Monday, July 6, 2015

Rhetorical Question

(which you're welcome to answer nonetheless if you have an answer)

Why do students emailing 10 days after the deadline for scheduling a conference express a hope to hear from me at my "earliest convenience," while the students who emailed on time exhibited no such impatience?  

Maybe it's their way of acknowledging that the matter has become urgent?  Or maybe they just think it sounds businesslike?


  1. I learned this trick here: If I get "an urgent" question or a question that is clearly answered in the syllabus or LMS, I wait the mandatory 24 hours before giving a response. If I receive an academic question, I always answer it right away.

  2. reminds me of Ed Asner's "Nuclear Plant Retiree" skit on SNL, when he tells the new guys, "Remember, you can never let the coolant get too low." And then he leaves and the guys argue back and forth nearly interminably about whether that means they should absolutely not let the coolant get too low, or that it's impossible for the coolant to get too low and they should let it get as low as possible. [spoiler alert: doesn't end well for the nuclear plant]

    CC, your student might likewise have meant to be very polite, but phrased it wrong--asking for a "convenient" time and not wanting to incovenience you? teachable moment? (god, sometimes i hate saying "teachable moment" because it just sounds like all the other fucking jargon)

    anyway, perhaps reply that the student unfortunately missed the "convenient" window of opportunity, but that there might be an inconvenient time.

    keeping my fingers crossed that there won't be a nuclear meltdown.

    1. You're right, Bubba; it probably *is* a "teachable moment." Sadly, I can't summon the energy right now to go beyond the explicit curriculum (or at least not in this area), so all they got back was the standard boilerplate email scheduling the conference (or telling them that the open slot they'd spotted on the online version of the schedule had recently been claimed, and could they please -- as originally requested, but I didn't even say that -- send several other possibilities).

      And then I came here and complained.

      Yes, I'm a chicken in the face of potential nuclear meltdowns (and impending student evals). Or maybe I'm just tired. The summer term has actually gone pretty well, but I'm beginning to long for the sliver of summer vacation wedged between the end of this term and the beginning of the fall semester. Unfortunately, there are a lot of conferences, and lot of grading, to be gotten through first. So I guess I should go to bed and hope I'll feel more into the whole conference thing in the morning. Fortunately, when the students are actually there, I usually do (or at least manage to do a passable imitation thereof).

  3. Yes to both.
    1) Because it's urgent for them and

    2) their "businesslike" and "professional" language will magically make you overlook their (extremely unprofessional) track record.


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