Tuesday, December 12, 2006

That Strange Species of Student Email Behavior

I was browsing over at Hugo's place and stumbled upon his discussion of student emailing behavior. This issue has started to really get to me this semester. I am not sure why it took me longer than most to become irritated at the deluge of student email, not to mention the inappropriate tone that students often take when constructing a late night email. My colleague from the sciences wisely put a kbosh on the email behavior by instituting a no email policy. She made it clear to her students that if they wanted to get help, further instruction, or advising that they had to show up to her posted office hours or make an apointment. Her no email policy was a success. Students showed up in her office and she got back her precious time. But, more importantly, she stopped being so angry at her students.

Which leads me to why I have hit a boiling point with the email behavior: I am getting angry at students. And, the anger is the result of feeling like students are intruding on my non-work time. I don't like getting emails at all hours of the night and the weekends. I have a life too. I don't want to open up my email account on a Saturday morning to find a bunch of emails with drafts of papers attached, asking for my immediate feedback (usually in all bold letters) before Monday, when it is due. I give the assignments out with plenty of time to make it into my office for an appointment.

The medium of email also empowers students to talk to you as if you work for them, i.e. that you are their editor on call or a 24 hour hotline (as I think Hugo put it). Students show little respect for you time and your value as an educator. Above all, they use email to avoid having a real, face to face, conversation with you, which ultimately would be a far more instructive encounter than a rushed email. But, is that the point? Do students not want that kind of interaction with faculty?

In any case, I am sure that many of you out there can sympathize, shed some light on this phenomena, swap war stories, or, give some helpful suggestions. The students that read my blog might have some interesting perspective on this sort of email behavior as well.