Monday, September 8, 2008

Some Friendliness for Fone-Addicted Farrah.

  • What kind of class is Farrah teaching where she thinks students need instant emergency help at all hours of the day? Whatever it is, will someone please tell Farrah that her problem is her own? Nobody is making her answer those emails the moment she gets them, and quite frankly, if they annoy her, tell her to turn the stupid thing off. Professors have a life too, don't they?

  • If you are going to allow this technological wackness in your life for some people, you are going to have to expect everyone will use it, including students who have access to the address. Tell your students you only have email access at your office, and you can't respond during evenings or weekends. Also, are they asking dumb questions? Maybe tell them that if they email you with a question that can be answered by, say, reading the syllabus, they will be ignored. I create blogs for students to post to; you could try that (blogger is easy to use) and encourage them to discuss assignments there with each other. I mean, if they are all online at crazy hours, they might get a faster response than trying to badger you with their inquiries.

  • Today's students are needy, needy, needy. And if you give them an electronic lifeline into the grade-grubbing arena, they'll latch onto it like a tit. Boundaries have to be set early and enforced often. Luckily for Farrah, this problem is a cinch to solve. First of all, set up a separate email account or folder for your student emails, and under no circumstances should you allow these emails to find their way to your phone, to disrupt your dinner, to disrupt your TV watching time. Secondly, tell the students that you check your email only once a day and never on weekends. Then, tell them you will not answer homework questions over email. If students have questions about the homework, they should be seeing your during your office hours. Don't worry--they won't flood your office the way they flood your inbox. That requires too much physical effort.

  • First-timer Farrah needs to cowboy up and set some damn limits -- lest she end up at the beck and call of students who can't seem to take a dump and successfully wipe themselves without needing extra support, remediation and validation. It is perfectly acceptable to explain that e-mails and phone calls will be answered within 48 hours. Period. Getting back to them immediately is only enabling their learned helplessness.

  • Farrah, if you're a computer programming prof, I have a feeling that you also know how to program your cell phone. Make it stop downloading your email, or at the very least make it stop beeping when it downloads your email. Once you've done this, set some limits. Tell them that you'll answer their emails within a set time limit (I usually do 24-48 hours, depending on how frequently the class meets), and that if they haven't heard from you by the next class, they can ask if you've received their email. Answering them immediately tells them that you are available 24-7. Making them wait tells them that you, too, have a life. Remember the old saying: "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine." Just step away from their emails - you'll be glad you did.

  • The hardest thing about being a new academic is learning that you have a right to say “no,” and that it is OK to do so. You can close your door and not answer it despite someone’s persistent knocking, you can refuse to work on a project. So, just because your students e-mail you doesn’t mean you have to answer. Ignore them, and if you can’t, it points to your OCD not theirs. If you absolutely cannot ignore the incessant beeping, then ask yourself why your e-mails are so important that you have to download them onto your phone 24/7. Again, this is not about them. It’s about you.

  • Your students are your students, not your bosses. You don't need to reply instantly when they e-mail you. You need to disable e-mail notification on your phone. If you have someone that needs to get hold of you on a moment's notice, get a different e-mail account and slave that one to your phone. Eventually your students will discover that you don't answer e-mail when you're not in the office. I hold one virtual office hour every week, when I'm available by e-mail for a specified time period. Otherwise, they need to wait until I have time to answer.

  • Welcome to 24/7. When they signed up for your class, they attached an umbilical cord. You belong to them. They know this because mommy and daddy told them the world belongs to them. The same defect that makes the other snowflakes beg for grades they haven't earned. They'll earn the grades, but they really do expect that you will be right there with them 24/7, reassuring them. If you make the mistake of thinking otherwise, they'll climb the ladder to the top of the realm to make sure someone knows you aren't doing your job.