Wednesday, October 1, 2008


A note to all students: 

If you want a surefire way to confound, annoy, and generally anger your professors, there is only one thing to do: don't listen.  

I am constantly perplexed by my students.  Three weeks ago, I had to announce a major change on an assignment to my students.  The professor's syllabus was quite vague and ambiguous, and so the TAs decided to make the assignment much more focused.  We narrowed down their choice to one particular primary source and created a specific question they should answer for their essay (rather than trying to formulate an essay based on random discussion questions in their book).  I announced this change.  I wrote it on the board.  I reminded them the following week.  

Their paper is due in 48 hours, and I have received no less than twelve emails from students in the last 20 hours asking what they are supposed to be doing.  

Perhaps this is my own fatigue coming out, or my frustration that I am spending at least two days per week trying to figure out how to teach them what they need to know, but I do not want to answer these emails.  Here's how I see it: 
1) I gave them all the information they needed weeks ago. I write it out on the board, explained the entire thing, and specifically told them they should write this down.

2) They have had 19 days to ask about the paper if they did not do #1. 

3) Whether or not they act like it, they are adults.  It is their responsibility to obtain the information they need, and asking the instructor 48 hours before the paper is due - especially when I *know* that every one of these students was in class when I gave them the question - seems irresponsible.  How do I know that they were in class? Because the day that I explained all of this was the day they took their first quiz, and only 1 student still enrolled in my classes did not take the quiz.  

All of these combine with my own exhaustion to make me a not terribly accommodating professor this week.  They need to learn some responsibility, and they need to learn it fast. 

Speaking of these emails, I really wish someone would teach their kids how to write formal emails.  Did no one ever teach them that you should probably not write your professors using the same (bad) grammar as when you text your friends?  Some key faux pas in these latest emails: 

1) No salutation and no signature - which implies, respectively, that the student does not know either who I am or who they, themselves, are.  I actually told one student that I generally will not answer an email if I do not know to whom I am writing. 

2) The use of all lowercase letters

3) Confusing "your" and "you're"; "there" and "their"; and "cite" and "site"

Argh.  So my suggestions to students: Listen.  Pay attention.  Proofread.  Stop writing to me as if you are writing a text message or instant message.  And if you find yourself a day before a major assignment is due and you have not paid one bit of attention to me all semester, do not expect me to bend over backwards to tell you everything you need to know.  Be an adult; be responsible! 

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