Every time a semester is about to start or has just started, my email box is inundated with “URGENT” pleas from students. Many of the things they are writing about are in fact not urgent at all. Rather, most often the information they seek could be easily found at the campus website. Another common “urgent” type of message relates to the fact they would like to add my class to their schedule AND would like to me to give them special consideration for umpteen different (almost always non-urgent) reasons. So, to those of you out there starting a new semester, before you email your Professors, please consider the following (rather cranky) suggestions:
1. For goodness sake, spell her/his name right! And, on that note, would editing for spelling/grammar kill you?
2. Please do not take the liberty of referring to the professor by first name, nickname, or merely with ‘hey’ UNLESS you already know said Prof and such familiarity is warranted. Respect may be going out of style, but the lack of it will likely irk many (myself included).
3. Do not request special consideration. For example, do not ask to be put on add/crash lists due to “desperation.” Like everyone else, show up the first day and prove you really are interested/dedicated. (And please try to remember that every student a professor adds translates into more grading to the tune of several more hours per student added – especially in writing-intensive courses.)
4. Do not write complaining about when the class is scheduled. Professors rarely control class times and often may be as unhappy with an assigned class time as you. We are not scheduling gods but mere cogs in the machine who must bow down to Dean’s and Provost’s and their ideas about optimum schedules.
5. Do not act as if you are the only student that matters and that the Professor needs to bend over backwards to accommodate your work schedule, the fact you have children, or the fact you are hungry all the time and will need to bring bento boxes to class to munch on. (True story: in my early days of teaching, I had a student who laid out a sushi spread on his desk on various occasions.)
6. Do not include directives like “reply ASAP” or “please respond immediately” or “URGENT!!!!” when no such subject descriptions are warranted. Um, who do you think you are? And do you have ANY idea just how many emails most professors get each day?
7. Do not ask for information that you can find yourself! Guess what, you can find out the textbook requirements ONLINE! You can look up professor office hours ONLINE! Often, you can access the syllabus ONLINE!
8. Remember that such correspondence shapes your professor’s impression of you. If you come off as arrogant, demanding, self-centered, selfish, lazy, etc, many professors just might remember this about you. We are, after all, mere mortals. As much as we may try to overlook what an asshole you were in your email, we may very well remember right up to when we are formulating your final grade. (Now, I am not trying to suggest that professors are not good at impartial grading; I think most are - but if you are one point away from a B- and you were an email jerk, some (consciously or not) may keep you at the C+ level rather than giving the one point bump…)