just run students through a few number-crunching exercises and that’s it.

So, what am I to do? I refuse to go through some of the number crunching work as it has no value I can see, except it is a way of passing class time.  I will work on preparing cash budgets, as it does tie biz activities to having cash to pay for those activities.  That’s useful, right?  Well, the Managerial Accounting students have been given their reading assignment and I’ve written  two homework problems, actually the ideas are stolen from a better managerial accounting book.  I’ll pull the students right along today, higher and higher up the mountain.

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

Will it be teaching related or scholarly activities?

I wonder what kind of day will be today?   Will it be it be teaching related or scholarly related?  I have a huge stack of papers/projects to read and grade.  And, I could write new homework problems and prepare word-processed notes for each of my classes.  On the other hand, there is certainly much to read and comment about on the scholarly side of things.  I’ve been contacted about my view on the GAAP/IFRS issue, and I’m tempted to write a couple of essays/articles about that.  Of course, I could get my paper on holistic education off the ground.

The problem for me is that I want to do both.  Either one separately could consume my undivided time and attention.  Speaking honestly, it probably takes 100% focus on only one in order to do it well.  But to do both simultaneously has been difficult for me.  I don’t think I’ve handled it well over my career.  I tend to get distracted and spin my wheels a lot.

I think today has to be mostly about class-related support activities.

6:40-8:00 a.m. Interview preparation.  I’ve been contacted by Professor Mark Holtzblatt of Roosevelt University (Chicago/Schaumburg, IL) to participate in a class project.  Student teams at both Roosevelt University and San Diego State University are preparing video presentations on various issues related to IFRS adoption and implementation in the U.S.  They contacted me as someone knowledgeable about IFRS resistance in the U.S.

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

Monday, and the week begins in earnest.  Today is my “teaching” day.

7:10-7:20 a.m. E-mail.  In box is not out of control, so that is a relief.  Notified of a story, “Center for Audit Quality Defends PCAOB’s Record in Urging Supreme Court to Leave Board Intact“, over at Jim Hamilton’s World of Securities Regulation. It’s a really nice piece laying out the issues to the Supreme Court challenge to the PCAOB.  It is an important issue worth my writing a separate essay.  Fat chance I’ll ever get the time to do it.  Reminds me a bit of Floyd Norris article at NYT from Nov. 6, “Goodbye to Reforms of 2002“.  Yeah, I should reflectively write on this one.

7:20-8:20  a.m Class preparation.  Today I also feel uneasy because I’m past my comfort zone in the courses I’m teaching this term.

Take Managerial Accounting, my first class on tap at 10:30.  I’ve built the course around information needed to make certain types of decisions.  I’ve had lots of interesting things for students to do.  Classes have been interesting, challenging and fun.  Students have responded well, and I’m glad.

Today is going to be more like work.  The material doesn’t lend itself to my strengths in the classroom.  Mostly, I don’t think I can appeal to students’ imagination today.  So, we’ll just go over some problems and I hope that students can discern important truths on their own.  I can’t help them much.

Well, must print out the problems, look over them one more time, and move on.

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

Today doesn’t start too unusually.  I’ve always been a night owl.  I started at midnight, which is an unusual perspective to the phrase, “Getting an early start.”  Actually, I carried over from Saturday night, when I got in a few hours of work.

12:00-3:00 a.m. Wrote blog essay, “Europe and Accounting Standards.”

10:50-11:10 a.m. Blog maintenance.

11:10-1:05 p.m. Blogged on TWILAP.

1:25-1:50 p.m. In transit to coffee shop where I frequently work.

1:50-4:10   p.m. Checking e-mail.  There are a few items of interest.  AECM readers answered my call for updates and informed me of nearly 10 blogs maintained by accounting professors.

In Avoidance By The Numbers (New York Times), Rutgers accounting professor Jacob Soll writes that “the fear of bad news often leads to bad accounting.”  At the Journal of Accountancy, Paul Volcker is on video explaining advantages to the U.S. adopting IFRS.

Bob Jensen from AECM posted a series of intriguing articles about the litigation threat to audit firms and the Moodys Rating Agency:  “Ohio Sues Rating Firms for Losses in Funds,” by David Segal, The New York Times. Also Bob quotes a study:

There are two superpowers in the world today in my opinion. There’s the United States and there’s Moody’s Bond Rating Service. The United States can destroy you by dropping bombs, and Moody’s can destroy you by down grading your bonds. And believe me, it’s not clear sometimes who’s more powerful. The most that we can safely assert about the evolutionary process underlying market equilibrium is that harmful heuristics, like harmful mutations in nature, will die out. [Martin Miller, Debt and Taxes as quoted by Frank Partnoy, "The Siskel and Ebert of Financial Matters: Two Thumbs Down for Credit Reporting Agencies," Washington University Law Quarterly, Volume 77, No. 3, 1999]

And, “How Moody’s sold its ratings – and sold out investors,” by Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers, October 18, 2009.  Bob explains the risk to auditors:

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How busy is my life?

TWILAP:  Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

I’m an accounting professor at a liberal arts college. I have three primary professional responsibilities.

  • Teaching.  I am expected to make classes special learning experiences.  The expectations at Concordia in this regard are much higher than at my previous schools.
  • Scholarly activity.  Refereed publications are the coins of the realm.  More than that, I am expected to develop a world view about my discipline.  The pressure is immense.   Due to accreditation considerations, I must get publications regularly or else become unemployable as an accounting professor.
  • Service.  Professors are a valuable resource to the community, not just the school at which they teach.  I spend a lot of time on giving back to the community of people who want to learn more about accounting.

There is so much to do.  I have some deadlines coming up in about six weeks.  By then, I want to have accomplished:

  1. Successfully completed my first semester at Concordia
  2. Started and completed a paper on holistic education, as applied to Intermediate Accounting
  3. Completed a paper on accountants as portrayed in the movies
  4. Submitted proposals to various meetings for conducting workshops and panel discussions.
  5. Re-established The Summa as a regular part of my professional life

In the coming week, I want to:

  1. Get caught up with grading for my classes
  2. Conduct meaningful classes
  3. Get started on the holistic education paper
  4. Comment on current events related to IFRS
  5. Blog about TWILAP

How much time will I work this week?  Being a professor is time-intensive, and solitary.  Most people think of professors either lecturing or talking with people.  In reality, professors work in isolation as they read, think and write.  Here is my budgeted time schedule for this week:

  • Email:  20 hours.  I estimate that it takes about 3 hours per day.  Why so much?  This is how I keep up with current events.  I receive dozens of e-mail news alerts each day, pertaining to accounting, GAAP and IFRS.  In addition, I participate on AECM, the e-mail listserv for accounting professors.  Lately, we’ve had more than 20 posts per day.  I read every one, and respond when intrigued.  Usually, I am frequently ingrigued.
  • Teaching & office hours:   12 hours.  It would be more, but there’s a holiday week.
  • Class preparation and grading:  25 hours.  It’s a short week, but I’m behind on grading.
  • Travel:  3+ hours.  My daily commute is about 40 minutes, but I’m not going in on Thanksgiving.
  • Meetings:  0 hours.  I’m new to Concordia, so don’t have many meetings yet.  At Bowling Green, I was usually on about 12 committees or meetings in a typical semester.
  • Interviews:  4 hours.  One hour for an interview with students from Roosevelt University in Chicago.  Add 3 hours for preparation.  This is a slow time for IFRS, reporters haven’t been calling me lately.
  • Blogging on holistic education:  10 hours.   It sounds like a lot for an activity that doesn’t count.  Professors only get credit for writing if it is in a refereed publication.  Blogging doesn’t count.  My blogging activity this week will eventually be compiled into a journal article.
  • Blogging on current events or whatever:  10 hours.  A lot has been happening on IFRS lately.  Also, I’m blogging about TWILAP.
  • Miscellaneous:  5 hours.  I waste a lot of time, spinning my wheels.

Ok, what does it add up to?  20+12+25+3+0+4+10+10+5 = 89 hours!

I had hoped to keep it to 60.  Obviously, something’s going to have to go.

The standard procedure when logging professional activities is to record all activity in 10 minute increments.

Debit and credit – - David Albrecht

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TWILAP

Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor

I devote almost every waking hour to being a professor, yet never seem to get anything done.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.

In this series, I’m going to log all of my professorial activities and then comment.  You can see what it’s like to be a professor.  I can get an idea of what I do.

Debit and credit – - David Albrecht

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One should be able to do what one knows
Milt Hakel (Bowling Green State University)

The preceding statement is elegant in its simplicity and brevity, and so profound as to be able to drive all aspects of higher education.

In the 21st century, it is no longer appropriate for university classes to focus on knowledge acquisition on the part of students. New knowledge is being created every instant, and it is impossible for any one person to keep up with everything even in a very narrow field. Also, students today are adept at finding the knowledge they need when they need it. Professors emphasizing knowledge is passe, and I am embarrassed to be a colleague to so many professors who stubbornly adhere to the old ways. Also, it is just plain wrong for professors to assume that students will be able to figure out what to do with their knowledge once they graduate from college. If they don’t learn how to use it here, they won’t be able to take that skill with them. (more…)

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