I read the linked article today from the NY Times: Why it’s all about me in amazement. I teach large classes, and encourage questions via email, since it gives me a record of the students’ questions and requests for meetings. Handy for revising the notes for the next time I teach. Hardly any of the students abuse my email. Perhaps because I tell them to be sensible, usually through a joke.

Also, complaining that students ask for copies of the teaching notes? Where the hell do the professors mentioned in the articles teach? Making notes available is so common where I work so as to be unremarkable. And you can say no, anyway.

Complaining about grades? Oh my—how could a student ever do that without my email address? It’s useful to reply to the email; the student can reread what they wrote when they are calmer. It usually works to clear things up.

But being approachable yet also being clear about who is in charge is a fine line. I don’t think I will give up my IM name yet, nor my cell phone number.

The tone of the article is also weird. The writer seems to have interviewed professors who think that they automatically deserve respect, simply because they are professors. No. You have to earn respect from the students.


3 responses to “E-mail

  1. you could teach something to my teachers!!!

  2. I love the tone of this post. Clearly you care about your students and help them use email wisely.

    One quibble: I do think that we deserve respect — but just as people. I also think that students should respect one another. In short, I don’t think that being a professor means that we have to prove that we deserve respect — that should be an automatic baseline that it is ours to lose.

  3. Academic coach,

    I agree completely with what you say. Especially about the respect part. I should have added a word like ‘special’ or ‘extra’ or something.

    I find that most students treat me with extra respect anyway. The students who do not, often don’t treat each other with much respect, either. (Based on my cursory observations of their interactions.)

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