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As I noted last week we have a whole week off at Thanksgiving.  Or at least away from the classroom.  But they were working on their assignments and I brought home grading to do when I took a break from caring for and entertaining an elderly father (mostly by driving him crazy, I guess -- nothing has ever changed).  So it wasn't really a break.  

But it seemed to mean more to them as a break than it necessarily did to me.  There were several who emailed me over the holiday to ask questions about assignments and they were almost always rather diffident and apologetic.  One, who asked about an assignment in maybe seven or eight emails over the first several days, always made a point of saying she hoped my holiday was going well before asking a very specific and well-thought-out question, then apologized for bothering me "yet again" even though I had told her it was not a problem in the previous email and the one before that.  Her niceness and courtesy freed me to be polite as well, and wish her the happy Thanksgiving thing.    These are the niceties of interactions with students that I enjoy, and I have no problems with emailing with students if it is possible.

Hop, skip, jump, below the orange croissant if you would, for a wee bit more...

There was only one student who emailed without a salutation (I don't really get bothered by that, but it does make things a bit more polite to include one) and incomplete sentences.  Much to my slight amusement it also was more a wishful thinking query (MLA all right?) than a well-reasoned one (I require Turabian as the form for all citations in the class, and it is specified on the syllabus).  I responded that no, MLA was not all right; Turabian is the required format for all citations in written work for the class.  It was a small question, and clearly stated (even if not terribly sophisticated in its presentation!), and it was easy to answer.  I don't really think it is rude to respond with the form that students use to contact me -- if there is a salutation I will use one in response, for example.  But I don't know if I would be better off (or just huffy) to always respond with a salutation and a signature, to communicate that this is the proper form when contacting someone in an unequal relationship.  

I'll think about it next semester but I would love to have your thoughts on email etiquette in that situation (or any situation, please -- elaborate in the comments below).  

Generally the students who emailed over break were working on their assignments, thinking carefully about the work they had to do, and needed some help.  It was easy for me to help them, and it didn't take much out of a rather leisurely schedule for me to help them.  If I had been traveling more extensively it would have been harder, but I still think these are the students who know enough to ask for help -- it is the least I can do to offer it in a pleasant (and helpful!) way.

So that is why I have been answering student emails over break.  

What have you been doing during your days off from the classroom?  Do you hide and turn off the computer, or have you continued to be attached virtually to your students?  And do you feel okay about it?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I pretty much always answer student email (11+ / 0-)

    because my office hours are usually filled with meetings and I can't hang out on campus waiting for students to "stop by." So I conduct them online. They can pretty much email me anytime and unless I tell them otherwise, I'll answer in a day.

    I don't mind. Usually the answers are quick. With students I know, we have a casual, utilitarian style. Usually they'll start with a salutation (hi, badscience or similar), but in conversation we'll skip that.

    However, with students I do NOT know, I expect a polite salutation with information in it. I get a lot of emails that begin "Hey!" from a student I have never met and know nothing about. If I'm feeling curmudgeony I'll correct them. If their email is incoherent, I will absolutely correct them.

    The informality can be a problem, but I think most students have no context for it. My polite daughter is a sophomore in college and had to email a prof. She asked me the best salutation because it seemed weird to call her otherwise informal prof "Professor." I told her to err on the side of formality. :-)

  •  I always answer student emails (10+ / 0-)

    that is, those that have questions. As an adjunct I have neither office nor office hours and hence rarely talk with students outside of class.

    I usually end my emails with: "Does this help?" just to make sure I have really answered their questions.

  •  I always answer e-mails. (8+ / 0-)

    Most students do not come to office hours, and e-mail is an easier way to communicate.

  •  I always answer emails but... (5+ / 0-)

    in my syllabus I explain about email etiquette and how to address the professor and explain that when they go to work they should address in that manner too. I dont respond if they dont uses salutation or proper address as in texting as in the following:

    "so should we give the homework on tuesday"

    and that being the only line.

    no response to that.

    "Four seconds is the longest wait " -Sleater-Kinney

    by delphil on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:06:37 PM PST

  •  It's the end of the semester where I teach (6+ / 0-)

    , and the students just finished their final exams.  

    Where I taught previously, final grades were posted right before Christmas.

    I always check my email everyday.  I actually have it tied to my smart phone, so I know when I've got email.   What's been depressing is that students, whom I have seen perhaps 4-5 times during the entire semester, will send hate mail after they get their grades.

    Like I said, I always check my email, but honestly there's part of me that wants to just tune it out over Thanksgiving and Christmas because getting that kind of email during the holidays is frustrating.

    by ManfromMiddletown on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:11:58 PM PST

  •  I answer all emails -- and quickly (7+ / 0-)

    my office hours are usually completely booked, and it helps ME to get their questions off my plate. Also, if they're trying to fulfill an assignment I gave them, and they need help, it's only right to give them help; I want them to do well, and it's partially "on me" if they don't. Yes, even if it's in the Syllabus. I remember they're juggling 4-5 classes per Semester, plus often work, and their lives too. I know the details better than they ever will.

    But I do sometimes reply with "Please see the Syllabus; your question is answered there," since mine are very complete.

    •  The joke among my closest colleagues is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annetteboardman, Vatexia

      "RTFB" ("Read the Flippin' Brief!") because we put together extremely detailed project briefs for our students, and when the students ask when stuff is due or what size they need to mount it or whatever, they'll get sent right back to the brief.

      Not just to be snarky, but because we can't necessarily remember off-hand and don't want to give out incorrect info. If I have to look it up, I'll request that the student look it up.

      By the end of the semester, if someone asks in class, other students will sing out "Read the Flippin' Brief!"

  •  I've been checking my email... (7+ / 0-)

    ...but have nothing from my students yet.  Tomorrow I have to grade an exam, prepare some classes, and write a syllabus for an independent study for next semester.

  •  I'm jealous (5+ / 0-)

    my students  think Turabian is a desert in Ethiopia.

    I love them, honest I do.

    I get one or two emails a week from students and I'm generally elated to get them.  With my marginal students with little history of success, engagement is the first plateau they have to achieve.  Once I get them engaged and putting that history of failure behind them, they surprise themselves.

    The basic question, though, is one of balance.  How can I "be there" for my students without burning myself out?  For me, it's how much late work will I accept and how many remedial opportunities will I provide?  (Many of my ESE students have extra time accommodations.)  It's important to set boundaries and preserve myself so I'm there when they need me.

    I say, give them what you can, especially when they're engaged and learning.  Those "lightbulbs" never get old

    Always grateful to wake up alive.

    by Subo03 on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 03:13:13 PM PST

  •  Be happy you're teaching a "traditional" course (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ojibwa, annetteboardman, Vatexia

    When it's a hybrid with lots of stuff online in addition to what's happening in the classroom you have to pay attention to your email VERY regularly. My syllabus tells them I'll reply within 24 hours and I let them know if I'm going to be offline (like on an airplane with a computer with a very weak battery) so they know when not to expect a quick response.

    Of course you answer student email over Thanksgiving. Unless you let them know you're going to be offline, you have to expect it.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 03:28:49 PM PST

  •  Even met with one student (4+ / 0-)

    Yep, I answer emails. If I don't, then I suffer the consequences on the first day back!

    I even met with one student, who has her oral qualifying exam coming up in a week and is super conscientious. I do not expect her to have problems - she aced the writtens, and is very good - but there is always the possibility that someone on the committee will have doubts about the dissertation proposal. It is ambitious, but she's very capable.  So she came by my office and I let her in - building is locked and not heated over vacations - and we had a good hour discussion.

    Happy rest of "vacation", fellow teachers!

  •  I love e-mail (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As a public high school teacher, and of seniors who I am trying to accustom to college procedures, I actively encourage the use of e-mail.

    For one thing, there is a record of my advice which the student can return to.  And there is a record of my communication for my supervisors.  I never delete a student an e-mail, not until years after they have graduated.  (I do archive them, as I like my inbox Lean and Mean.)

    Often their question can be answered by providing a URL to the webpage where the assignment is posted.  I try and train them to check there first, but they are still learning.

    And, as a high school teacher, I don't understand this concept of "time away from the job."  That must be some kind of college thing.  We high school teachers are always on call.

  •  When I feel like it (0+ / 0-)

    I am also very bad about returning exams and papers in a timely fashion. As I remind my students, I am a tenured full professor who is eligible for retirement on full benefits in less than two years. They should be thrilled to get anything useful whatsoever out of me. Of course, I persist in treating them like adults and keep digging for new ways to get the same old stuff across to them. I must still be doing something somewhat right, because my general education classes still fill up as fast as ever. I can say for a fact that I still enjoy my work very much. All except for email, grading, and (shudder) administrativia.

    But who grants absolution
    For sins that never were committed?

    by gp39m on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:23:10 AM PST

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