Thursday, October 2, 2014

Emails from students

Student email:

"Hello Merely,
I unfortunately wasn't able to make the lecture on Monday and was wondering if it was possible that you could forward me the power point slides from the lesson?
Also, I was hoping to go away next week to celebrate my birthday but also want to stay on top of all my classes the best I can, if you had the power points prepared for next week it would be very much appreciated if you could send me those as well. "

Answer I wish I could send:

"Hi Sweetheart!

I have an even better idea.  Why don't I come to your house at a time that is perfectly convenient for you, and deliver the entire lecture to you again while you get on with vastly more important activities?  I'll be happy to repeat anything you miss while you watch Netflix and text your friends.  Or - wait - even better, why don't I just write the quizzes for you, and you won't have to come to class at all?  In fact, let's save even more time: I'll just give you an A+ and we can both get on with our lives.

Also, "Hello Merely"?  That's "Professor Academic" to you, toots. If I can't pick you out of a lineup, you can't use my first name.There are 230 students in that class, and not one of you is a personal friend of mine.


  1. I bet if you had sent the email, they'd have thought it a perfectly acceptable solution and would not only NOT thank you, but find fault in your home-lecture.

    1. Maybe the student got the idea from one of the last scenes from the movie "Fast Times At Ridgemont High". The history teacher comes to the house of the surfer stoner (played brilliantly by Sean Penn) and conducts an informal final exam.

  2. During the many disputes I had with my last department head and the ADH, one point they made was that I needed to make my students "comfortable" or create a "safe learning environment", whatever that was supposed to mean.

    That included allowing them to call me by my first name because I was supposed to be all chummy and palsy-walsy with them. Sorry, if they didn't call me "Dr. Vertical" or "Sir", I became momentarily deaf and didn't hear whatever they said to me.

    Being addressed by my first name has long irritated me. I don't even like doing business with a stranger who does that to me automatically without asking me first. (Ring! Ring! Ring! "Hello? Could I speak with Quarter?" Sorry, it's either Mr. or Dr. Vertical to you unless I tell you otherwise.) I learned early on that doing so was considered extremely rude unless, perhaps, it was in the workplace and only with colleagues and immediate supervisors.

    I don't know where students got the idea that a professor or instructor would hand over their lecture notes just like that. When I was an undergrad, and I would miss a lecture because of a prior engagement (such as an out-of-town job interview, in one case), I would ask what I could do to get that information. If I might have had a conflict with an exam, I checked first if I could write it at a different time. If the prof said no, the exam took priority and I'd write it with everyone else.

    I did that because it was *my* responsibility to take care of that, not the prof's.

    1. First name? Hell, no! That's DOCTOR Proffie Galore to you, Buster. It's especially fun to watch my older male students fidget. Sometimes they go a whole semester without using my name at all.

      How about random people calling you pet names, Prof. Vertical?

      Last weekend a young itinerant gardener, approximately the same age as my oldest son, came to my door peddling his services for my yard, which is full of native plants going to seed for the birds.

      IG: Sorry to disturb you, Honey, but I noticed your yard could use some work.

      Me: [Double take] Did you just call me Honey?

      IG: [Double take] Yes. ?

      Me: Good-bye. [Closes door.]

      So easy. So satisfying.

  3. I think this is a situation where citing the relevant passage from the syllabus (and copy/pasting it into the email, if you're feeling generous) is as much further thought as you need to give this. If you don't have this common situation covered in your syllabus, then you might want to give that further thought.

    When students address me by my first name, I respond with "Dear Student Master Technician Schnauphleighk", which often gets the point across. I don't care so much about the affront to me, but I do care that the students care about following the rules of professional discourse. So I try to model the proper behavior till I see that they've mastered it.

    1. Oh, they could and do, all the way into the negative numbers.

      In many cases, the syllabus benefits us merely as a ready source of material to copy/paste in response to stupid student emails. Not that they'll read those emails, either.

  4. I currently have a student who emails me several times a day, if I do not immediately respond I get a "why aren't you responding to me?" email. The same student also chooses to ignore instructions to my assignment after I have explained what has to happen several different ways. At this point I figure failing assignments is the only way they are going to learn.

  5. When I realized I had a lot to do with how students treated me - because I tacitly allowed some behavior - things got better.

  6. Hi Sweetheart;

    I would encourage you to drop, but then you are probably too busy celebrating your birthday/ watching netflix/ too lazy, etc. to initiate the process involved. While our college ultimately accepts anyone having a pulse, it is beyond me how you being so lazy was able to endure the paperwork ordeal and pay your tuition/ arrange your financial aid on time.

    Unfortunately, due to the fact that next week is my birthday, I too will be unavailable to provide any power point slides. Therefore, while I will still be conducting class, the slides will not be available.

    Take care, and thank you for causing the laws of physics to break-down within an epsilon neighborhood of your entitled ***.


    1. Indeed, that would be the ideal reply.
      In fact I inadvertently followed the advice of several people here. I responded "Dear Ms. X" and signed it "Yours sincerely, Dr. Academic". I said that I did not share slides without a documented medical reason via Medical Accommodations (as I have explained in another class she must have missed - I didn't say that) - and I directed her to the note-sharing forum on the course website, where she can ask her classmates for notes.


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