Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Email Bombardment

So tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., there is a multiple-choice exam in the class that I TA for that is worth 50% of students' grades. Last week, the prof conducted a very nice review for students, in which all of their questions were answered and the test format was explained. The prof does not want us to post his review on the class website, as he believes that students should attend the review in order to get the review information (I agree).

Of course, this means I get a flood of emails today from precious little snowflakes who: 1.) Put off studying until the last minute, 2.) Did not bother to attend the review, and 3.) Assume that I would be just thrilled to take time out of my nice Sunday afternoon with my husband to respond to their frantic correspondence. A few of my favorites:

  • An email from a male student (I have no idea who he is) sent to both myself and my fellow female TA. I haven't even read it yet. I had to stop when I saw that he had titled his email to us, "Hey Girlies!"
  • The student who urgently needed to know whether several assigned readings posted online were "necessary to know for the test." No, of course not, precious. The prof just assigns them for the hell of it.
  • The Incredibly Broad Please-Tell-Me-Everything Email, in which the student simply asks what he needs to know for the test (This one I may actually respond to, because at least he had the common courtesy to use an appropriate salutation--he even gave me a "Thanks" at the end).
  • Email from a student whining about how "there's a lot of stuff in some of the lectures" and she needs to know if she really has to study all of it.
  • My personal favorite: The student who emails to ask me what the format of the test is (e.g. essay? true/false? multiple choice?) Like he just couldn't be bothered to attend the first day of class, read the syllabus, look at the class website, or be in class last week when the format was, once again, reiterated.
Do you guys respond to emails from flakes the Sunday before a test who obviously didn't attend the review and have put everything off until the last minute ? Or do you let them stew until regular business hours?

Peace out,


  1. I haven't responded to e-mails like that. I used to respond to student e-mails almost as soon as I got them, but that only encourages snowflakery. I have gotten to the point where I now only check work e-mails Monday-Friday during normal business hours with very few exceptions. It makes some students mad, but they have to realize that the weekends are my free time, too. So, they can complain and grumble all they want, I don't answer work e-mails over the weekend.

    Mathsquatch out.

  2. I wouldn't answer any of those emails at all.

  3. As Mathsquatch and Stella said. I tell my students I check my email twice a day during work hours, and I don't read it on weekends. If they email me on weekends, I will get the email on Monday.

  4. I do not read and certainly don't respond to email (should I happen to log on) on Sundays. When my students ask if I check email on the weekend I say I might check once on Saturdays but absolutely not on Sunday since it "is a day for God and family".

    I also don't check my email after dinner on the weekdays. This is a recent policy of mine but it has really given me my life back and reduced my stress and anger levels dramatically. It's cheaper than therapy and just as effective. I'd highly recommend such a personal policy particularly if you are a poorly paid grad student.

    I say spend time with your husband and ignore the emails. Respond to each and every email tomorrow during your usual email time. Keep your responses quick and courteous. It is important that you respond even to these stupid emails as you don't want to give anyone any ammo for eval time. If you wish you may state that you do not read your email on Sundays so it's better to contact you during the week.

  5. These students' lack of consideration is annoying. They can't imagine that you have a life outside of teaching. Very self-absorbed and childish.

  6. May I recommend:

    Craft a very short but to-the-point email about the value of studying for a essay exam (or m/c or whatever) ahead of time and that you are unable to go over everything that Prof Nicely went over in last week's review. Emphasize that part.

    Send the email *tomorrow morning* when you wake up so they know they can't just expect you to drop everything and cater to them. Send it to each and every snowflake that wrote to you as though it were a unique reply to them. Copy and paste. Very little effort, major lesson learned: next time, the dearhearts need to study. Because you aren't bailing them out.

  7. Meisterburgher - yeah, it's a terribly dangerous time of year for grandmothers, isn't it?

    Candy - The problem is that if you answer one e-mail, you really must answer them all. I agree that you should not feel obliged to answer student e-mail at weekends. However, there may be away to avoid excessive snarkiness if/when you do answer them (I have a hard time answering the "do I really have to know ALL that stuff from the readings/lectures" questions without a sudden snark attack). Craft one single e-mail, in which you answer some of the, uh, stuff they are asking and send it as a mass e-mail. Like: "Many people have e-mailed me to ask whether you need to know all of the materials from the lectures: yes, you do." Or "questions about the format of the exam have already been answered in other contexts; please refer to the syllabus, your course notes (etc.)." And maybe end with a little bit of smackitude along the lines of: "I am unable to answer specific questions about the content of the exam, MORONS, because then it wouldn't really be an exam, now would it? And besides, the professor has not shown us the exam questions, and I wouldn't want to mislead you, now would I?"

    OK, you might want to leave out the "MORONS" part. Totally up to you. But don't spend a lot of time ever ever ever answering student e-mails. I have an e-mail policy (listed in my syllabus) that states that I will not answer e-mails that require more than four or five lines of writing on my part. Anything more than that is probably something they need to ask me in person or on the phone during my office hours (true, in fact: it's easier for me to figure out what exactly they want or need if we have an actual conversation, and it forces them to think a little more carefully about their questions when we do talk). That gives me full cover whenever I'm asked to "just go over stuff" via e-mail.

  8. Here on base, we don't really have normal weekends and I will answer emails whenever I get them.
    Back in the world, I simply tell people that I will only respond on weekends if we have already established that the student is going to email me; I should correct that, WE didn't establish it. I did. It might be in a case like saying "okay, you'll need to have your speech outline to me on Sunday afternoon to do the speech on Monday." It's at my invitation.
    Otherwise I tell them, quite truthfully, that I leave my work in the office and the campus is locked up on Sundays.
    Or, like others, I just don't read work emails on Sundays.

  9. Hell no. Similar to others, I don't respond on the weekend. What I will do, however, to plunge the knife in deep, is respond AFTER the exam is over where I say something like "I spend my weekend with my wife and kids, and as this morning was the test I didn't have time beforehand to check email, and besides, it would have been too late to help you anyways."

  10. I answer email 7 days a week, and go online to check it for student questions several times a day. It's rare a student has to wait more than an hour to get a reply, except between 11 pm and 5 am, when I'm sleeping.

  11. At the beginning of every semester, I have students get the names and e-mails of two people in the class. I tell them that THOSE are the people they e-mail if they miss class or are unsure about something nuts-and-bolts, and that e-mails to me should be about ideas and appointments only.

    I also have a little line above my signature stating that I just don't answer my every e-mail I get daily because of volume, and please resend if you don't hear from me in 24 hours.

    Nevertheless, I blow about 2 hours a day on e-mail. It's insane

  12. I really hate to let my e-mail pile up, it's just a personal thing. I'm less angry if there's two flakey e-mails than if there are 20. I can't imagine waiting a whole weekend because of that--the sheer anger I'd face on Monday morning wouldn't be worth it to me.

    That said, I think drafting a polite e-mail to send to all such students about where to find out about the format of the test and suggesting they get notes from other students from the review is in line.

    This whole summer I put up with kids (and they were the younger people in class, so I feel okay saying that despite our number of non-traditional students) bugging me for review sheets for my quizzes. I give five quizzes over ten weeks and they are literally 5 questions each. They are short answer. I cannot and will not give a review sheet for that. They are questions like "Define Communication" and "Write a Bad News Letter." I will even point out places in lecture that they really need to pay attention to. No, I will not give you a review sheet. No, you should not give me a bad eval because the questions for the quizzes weren't in the syllabus. (!?) Yes, I really expect you to listen in class and read the book. Stop freaking out over what "chapters" are covered, everything we've done till now is fair game. GRAR!

  13. I'm with the Squash.

    FreudianQuip out. ; )

  14. I don't answer anything I've already answered somewhere else. Says so in the syllabus too.

  15. Fuck no, I do not respond to these e-mails. I had e-mails from students because an assignment was due at 8 a.m. on Monday. I ignored them until about 7 a.m. on Monday.

    I make an exception for one assignment that I teach for a specific class because of the assignment. Other than that exception, fuck them.

  16. I will tell students in advance *if* I am going to be monitoring e-mails during non-business hours. Otherwise, those e-mails can wait until business hours.

  17. One interesting phenomenon: I've found that if I ignore a panicked student email for a few hours (on purpose or accidentally, because I'm off concentrating on some other area of life), the student often solves the problem him/herself, and sends a "never mind; I found it/figured it out" email. Not sure if that works for exams; my assignments are mostly papers and preliminary stages thereof.

    But it does seem that, in the absence of hand-holding, they sometimes go (re-)read the course calendar, assignment, whatever. At the very least, it's a good anecdote to tell those who insist that constant availability on our part would actually be *good* for student learning.


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