Student E-Mails: Hey, You

email_clipartI’m curious: does anyone else get e-mails like the following?

E-Mail #1: from a student who has missed 4 weeks of classes:

” Hey, your probably surprised to hear from me. I’ve been having some
real home problems this last few weeks. I really dpn’t want to get
into it much, but the gist of it is I was kicked out of my house and
have been just moving around. I finally have my feet on the ground
again, and was wondering if their was any way i would be able to get
back into and pass your class. If it would be easier i could meet you
tomorrow to talk about this further. I want you to know that i will
now be fully committed,and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to pass
your class. I’m truley sorry i didn’t communicate this to you earlier
it was something that caught me off guard and opened my eyes to some
harsh reality’s.
Sincerely, Young Male Student”

E-mail #2 from the same student as above, the next day, after I gave him a detailed overview of what he’d missed, and advised him that he should meet with me before class:

“Hey I got called into work today so i won’t be at class today, but I
will tell my boss the circumstances so i don’t have to miss anymore
class. Also I’ve made my advising appointment, and will take closer
look about what i should do with the class.”

E-mail from a woman student who also has missed 5 out of 6 weeks of classes:

My name is Female Student and I’m registered for your Monday/Wednesday Writing course. You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t attended class for the last three weeks [sic]. I have been struggling with depression, the flu, and impacted wisdom teeth. 😦 I am now seeing a therapist, have been to the doctor, and have had my wisdom teeth removed. Is there any possible way I can salvage this class? I know that I’ve missed a lot, but I would really like to try to at least pass this class, if possible. If you could please let me know my options, I would really appreciate it.

Frankly, dear readers, although I sincerely empathize, it’s nearly impossible to make up a month’s work of classwork and assignments in a work-shop intensive writing class, especially during the quarter system when there is only 5 more weeks of classes left.

I’m curious about the e-mails (there are more, but these are nicely representative): usually students with such horrific life issues simply drop or disappear, especially if they have missed nearly every class of the term and do not know me yet. But this term is different.

I assume that one reason is that the increased enrollment has increased the number of students who have chosen to attend college reluctantly, or as a last resort.  And of course there are probably more students this term with life issues. Our purpose as a community college is partly to meet these students’ needs. But in these cases? I’d have to reteach the last month to do so.  When and how does one say to a student: so sorry, but I strongly urge you to take a break and try again next term?

You’d think I’d be good at this after 20 years teaching at community colleges, but no, not so. Advice?

Added 10/2/09: Follow up from the young man quoted above: “Hey, it’s in my best interest right now just to drop the class. I just wanted you to know. Thank you for your time this year.”

6 responses to “Student E-Mails: Hey, You

  1. Yes! I’ve gotten some variation of all of these! You’d think that such important emails would be composed with care, with good editing, and with appropriate levels of formality. But they almost never are…why is that?

  2. The female student at least addressed me by name; the male student probably sent the same email to all of his instructors. I’m guessing young male student is a weak writer in addition to having a tough life;-)

  3. Wait, did my former students just transfer to your class??? I’ve received just these kinds of messages many times. It sucks. At first I always tried to work with them, and sometimes a couple of them would surprise me and actually pull it out. But eventually I just decided that if your problems cause more unnecessary work for me, then it’s ALL your problem–not mine. Unless I just feel like bothering with you. I’m not saying that’s the right attitude, but . . . . And retaking a class isn’t the worst thing in the world.

  4. Hi Magnolia: I’m relieved to hear that this isn’t just a community college thing. Since I know there are many students who have life altering events who do manage to still keep up with the course, and since I do post weekly updates and all the assignments in Blackboard for those who have to miss class, I’m always a little angry at students who send such emails and who have obviously not even LOOKED at the material they have missed. Some day, I’ll craft the sort of email I’d like to receive from a student who has missed a lot. Maybe make it into an audience discussion and an in class exercise?

  5. The main point is were you convinced with these mails or you feel that these students are just too lenient for their studies.

  6. I don’t think the students were lying to me–but in this case, they were both students who were not attending or doing the work from the start of the term, so they had little hope of succeeding at this point.

    I usually tell students that if they are doing the work for the class and an emergency comes up, then I have at least some indication that they can catch up. If they start the term without doing the work and an emergency comes up, even if I was convinced, there’s not much I can do (our terms are only 10 weeks, so missing a week or 3 can make it impossible to catch up for some students).

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