August 13, 2008
Ah, the approach of fall
Fall semester approaches. I am still technically “on vacation.” This means that there are emails in my email inbox that I have not yet seen. It means there will be several students complaining that I don’t answer emails (which I do within 24 hours of receipt) before the semester even begins. The idea of taking a vacation is, I unfortunately note, a foreign concept to students these days.
When I first started teaching, ten short years ago, the idea of a student contacting you between semesters was anathema, especially since I’m an adjunct. This means I have no office, no permanent phone, and my email is only turned on when I am scheduled to teach that semester. Even my full-time colleagues would consider a between-term contact something worth telling others about. It was taken for granted that the bookstore had information about the textbook you needed, the syllabus would be available on the first day of class (unless the professor expected you to have already done reading, in which case the professor would send the syllabus to all registered students beforehand, with the reading requirements), and office hour started with the start of term. Between-term was a time for getting in some heavy-duty drinking researching. It also was a great time to take short research trips, especially in fields like mine, where trips to India are often expected and needed. Students didn’t contact you, because it was understood that the professors, like the students, weren’t on campus. Why try to contact someone who isn’t there?
The current expectation seems to be that everyone is fully available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I had some kid email me on Christmas, and got upset when I didn’t reply until after the New Year. They want syllabi. They want book info. They want me to lead them by the hand through the class before the class even begins.
We are still two weeks out from the beginning of the fall semester here. I already have ten emails inquiring about course requirements and books. Nevermind that 100-level course requirements are fairly standard, and spelled out in the student handbook. Nevermind that the bookstore has had the textbook information- and the book for sale- all summer already. But most of all, do these kids really think I’m sitting around checking email? The only reason I know about these emails is because I decided to clean out my email box before the new semester started, and had a minute to do so. That minute went right out the window, as I suddenly had ten emails to respond to. Not counting the one complaining that I hadn’t replied to their email.
When did I become a public property celebrity?