Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Aloof professors complain about student email

The NY Times has an article up that quotes a bunch of professors complaining about "inappropriate" student email, where "inappropriate" means "not showing enough deference" “asking questions the professor thinks is stupid” or “providing feedback on the instructors performance.”

Most of the emails teachers complain about are notes I’d be happy to get. An email that says "I think you're covering the material too fast” is listed with messages that “go to far.” That’s silly. I’d love to know if any of my students thought I was going to fast, or too slow, or whatever.

Another professor complains about this email: "Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!" Apparently the teacher believed this was inappropriate because it wasn’t about the content of the course. But the kid is a new to college for God’s sake, and one of the things we are supposed to do with new students is teach them study skills. (The correct answer, by the way, is to get a large spiral notebook with pouches that you can put class handouts in and perforated pages so that you can turn in handwritten work without those irritating dangling fringe things.)

I can think of a few problems with student expectations of email, but most are simply extensions of other common student mistakes. No, I’m not going to be able to read 50 rough drafts the night before the paper is due. No, I’m not going to do your work for you: you will have to think this through yourself. None of these things really bother me: they certainly aren’t newsworthy. They just come with the territory.

I do have one question: how come students never use the subject line? Most student email says “(no subject.)” Is this because students are used to IMing?

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