Wednesday, March 30, 2016

'Tis the season. . .

...
when I seem to begin more and more replies to questions emailed by students with "as I wrote in the prompt/assignment/whole-class email quoted below. . ."

Mind you, I usually go ahead and answer the question, briefly, after that (because I'm a pushover, I suppose, or at least sympathetic to the effects of stress on reading comprehension/willingness to read beyond the first sentence), but I do include that initial clause, just to let them know the information was already available to them. 

Occasionally I even get an "oops; sorry!" in reply, which makes my day (or at least a few minutes of it).  Heck, I'll settle for just "thanks" (though admittedly such replies add yet more volume to my inbox). 

- Cassandra

10 comments:

  1. I'm finding the email part of that more and more common. I used to think the laziest man in the world married a pregnant woman. Now, I realize that my students don't even bother to read a very brief email from me regarding an assignment.

    The other thing is when they want special treatment (an extension or whatever) and they say "I know you said in class/it says in the syllabus..." but can I... One time, I told the student he could have the first two minutes of the next class pitching his request to his fellow students. After that, I'd put it to a vote. He, um, declined.

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    1. I tell the student to put is request in writing (usually, they stop by my office to beg). This scares them away because they don't like to write. I like your idea too. What happens if he calls your bluff and asks the class? Maybe they won't care and you'll have to give him special treatment, or they'll all want special treatment.

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    2. My department has decided that to avoid a lot of 'but Prof X let me...' arguments, and to reduce the stress for students who have had something genuinely bad happen that requires some sort of special treatment, one (un)lucky academic will be the only person permitted to award extensions and that sort of thing. So we can express sympathy and say it's not in our power, then hand the student the nice clear simple form they need to complete (or send them to the e-version), which asks them to write a short explanation of what happened, what they are asking for, and how it will affect the rest of the semester (extension on Essay 2 has implications for essays 3 et seq.), attach any evidence, and send it in (or meet with the person in their regular office hours). This way someone with a genuine problem doesn't have to negotiate with four different profs, an academic eye checks that the student isn't digging themselves a deeper hole by asking for deadlines they can't possibly handle, plus the form requirement seems to filter out a lot of the chancers...

      Yes, the academic doing the task gets a course release, and no-one is expected to do it for very long.

      --Grumpy Academic--

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    3. Ben, that's a good question. I teach in a management school where the culture can be competitive so I think they'd hang the kid out to dry. I could be wrong, though.

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  2. For questions that are already answered in the syllabus or handbook, sometimes I just tell them which page. Situation depending, sometimes I copy/paste the relevant passage. Either way, I seldom go on to paraphrase, and I almost always include something along the lines of:

    "If that information is unclear or if you have further questions, just let me know."

    The response is sometimes nothing, sometimes "thx", sometimes "oops", but every now and then, someone points out specifically how the instructions/policies were not as clear as I'd thought.

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    1. I really should do this. It's a very smart way to approach the problem. The only problem is that it would require me to locate the appropriate file, cut, and paste, and I can be pretty lazy, too, especially at this time of year.

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  3. For routine questions (when is the exam?), I tell the student to look it up in the syllabus. This saves me time, informs the student that they need to read the syllabus more often/more closely, and avoids the chance of me making a mistake in my reply. If I take the time to tell the student when the exam is, but I accidentally type the wrong date, I'm responsible for the ensuing problems. Ain't nobody got time for that.

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    1. This is an excellent point. The more I include due dates in multiple places (course calendar/syllabus, assignment, prompt for discussion board post), the more opportunities I give myself to screw up (usually by forgetting to change a date). And I more than occasionally take such opportunities (usually once or twice a semester, usually -- thank goodness -- on something minor). But questions such as "when is the exam" are especially fraught when you have multiple sections and the student just writes "I'm in your class" (as if -- if only! -- we had only one).

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  4. Prof SnugglebunnyMarch 31, 2016 at 5:54 PM

    I just came from a meeting where several tenured faculty pulled something similar. We were meeting to assess grant proposals, and the other co-chair and I had sent an e-mail asking everyone to categorize each proposal by whether they thought it was a high, medium, or low priority for funding (ranked 1, 2 and 3, respectively). And could they please, please send us their rankings at least ten minutes before the meeting, so that we could stick everything into a spreadsheet and run a few numbers?

    Half the people didn't send us any rankings before the meeting. And a couple of those, when we greeted them at the meeting and politely asked whether they could tell us their rankings so that we could update the spreadsheet, said, "Rankings? What rankings? Oh, I didn't really rank them. I just wrote a few comments on each."

    [Snugglebunny facepalms with her big, fluffy bunny paws].

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    1. Yeah, similar things have happened to me. And to my greater disgust, I've sometimes been part of the problem. In my defense, at least I could explain why I was unable to complete the assignment and what I would do to make it up.

      At my joint, we have a metric fuck-ton of ad-hoc committees on top of the "regular" ones, and our Dear Leaders believe that as long as we are not physically in the classroom, we're free to take on yet another assignment. So my colleagues and I play a constant game of triage, and sometimes our priorities temporarily differ.

      The result is that we sometimes treat each other worse than our students treat us. Such is our misery.

      Now, in point of fact, there are some faculty who, when they're not teaching, truly do nothing. Consensus among the others is that we'd rather be stuck on an additional committee than have any of those blowhards put on a committee we're already on.

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