Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Let Me Do Your Work for You!

Okay, interweb, riddle me this:

I have a colleague that I don't know from Adam. I've never met her in person. I've never communicated with her by phone or email. I've never actually set eyes on her, except, maybe from afar (if she is indeed the person I think she is). Despite this lack of interaction, we have a consistent and common link: every semester for the last two years, I've gotten emails from 3-5 of her students at about this time, asking me to answer their questions via email or interview me in person about a particular topic.

Seemingly innocuous, right? But these are not questions about my particular scholarly expertise---after all, these aren't all students who need to know about Asian American shoes for their research projects. No. Instead, they are all taking a liberal education course, and are doing projects on a very universal topic about which a simple internet search would yield a good deal of reliable research. So why does she send them to me? Well, two years ago, I was one of 6 faculty members who received a teensy internal grant to participate in a institutional initiative on this topic. Let's pretend it was "teaching with chalk." So the students want to ask me about my experience teaching with chalk. Except that I'm hardly an expert on it---and there are plenty of experts out there who have studied the ramifications of teaching with chalk, the best practices in teaching with chalk, what kinds of students and activities are best taught with chalk, etc. Furthermore, I teach with chalk in very different ways than many of my colleagues (and are they inundated with student requests?), and that often gets me into trouble with my department and the IT people.

So, tell me, y'all: what's the appropriate response to this? Am I compelled, by collegiality, to respond to her students requests? Is it okay to tell them to look that shit up online? Should I send them some links to key resources? Can I write her and tell her to call off the damn dogs, since they always write me in the final two weeks of the semester (often with phrases like: "please take a few minutes and answer these questions: why does someone teach with chalk? what are the benefits and what are the drawbacks? What have your student responses been? etc., etc." Right. I can totally answer that in three minutes. And those aren't questions that the LAST set of you asked me last year!!!!).

Perhaps the best idea would be to turn the tables. Maybe I'll tell this to my students:

I know that many of you have a difficult time formatting your final papers. Please feel free to contact Dr. X, who teaches on the computer. She's our local "expert" on document design. Just email her for help!



Anonymous The Bittersweet Girl said...

I started off writing a bitchy comment about your colleague (who does she think she is anyway??) ... but I finally came around to what, I hope, is a helpful suggestion: Craft a single, standard email that you can fire off to any/all of these inquiring students with a handy link or two to web resources. Cut n' paste with minimal headache. But, seriously, so annoying.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 4:21:00 PM  
Blogger Ortho said...

What is the purpose of the students' assignment? It surely does not teach them how to do research or conduct an interview. Seems like pointless busy work for you and them.

Maybe you could ignore their emails.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 8:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, what a tool. i love your idea but i doubt it would work. maybe an email directly to her? but then it depends her position, you don't want to get a rep for being non-collegial or whatever...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Ah, thanks for the advice, all! [And a special welcome to Ortho! Howdy!] I ended up doing exactly what the Bittersweet Girl suggested, but only as a stopgap measure because I'm afraid of what would come out if I emailed her.

And what exactly did the stock email consist of? A link to a Google Scholar search on the topic. Which, apparently, the students hadn't even tried. And that's not to blame the students---because if a professor told me to "just contact X professor", would I be all about the research? No.

Looking back at past emails, I realize from context that the professor has my name on the assignment sheet. Which means she's probably just handing out the same assignment sheet over and over again, year after year.

I think I gotta say something. Grrrr.

Saturday, April 26, 2008 9:40:00 AM  

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