How Responsive Are You?

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?

4 thoughts on “How Responsive Are You?

  1. I tell my students I will respond to emails within 24 hours, but that I’m generally not on email on Saturdays. It’s helped tamp down their expectations for immediate responses and help tamp down my internal pressure to tend to their needs constantly! It’s also helped get them to shape their sense of what questions are appropriate to ask over email; last-minute help with assignments is not ok but advance questions about research are welcome.

  2. I gave up on fast responses when I noted that most of my students would then show up to class (sometimes days later) and ask if I had gotten their email. An email that I dropped everything to answer because it sounded important. An answer that remained unread because they never bothered to check their email to see if I had answered.

    I tell them 24 hours. I also say to check in 24 hours. Our email server isn’t the most reliable and emails will often get lost, so I tell them if they haven’t heard from me, to try again because there’s a good chance I didn’t get it.

    • Ah, yes, I’ve had that happen also. And I’ve also had the server email (which I why I still require hard copies of papers. That way, no one can say “oh, I emailed it to you. Guess it didn’t go through…..”).

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