Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Interaction With a Student in Three Parts

I like the way the title sounds like a (bad) play. Anyway, I don't believe I am the perfect teacher and I of course have made some flubs along the way - but this interaction with a student for me really cracks me up in a way - what a pair a cajones this one has:

Exchange #1 - Him to Me:

Hi Chris,
I just signed up for your online CS100 #2566 section 701 class and I cannot seem to be able to view any of the material on blackboard. According to enrollment I am still currently registered for this class. Aslo, I have never taken any online classes through massbay, so I may need assistance in the beggining until I figure out how the system works. Is there any material I have missed?

Kindest regards,
Your Student

Exchange #1 - Me to Him:

From: Me
Sent:  09/12/2011 8:41:54 PM

Subject:  RE: Missing course on blackboard
Your access to a course after enrolling will depend on the time of day as the process runs about 4 times per day. I just checked at 8:35pm and it looks like you are listed on the roster in Blackboard.

Today is the last day of week 1 and there are assignments due by the end of today - and if you read the syllabus, late enrollment does not excuse you from due dates nor get you extra time - not in my class.
Please read the syllabus, get the texts and get up to speed immediately - the only assistance I can offer is what I've posted in the Course Information section and the syllabus (which is substantial) and the help system built into Blackboard.

Also, I must say, that while I generally don't mind being referred to by my first name, it's quite disrespectful to refer to your teacher by their first name on the first contact. Finally, please refer to the required format for email in the syllabus.

Exchange #2

Since this one is longish,I replied to his email at points within the note and that’s what I present here. The black text is his, the red is my response to that portion of the email.

I'll reply to your email using red within your email to be sure to cover all points:

-----Original Message-----
From: Your Student
Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 1:05 PM
To: Me
Subject: CS100 700 Re: Blackboard

Prof. Me,

Firstly, I want to meantion that I did not intend on offending you in any way. Please understand that I come from a background where it is acceptable to be on more friendly terms, even without a formal introductory.

I wasn’t offended in particular and while it may be acceptable to refer to someone by their first name in a casual setting, in a teacher-student relationship the custom is otherwise unless specified by the instructor. For the record, I don’t mind being referred to by my first name.

Regarding the Blackboard system, I was finally able to login and see that all my classes displayed perfectly fine. As for that assignment, I would like to know why you believe it was going to be possible for me to complete such assignments in 15 minutes time. This is a 100 level class, not a 400 level class. I happen to work very hard for each individual grade, and keeping them as perfect as possible.

“Working hard for your grade” is a good thing and I am glad to hear it.

I cannot suggest to you how you should be considering your job, and I mean this out of no disrespect, but surely because I am paying thousands of dollars into your salary that you can be a little more flexible with your time, this only indicates to me that you don't care as much for your students' well being as you should do. Don't be offended by this criticism, I am within my rights to give it because no one is perfect, not even a professor! But rather, you should take it to heart and understand the points I am trying to make.

Please don’t ever use the line “paying into my salary” in any way, ever again in my class and if you want a tip, never say that to a police officer as well. This attitude is self-righteous and insulting and I am going to let it go this time.

As far as flexible with my time – not sure what you mean specifically but I build my course and deadlines based on a course schedule. Class starts on the first day of class on the last day of add/drop. It was your choice to enroll in a class on the last day of the first week that does not give you special privileges, I begin teaching on day one and everybody enrolled in the course is responsible for the material and assignments as they are assigned. As far as caring for my students, I care very much for them, my job is to prepare them for future education or a career in the professional world, a place I’ve spent many years working in and understand. My methods are rigid and strict in some areas but only because I believe this is the best preparation for adults, which as you say in your next paragraph you are – as are all students at this level, to really learn from.

That said, I think as a human being you might want to appreciate your students a little more than what I have perceived from just a single email. This is not high school, and I am not a child. So, as much as you might be fuming at my response, just don't take any of it negatively, I'm merely just reminding you of the reality of the situation.

I’m, not offended by anything you said here, all is within your right as long as you say it respectfully – which I feel you have for the most part. I have also not made any judgments about you based on this email – and it seems if anyone is making judgments, it you assuming that I am fuming.

What you don't realize though, regarding myself, is that I have just come out of two 6-week Anatomy & Physiology classes and have had zero summer to spend for myself, and I achieved perfect grades doing so.

What you did over the summer is of no concern to me and will have no bearing on what I expect of you, which is the same as I will expect of each of my students.

I do not think that having an assignment due on the last day of add/drop, given your policy, was very well planned out. You should consider at least offering just 1 additional day for that assignment after add/drop for those who are only able to log into Blackboard at 11:45pm only to realize that an assignment is due in 15 minutes.

I think I covered this but again, it was your choice to enroll in the class when you did. If you were to pay to see a movie and didn’t walk in until after it started, would you expect the theater to start the movie from the beginning? What you are asking is quite similar.

I welcome you into this class but the syllabus, and the rules and way this class is run is my call. I understand if you don’t agree with how I teach but there are many sections of many courses with many teachers all with their own styles. I do wish you the best of luck.

Kindest regards,

Your Student

Exchange #3: Him to Me
Prof. Me,

I just want to elaborate a little further by stating that I do not see many problems with your system of teaching. I can understand why most of your rules apply because I can only imagine how so many student procrastinate, which affects your precious time. My previous concerns only applied to the first week of classes for add/drop period; where, after jumping into a class, I was only able to read the syllabus literally minutes before I had to complete an assignment I never even knew existed.
Please don't let my previous email spoil your day. The only reason I even bothered to inform you is because I have respect for you. I'm sure you are not a bad person, so I trust you will not take me offensively.

Have a nice day sir!
Kindest regards,
Your Student

 Exchange #3: Me to Him

Let's put our money where our mouths are. In the grand scheme of things, the one assignment you missed will have very little to no effect on your overall grade if you do work hard and achieve the success you strive for.

You didn't spoil my day and I appreciate the respect.

Let's move forward.



radioactive girl said...

That is interesting how he tone changed. I can't imagine talking to one of my teachers that way. In fact, I call mine Dr. or Mr. or Mrs. or whatever is appropriate and all of them have said to call them by their first names and I can't do it. I need to keep the line of teacher/student in place because otherwise it is just me being taught by someone my own age and it feels weird.

It's funny how the person's tone changed at the last email.

radioactive girl said...

I have no idea what is going on at the beginning of that last comment. I'm sure you can understand it but it kind of bugs me.

Chris said...

Tori- The thing is while he claims to have only had 15 minutes, the timeline of emails indicates he had at least 4 hours to complete an assignment that shouldn't take more than a few minutes - all he had to submit was an online introduction to himself answering 4 short questions and reply to someone else's introduction.

I had a student a few semesters ago who invested enormous amounts of time complaining about my teaching but she never got her work done or submitted on time or even attempted to do the work in a timely manner. The thing is, had she invested half the time she spent complaining on her actual class work, she might have done okay. In her case, I went right to the dean of the department and made him a part of the dialogue - eventually she withdrew.

I really work very hard to push these folks into being good learners - I work hard at learning from what works and what doesn't over the years I've taught...sometimes it makes you nuts. Reading your posts from the student perspective has been influential as well - the nice thing is that the positive feedback I've received from students has always outweighed the negative.

Chris said...

Tori - One more thing - since you read this post, I'd love your opinion on how I responded to this student.