Posts Tagged ‘Professor e-mails’

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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A recent post about names and titles over at Scatterplot got me thinking about the conventions that professors (and grad students, instructors, etc.) use when sending e-mails to students.  It seems that the “professor e-mail” topic is rather barren when compared to the multitude of posts, e-mails, and conversations I have had regarding student e-mails and their ridiculousness/lack of professionalism.  As I noted in my comment at Scatterplot:

When teaching classes as a graduate student in a large department at a large university I told my students to call me whatever they were comfortable with but signed e-mails with my first name, which led to a number of them to call me by my first name. I saw this as a way to make things feel a bit closer on a large campus. Besides, I didn’t want to reinforce the idea that I wasn’t a “real” professor.

Now that I am a real (well, assistant) professor at a small liberal arts school I do less to encourage students to use my first name and most of them call me “Dr.” or “Professor.” Since the campus is smaller and I am much more likely to see students outside of class I don’t mind reminding them that there is some social distance between us.

My movement away from encouraging first-name usage has caused some problems for my e-mail routine.  Now, in addition to trying to find a proper closing (Peace?  Best wishes?  Sincerely?  Yours until the end of time?) I also need to find a different way to sign my name.  So far I have been hesitant to sign “Dr. Smith” or “Professor Smith,” maybe because they seem too new to have stuck yet.  My current unsatisfactory practice has been to let my e-mail signature, which includes my full name and contact information, stand in as a closing and signature, but this leaves my e-mails feeling unfinished

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