Before You Email Your Professor: Redux 2013

This was my most popular post in 2012 with more than 600 views. Of all my posts, I didn’t expect that this was the one, but I don’t imagine that the metrics at Word Press are wrong! I have taken the liberty of revising some of this.

I haven’t taken a Netiquette 101 course recently, so I think it’s time to give some tips about sending emails to your instructors. Of course, I assume that my colleagues send concise, well-written, and respectful emails to students. Frankly, that is a given. (Fingers crossed)

1. Always assume that you should be more formal. Each department will vary; however, going with formal is easier than the reverse and then hearing: I expect to be referred to as…

2. Address the person in the email with a hello or even a “dear.” Avoid, “hey. And, use your full name, as your instructor might have many students who share your first name.

Sample~

Dear Instructor: I am emailing to find out information about your Fall class. Do you suggest any prerequisites for the class? I’d also like to talk with you about a paper topic that I have. Do you have any time to meet this Summer?

Thank you,

Student X

Avoid:

Hey, I’m going to enroll in you class. Should I be worried about your feminist bias?

Smitty

3. Never send an email that is incoherent. This is email and not a text to your best-friend. Type out all words, use punctuation, and proper spelling. What I mean is that even if you’re using your smart phone, be smart and use real words and avoid abbreviations. You could even wait to compose the email on your tablet or laptop!

4. Never send an email when you are mad. This goes for all emails. Send yourself the email and then wait a few hours or overnight, and then send the email that you won’t later regret. When you send an angry email, it is very hard to do un-do. I know that I won’t respond and I’ll call a  meeting with you to chat about your problematic email.

5. Be honest. Understand that your instructor might say that this conversation needs to take place face to face. Some conversations really need that human interaction. This really goes for talking about an assignment, reviewing a draft, talking about grad school, and other important conversations.

6. Do not be offended if the instructor corrects your use of their first name or some policy. Most of us will be kind and say–we have a 24 hour policy with emails after work is handed back and it’s in the syllabus or I expect students to call me Prof. Schmitdkins. (Apologies to my colleague who I used for part of this last name!)

7. Read the syllabus before sending the email. Perhaps the syll answers your question or notes that you should take the time to write a coherent email noting who you are and why you are emailing. And, some of my friends won’t even respond to an email if the question is answered in the syllabus. Avoid saying something like, “I don’t have time to read the syllabus, but was wondering…” Read the syllabus and if your question is not answered, then send the email.

Overall, treat email with the same integrity that you would treat an office hour visit. And, yes, I do get lots of emails that start off with “hey” and have been asked about my feminist bias…

The above advice is good for all of us–in and outside of academia.

keyboard

Mentoring and Coaching: Post-Graduation

I’ve blogged lots about mentoring and coaching. I’ve differentiated the ways that some students require more hands on approach–ergo the mentoring, and some require less and I view this as more of the coaching strategy. I decided to do something different and buy some stationery and send some of my mentees (will use just that word) a note. I wrote the notes recently, but will send them prior to the Fall term. Now, I’ve sent emails and messages via other social media platforms, but I’m kicking it old school with the note cards.

Some of them will start or continue graduate school in the Fall, and others will join the working world outside of academe. I bought these note cards at the Papery on Fort St in Victoria, BC and chose something that was not too big, so that the sentiment wasn’t a thesis. My intention was to write something supportive, and dispense some advice. Academics tend to live our lives term by term or maybe even school year by school year. Graduate students get used to this, too. After graduation many of my former students note that they miss college and the schedule. Thus, I felt it was appropriate to send the note card just when a school term starts and the graduate might reminisce about their undergraduate days. (I know that many of them do, as I get the emails or Facebook messages telling me that they miss their university days and their old schedules).

Each note card was personalized to the particular mentee and my wishes for them. I gave them well wishes and felt quite emotional as I wrote the cards. I’ve given cards for graduation during the last several years, but these cards of well-wishes were different. I don’t view them as closure to our relationship, as I see the mentoring or coaching as not having an expiration date. And, to be quite frank a few of these mentees are now actually great friends to me, and my family. Now, for any former students who didn’t get a note and are wondering where is there note card–this was a first time project and I sent out several. I will do this again. I really hope the students who get the note cards appreciate them. I’ve only started this and will see how it works.