Archive for February 5th, 2012

As an instructor, I’ve found that my own approach to a course affects the approaches of my students. The first time I taught statistics in grad school I made a lot of sarcastic comments about how exciting the material was and that it was surely their favorite course. Since I’m an idiot, it took me until the middle of the semester to realize that some of the students had developed a negative attitude toward the course because of my daily negative comments. Since then, I’ve tried to be much more upbeat when talking about classes that students might not find inherently exciting. The only problem with this is that I’m not exactly an upbeat person. There are many times when my external behavior does not match my internal excitement.

In order to convey that I am, in fact, excited about teaching to my students, then, I’ve found that I use a lot of exclamation points in my student e-mails. I use exclamation points when thanking students for sending me required assignments, when wishing them luck, and, especially, at the end of my messages when I encourage them to get in touch with me if they have additional questions. As a result, it seems that my students are willing to send me questions (quick responses don’t hurt, either) and come to see me as a source of support rather than an adversary. If anybody has noticed the discrepancy between my conversational tone and my e-mail tone, they haven’t mentioned it. Now, if I could only find a way to conclude my messages to students.

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