Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And your little dog too!

I get email, and I mean A LOT of email, on a daily basis from students. I do not know if it is the increasing lack of sunlight or the increased amount of craniel rectal impaction but the emails I am getting are getting ruder by the day.

Students calling me by my first name (without asking permission or what I would like to be called when my syllabus clearly states I am Ms. Teacher). Students making demands, expectations even for extensions instead of making requests for an extension with an explaination as to why they need it. (Sometimes even demanding an extension on the extension because they are not done with the assignment!). Students actually telling me that my grading is stupid because they feel they deserve a higher grade or that they should not have to abide by due dates. I feel like I am viewed as the Wicked Witch of the West because I am expected basic human decency!

Question: How do you deal with the netiquette issue and how they can appropriately communicate in the online enviroment?


  1. Hi FML!

    Here a few suggestions:

    Create an assignment wherein they email you. The email has to include an appropriate subject, greeting, closing, etc.

    Discuss email netiquette in class, and why it is important -- many jobs require a lot of emailing and you don't want to piss off your boss.

    Tell them you won't answer emails that don't follow the guidelines. (If you can. In my case, I am required to answer all student questions.)

    I teach writing, so I will often respond with, "Since this is a writing class....." or "Since this is a business class, it is important to use good writing habits. For future emails, do XYZ" or "To make it easier for your audience to understand you, do XYZ."

    But I think one could get away with, "Since this is still part of the classroom environment...."

    I had a student who's email was something like UnicornLover@yahoo and who never used openings or closings. After my third reply of, "I'm sorry, I can't help you, I don't know who this is or what class you are in" I finally got the student to at least include their name. Small victories.

  2. Online Ophelia's advice should be used by anyone with questions like FML's.

    Those of you who teach writing intensive courses certainly can use the "practice good writing habits" excuse. But all of us can use the "treat humans with respect" excuse!

  3. All of my Blackboard shells contain a document about professionalism and my expectations of all students. Here's what it says about salutations, etc:

    Professionalism includes courtesy in communications. This includes many behaviors and conventions that some students need reminders about (like using proper salutations and grammar in emails). My advice on this holds equally for written and oral communications. Following Dale Carnegie's observation that one's own name is the most interesting and beautiful sound in any language, I encourage you to pay attention to names, correct pronunciation, and correct use of titles – especially for people who have influence over your future success. If you don't know how to correctly pronounce someone’s name, ask them. Don't be shy or embarrassed. No one gets offended by being asked how to correctly pronounce their name – most people are flattered to be asked. Similarly, it is a good idea to be overly courteous in the use of titles. Most instructors here at Second Tier U. will then tell you to not bother with the titles and simply call them by first name – but you should not presume to do this until invited. Call your professor Dr. Smith (or Prof. Smith) unless invited to do otherwise. In my case, "Ock" is usually fine provided we actually know each other (i.e., you're not just someone who sits anonymously in the back row).

  4. There are more out-reaching tactics than this, but I learned this one here and have used it all semester and it has done more than a free life-time supply of Mallox.

    I put on the syllabus that I will not respond to e-mails written in text-speak, I will not respond to e-mails that are unprofessional, and I will not respond to e-mails from addresses that are unprofessional or unclear. I state on the syllabus and outloud on Day 1 "I need to be able to guess your given name from your user name, and your username should not hint at any likes or hobbies you wouldn't want to share with your mother." I state on the syllabus and outloud on Day 1 "If you send an e-mail that goes unanswered, re-read the syllabus and try to figure out where you went wrong, then try again."

    When I get anything rude I ignore it. I usually don't even bother to finish reading it. I got a few overly informal/disrespectful whining complaining e-mails in the first three weeks. I blew them off. They never tried again and they never bothered to bring it up face-to-face. And since then I've only gotten appropriate e-mail.

  5. PS it also says I won't answer e-mails asking questions that are answered on the syllabus and I post the syllabus on the class resource page. And since most e-mails are about things that are answered on the syllabus, it's fairly easy to ignore most of my flake e-mail.

  6. I love this. Because the potential for passive aggressive smack down is a rare treat. Make your own equivalent of the following paragraph and simply cut and paste as necessary.

    "College is a time to develop a professional voice in writing. When you are writing to colleagues, potential employers and, yes, even instructors, you should always address them by their title. Begin with a salutation and write in complete sentences. That way, you convey that you are a professional while communicating exactly what you need. You should develop this while at college to ensure you make the best impression in the real world."

    [deleted: You little shit]

    I delight in responding to their little half sentence txtspk email with a short answer and this long admonishment. It's fun.

  7. in my Tech Writing class, I make the students teach the class (in groups for this one) some aspect of technology. One of the groups is supposed to present on "Email Subtleties" .

    Two groups wanted that topic, and in one group, 2 of the guys had CC'd my personal address (visible in another tab on the projector when I was verifying a link or downloading a file or something). Both guys were in the same group, and when I asked each group to make a case as to why it should be "theirs" (as I do in any conflicts in topic-assigning), the guys who erred said "We have learned from negative examples. We would like to spare the rest of the class from repeating our mistakes." Convincing argument.

    Oh, and the email sent to personal acccount? Deleted that version, responded to the university one (the one on the syllabus and in BlackBoard) with a note that they should NOT use someone's personal account for professional matters, just like they (and their bosses) would (probably) not like their mom calling them at work. Boundaries - respect them.

    (Academic Monkey, can I steal your paragraph for future responses? Thanks!)

  8. My syllabi state pretty much what Wombat's say. I do occasionally get the student that asks "did you get my email since I didn't hear from you", and my usual response is that it's possible, but my filters throw out any emails that don't conform to what I wrote on the syllabus, so I won't see them. That usually shuts them up, and I then get emails that are generally readable.

    I'm disturbed, however, that you don't smack down the little bastards who are disrespectful enough to call your grading stupid. That shit doesn't fly with me. The moment I get one of those incredibly disrespectful emails (and they are few and far between, since I am known as a firm but fair, but don't fuck with him guy), I inform the student (by email) that their demeanor is extremely disrespectful, and I'm dropping them from the course unless they come and see me (I have a solid "no disrespect or you are OUT" policy). Some see me, some quietly go away, and a couple make a stink to my boss, who basically tells them to eat shit after reading their email.

  9. You get to drop your students, Joe? Wow.

    Funny this came up. I'm mulling over my annoyance with a grad school applicant who insists on calling me Ms. Marcia in our e-mail exchanges. Marcia's fine. Professor Brady is fine. Ms. Marcia is just annoying and cutesy. Title plus firstname is what I called my kindergarten teachers.

  10. Is he by any chance Chinese or Korean? Not Chinese American or Korean American, but actually Chinese or Korean? Because they put family name first, then given name. And they know we do it the other way around, but sometimes they go in a circle and wind up confused about which name to put with the title.

  11. Lady Marcia, I second WotC's comment. International students tend to screw up salutations ("Most estemed Professor Beaker of the Chemistries" is one of my favs). They don't mean to disrespect.

    For those of you who don't like to communicate with keg_chugger9817@yahoo.com, tell students that in order to verify their online identity, you can only reply to their official campus email address.

  12. While I am most certainly encouraged by the "show of (professional etiquette) force" here - and I'd like to use AM and Wombat's boilerplates as well -- aren't any of you imprisoned in a "We love our customers" school?

    I have waiting for me an EMail response from a student who just got a smackdown for calling me and my assignment unfair because said flake failed to follow the most basic of the instructions. Flakie focused special ire for one of the 24 comments included in the graded paper, attempting to illustrate how mean (and incorrect) it was, totally ignoring that it was pointing out Flakie's utter lack of understanding of the discipline.

    I started my response with the education school pablum opener "I certainly appreciate that it is disappointing to receive a paper with a grade lower than expected" but then followed with "But, no more so than having an assignment which hundreds of students have completed successfully declared 'unreasonable' and 'unfair'."

    [OK -- I'm going in ... stand by]

    So Flakie tosses off the reply.
    "I wasn't going to focus on all of the comments you gave me -- I wanted to point out I thought that comment was wrong." But, Flakie "does want to improve."

    Yeah, because ignoring 23 comments pointing out structural, conceptual, and grammatical errors while attempting to dismiss the 24th is a great way to "improve."

    Oh joy ...

  13. Sadly, no, not an international student. A home-grown Amurrican. I'm irritated, but I don't plan to take out my irritation on him or his candidacy.

  14. At least in the South, Title + First Name is not uncommon. I don't want Ms./Miss/Mrs. though. If you're going to use my first name, the least you can do is preface it with Dr. or Professor.

    On my student evals from last semester, I had a snowflake get huffy because while I do respond to emails which ask questions I've already covered, I do so with something along the lines of "Please refer to page x on your syllabus" or "I covered that in the file you can find in y spot in Blackboard." Snowflake's retort: "I do NOT like to be redirected and would appreciate it if EnglishDoc would just answer my question."

  15. @EnglishDoc - that's incredible. You do NOT like to be redirected? The phrase you're looking for, you lazy, ungrateful little shit, is "Dear Professor EnglishDoc, thank you for taking the time to direct me to the appropriate spot on the website; I should have looked there first. Sorry to have inconvenienced you, yours sincerely, Penitent Snowflake".

    That one email would be sufficient for me to refuse, ever after, to direct ANY student to the website - or to answer any email that can be answered by looking there...

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  17. I am heartily amused that most of the suggestions offered involve adding to the syllabus or making an announcement in class when recurring observations on here are that they lose their syllabi and barely listen in class when we give directions.

    Short of a direct cerebral link to implant the stuff in their brains, I see no real, reliable solution for the masses (the suggestions for syllabi, assignments, and mini-lectures will work on the rare and truly clueless who desire to learn though).

    Public humiliation might work though, but so few have a sense of shame. Putting them in the stocks on the quad would just turn into a hazing ritual for Kappa Epsilon Gamma (KEG).

    What's a 13th grade instructor to do?


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