|Image courtesy of planeta through Flickr Creative Commons license|
Ok, I know that my reaction wasn’t entirely fair. But like most professors, I take time to thoughtfully plan my class. The syllabus and assignments are not random, so starting a class by asking if you actually have to do the work is not a good plan. It was fine for the student to reach out and make me aware of the outside issues that may affect his performance in my class. There is a clear difference between “what can I do to make this work” and “what can I get out of?” It is a difference felt and appreciated by faculty, administrators, and by your future employers.
Let’s consider this suggested rephrasing of the question: "Since I'm a commuter, I'm concerned about the assignment. Can I come speak with you about how I can complete it since I'm not on campus all the time?"
This reframing is respectful and asks for help through a conversation, rather than shirking responsibility. Let’s be honest, in a world of FB comments, texting and IM, word choice and tone impact how we hear and respond to requests.
College is a time for learning, both inside and outside the classroom, and that includes learning how to not piss people off. Believe me, not pissing people off is a major life skill.
Here, for educational and entertainment purposes, are a few more real-life student inquiries known to illicit groans and snarky responses from professors:· Would I ask a potential employer a similar question with the same tone?