Monday, May 23, 2011

General Monday morning grumpiness. Can I get a witness?

Holy cheese curds! I'm teaching a couple of sections of Writing for Scrapbookers in a shortened summer session at LD3C, and I'm doing everything I can to contain my work week to Monday through Friday. This isn't easy, given the enormous amount of feedback LD3C expects mere mortals to provide on drafts of student essays. For those of you who don't know, most English proffies take essays home to comment, and I'm not doing that this semester. I've managed so far to limit my work to very long weekdays, freeing my weekends for other things, like eating and sleeping.

Because of that, I don't read my professional email between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. I just opened my college email, read roughly a dozen messages sent this weekend--some from colleagues being truly flaky, some from students who need help right now--and now I am filled with despair.

I'm so filled with despair that I can't even write anything funny or witty or snarky or remotely amusing about the crap that crowded my inbox. I'm so filled with despair that I cannot craft a really bad 17-syllable ditty to summarize my angst. I'm so filled with despair that I quickly did some calculating in my head to determine whether I could quit academe altogether and make it as a freelance writer. (Sadly, not at this time.)

This isn't a thirsty even though I'm asking for commiseration. Anyone else out there dread the work week, automatically?

And where the hell is Yaro?


  1. This may be small consolation, but it occurs to me that you haven't aged your email well enough. Three days isn't quite enough to start the fermentation procedure. You need to put it down and let it rot for another day or two. This will allow you to filter out all the 'urgent' notes, leaving only the important ones. The flakiness will all become more mellow and soggy with the passage of time.

    If you are in desperate straits, claim email account problems or laptop failure. "My hard drive broke down. I still have my backups, thank goodness."

  2. Whatever you do, Greta, resist the urge to respond on the weekends, even if it does cause backlog. You DO DESERVE a weekend. Other people get weekends, and proffies should too.

    And Dr. N is right...let them sit. Just because the student says it's urgent doesn't mean it's actually urgent. It's probably not, but they're used to their mommies and daddies indulging every ridiculous demand right friggin' now. I'll bet couched in among all those ridiculous demands is a question that's not even that important OR is already answered in the syllabus, OR is already made clear on the assignment sheet. Don't take those ones on...keep a couple stock responses. Please see the syllabus, please see the assignment sheet, etc.

  3. This is terribly unprofessional, but...

    Sometimes when I get this feeling, I make a list of the crazy important stuff the emailers have asked and I have my awesome electrician neighbor tell me what to tell them. Like when Dan Savage sells his column for charity. Advice once-removed helps you know what to say without banging your head against the wall.

    Of course, it's terribly unprofessional. I know that.

  4. Weekends are for you not work. Don't check the email on the weekends but let you students know this is your MO. 75% of them will be very understanding. The others can suck it. I've not checked my email in days and it feels great! I might do it today I might not. I know there are tons of grade complaints there but I'll respond in my time not theirs. Life is so much better when you put yourself first.

    I honestly thing that students don't expect us to check our email outside normal business hours. I think the reason they email during off hours is so that they can say they "tried" and can elicit some pity from is. Don't fall for it. Waiting until the last minute is waiting until the last minute whether or not they "reach out" for help.

  5. I, too, think that ignoring email on the weekend (and telling students you will do so) is a perfectly good strategy (though I don't quite dare do it myself, given my non-tenure-track status and the power of student evals. I do take a full 24 hours off over the weekend now and then, and occasionally, with warning, a bit longer). The trick, I think, is to figure out how to prioritize emails on Monday, so as to not lose the whole day dealing with the ones that should never have been sent in the first place. Is there any way to read through quickly and sort them into ones worthy of your immediate attention (those from colleagues/higher ups to whom you really do have to pay attention and from students with good, substantive questions), ones that need to be answered by the end of the day (at least medium importance *and* coherence), and ones that DrN describes as in need of further aging (low importance and/or coherence, however urgent the writer feels the issue to be)?

  6. 1. Greta, you do have emergency chocolate on hand, don't you?

    2. Where IS dear Yaro?

    3. I'm with everyone else who says don't check email on weekends. I SAY I don't but sometimes do, if a colleague was in labor on Thursday or something.

    It helps to require the Little Dears to use a standard subject line and then to set the spam filter to accept that line and be strict otherwise. This helps in a few ways:

    A. On Monday (and other days) I can sort email by subject, putting all the student email in a pile while I deal with administrative and department email. Then the student email is sorted by class if the Little Dears have done it right.

    B. The ones who don't do it right tend to be the same ones who send "urgent" weekend email. Later in the week, I check the spam folder and send responses along the lines of, "Hey, I rescued this from the spam folder and anyway, I don't do email on weekends. Did you figure out your answer using the syllabus, or do you still need help?"

  7. You might have to start checking on Sunday evenings (or late afternoon...anyone who sends on Sunday night should know better...claim "lag"), but only for an hour to deal with the truly urgent crap. To compensate, shorten your Friday e-mail check appropriately. Abstain for the entirely of Saturday.

  8. @ Eskarina

    Emergency chocolate is a most excellent idea!


    Have you considered putting an email-checking schedule/policy in your syllabus? Then you won't have to fib all the time about "lag".

  9. Thank you all for your comments and advice. Yes, there is emergency chocolate. Thank goodness for it and this virtual community.

    I do want to make something clear. My reaction to the email this morning was a reaction to something much larger than the email itself. In other words, the email was a symptom of a greater cause. It wasn't just the dozen flaky emails that sent me over the edge this morning; it's the overall condition of my job, a condition that those emails represent, that got to me.

    That's why I was appealing to you good (and bad) CM peeps, asking if any of you ever got up on a Monday morning and thought, "Oh, not this shit again."

    My instincts were dead on today, too. Professor Gumdropflake--who farts sunshine and thinks we should all be just like him--heads a Very Important Committee but couldn't be bothered to respond to emails about setting the time for the next meeting until the rest of the committee decided on a time that would suit all of us. Now Professor Gumdropflak is freaking out because of the time we're meeting ("...simply can't be done because I'm so important to my students in every way and I couldn't possibly reschedule to disappoint the little dears and the world revolves around me, blah, blah, blah..."). That arrived in a later email. Last to respond. Heads the committee. We're all going to rearrange our lives. Again.

    Then there was the student who mumbled under his breath the entire class and who took off his sweatshirt, rather dramatically, so that we could all admire his 19-year-old physique decked out in his swanky wife-beater. Only his behavior articulated the call for admiration, but we all got it, loud and clear. Some students giggled. As that would have been unkind, I simply ignored him. He's protected by the ADA. I have been told that I'm pretty much powerless about his behavior.

    Then there was the student who showed up to submit an essay on Scrapbooking for Geezers while wearing a surgical mask. "I'm being checked for that flesh-eating bacteria," he said, after another student took his paper from him and thrust it into my hands before I knew what was happening.

    I was itchy all fucking day.

    Flesh-eating bacteria. Seriously, could there be a better metaphor?

  10. Here in the Empire, today was a holiday, which was the only thing that saved me. I recommend a good dose of Long Weekend.

  11. Two more things:

    1. The email policy (I don't check on Saturdays and Sundays) is stated in the syllabus.

    2. I will NOT check my email on Sunday. Someone else's stupidity, lack of planning, or outright panic-snowflakery does not trump my right to two whole days away from the job into which I invest up to 60 hours between Monday and Friday.

  12. WhatLadder, we have Memorial Day next weekend and so have Monday off. In addition to remembering all those who have died and those who have served the U.S., I plan to remember the vodka.

  13. Students inadvertently send me e-mail viruses all the time. Who knows where their browsers have been? That is why I have to delete them all!

  14. I vote Cindy's response as best comment ever!

    @Greta: I feel that way about 90% of the time. Sometimes I just sit in my office before class and freak out a little. I'm seriously afraid of imagining being in front of people (the funny thing is I'm fine up there lecturing I'm just afraid of thinking about it). I panic a little just after I hit enter when logging into my email. I sit it my car and try to psych myself into heading to the office in the morning. When my phone rings I jump (it's the same at home though).

  15. @Greta: "Oh, shit, not Monday again." Sure.

    It's usually followed closely by "Oh, shit, I never did (choose one) update that quiz / get that handout to the print shop / enter those grades / tweak that PowerPoint lecture / respond to that committee draft report." Not to mention "make my lunch / get the trash to the curb / buy gas / pick up milk for breakfast."

    But thanks for the great rants. Is there a way you can introduce Surgical Mask Stu to Dr. Gumdropflake? And make them shake hands?

  16. One of my profs did not give us his email and told us up front he does not answer email. He believed it created learned-helplessness. If we had a question we were to search for the answer in the syllabus, ask other students, search elsewhere or just use common sense. If we still could not find the answer we were to ask the question in class. As far as I know everyone survived the class just fine without emailing. Maybe he was on to something.


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