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E-mail Ignorance February 22, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools, Students.
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client   Some people, paid as teachers and called teachers, are simply not teaching. This weekend, a colleague on a discussion list shared her frustrations with a statistics course. The section she took the previous semester had one of these non-teachers. She wrote: 

I would make appointments to do the make up exams and handed in all homework… I NEVER got a single thing back from the instructor, he would not show up to administer the tests, he never returned phone calls (He later told me, glibly, that he didn’t know how to use his voice mail codes) and ignored email. 

That attitude is enough to rattle my chains of memory all the way back to a conversation I had with a professor six years ago. She admitted with pride that she never answered e-mails when she first received them. She also could not understand how students would get upset if she did not answer promptly. She thought it absurd and reprehensible that these upstart students would use the pretence of e-mail to make her somehow feel inadequate as an educator and she would have nothing of it. She had dug in her feet on the issue and that was that. 

My own personal philosophy is to respond to e-mails as quickly as possible to let the people at the other end know I am trying to deal with their issues. I try to give them a little heads up on how long it will take me to do the work or I offer brief suggestions on how they might resolve whatever problem they have been trying to work out. 

The results for me have been an increase in work. People seek you out when they know you will be helpful. The bad news is that there has been an increase in work. At least, I think there has. If I can resolve an issue right away then it clears out my queue of things to do and I am not looking at the message sitting in my tray begging for a response but, on the other hand, if I do wait a few days to answer, people get edgy and a little irritated. As my predecessor once said, “It’s your own fault.? However, what is not our own fault? In some respect, we are responsible for our own personal pile of stuff. It was my choice to answer e-mails and be helpful and it served my need to develop a reputation. It was my predecessor’s choice to write two books, one after the other. As a result, ignoring requests for brief pieces of his time earned him a different sort of reputation. We live with the choices we make. 

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Comments»

1. Jenni Puckett - March 1, 2006

This entry was very interesting. I can honestly say that i have had teachers who did not answer e-mails, don’t know how to use their answering system, and are unavailable during hours they posted that they would be free to chat. I’m always a little shocked when I come across a teacher who does this. Since you signed up to be a teacher when the students are confused and need some extra help as a teacher you should share a few moments of your time and help that student learn. I know teachers don’t have all the time in the world, however, they should make an effort to be a little helpful. I have had to outside discussions for a class online before and never really knew whether the teacher read it or just made us do it to give us more work to do utside the classroom. However, in a class I have now, when something gets posted up on the discussion board the teacher responds to it, and it happens alot. This made me happy to see that my professor actually was willing to help and listen to what we as students had to say.


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