Monday, August 15, 2016

How to email your students

I have just come across this delightful piece of advice to students about how to email their professors (HT: Laura Lieber, with thanks!):

How to Email Your Professor (without being annoying AF)
Laura Portwood-Stacer

There is some great advice there, but I couldn't help thinking of those professors out there who do not know how to email their students. So here are some of my thoughts on this problem that occasionally rears its head:

How to Email Your Students (without being annoying)

(1) Don’t ignore your students' emails. One of the most frequent complaints that advisors hear is “The professor did not respond to my email.” This is rude and unprofessional, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

(2) Commit to responding as quickly as possible. Your students will love it if you respond in a timely fashion, and it will create a good vibe, which will improve the classroom relationship too.

(3) Actually read your students' emails. Don’t just toss off a hasty response that does not take their concern seriously. If you write a hasty, unhelpful response, you place them in the difficult situation of having to email you back again. This can make them feel awkward and embarrassed and it wastes their time and yours.

(4) Write as full a response as is necessary. Not too much; not too little. Don’t go over the top or you may come across as a wordy, head-in-the-clouds professor with no understanding of the issue at hand.

(5) Be encouraging. If the email asks a good question or makes a great point, congratulate your student on the intellectual stimulation that they have provided.

(6) Conclude the email by asking if this been helpful and if it has resolved their issue. Suggest that you would be happy to meet with them in person to discuss things further. Remember that many students are intimidated by their professors and are reticent to speak to them after class, or to come to office hours.

(7) Treat your student emails as part of an intellectual conversation. It is a wonderful privilege to be a professor in a university, and we are here to teach our students. We are engaged in an intellectual journey together in higher education. There are lots of people who would give their right arm to do what we are doing. Treat it as the privilege that it is.

(8) Try your best not to be pompous. Your students will not respond well to arrogance and condescension. You were a student once too. Try to remember what that was like!