In may ways, email is great for corresponding with students — it’s quick and efficient and allows one to answer questions without students’ having to wait for office hours. Recently, however, I’ve had one of those “OMG, I hate the way email encourages students to think I should always be hyper responsive” experiences. After not receiving a quick enough reply (even though my out of office bounce was on and I had announced that my office hours for the week would be canceled as I would be out of the office), a student managed to track down my number and texted me in a panic, wanting to know if I had received his emails. On a Sunday.
As you might imagine, I was a tad irritated at this. But then I wondered, am I partly responsible? Do I respond too fast? Outside of working hours? Should I stop replying after 5 p.m. and on weekends (even if it’s often the only time I can reply because thats when I’m not in meetings)? As a friend put it, one wants to get that response taken care of, but also doesn’t want students to think we are sitting at our desks at 3:30 a.m,, just waiting to reply to them.
I’m not sure what the answer is, so would love to hear what others do. Do you have a policy? Do you reply quickly? On weekends? Evenings? How do you balance the need to be responsive to students with your need for downtime?