Even in the smallest, most elite universities, there are more students than professors in nearly every class. In my current biggest class there are 52 students. Imagine what it is like for me and my teaching assistants when students decide it is easier to just pop us an email rather than looking at the syllabus, easily available on the detailed course web page right on Wikipedia?
I guess the students feel like the adorable toddler in the photo and think that the educational ball is tossed just to them. They can toss it back, or send us as many emails as they send texts to their friends, or messages to their adoring parents. Never mind that we have many things to do with respect to this class, with respect to our other classes, with respect to the students doing research in our laboratory group, with respect to the hundreds of things professors and teaching assistants must do.
I might suck it up and just deal with it if it only impacted me, but I get cranky when my wonderful teaching assistants agonize over their overflowing in boxes. They need every second of their time to learn how to teach, how to mentor, and how to do research. Not to mention they are still taking classes themselves.
What is not appropriate to ask your professor or TA?
Don’t ask us when we’ll grade something. Haven’t you noticed how fast we are? Don’t ask us anything that is on the web page or the syllabus. You didn’t realize there was going to be a quiz? Look at the syllabus. You didn’t realize there are study questions? How could that be? Don’t ask us for special favors. We do not think it is fair to treat students differently. Don’t ask us anything about Wikipedia unless you are the Wikipedia specialist for your group. Otherwise, ask the Wikipedia specialist. Don’t ask us anything that can wait until class. After all, you see us three times a week. If you are going to miss class, you can tell your study group members rather than us and they can let us know in class.
What is appropriate to ask your professor or TA?
You can email us on behalf of your role in your group, Wikipedia specialist, fact checker, or writing specialist if your group has an issue on your topic you cannot resolve. You may email us to set up meetings to go over material you do not understand, if you have worked with your study group and it is still unclear. You can email us about unusual situations that cannot be resolved in any other way. You can email us if you could not figure out how to get something turned in and there was a bug in the system. No one should email the professor or the teaching assistants more than three times in a semester. If you have already done that, there is a problem.
Have some consideration. We have a lot to do. We are doing our best to bring you an outstanding learning experience. But there are many of you and few of us. Just remember, your co-workers in your future job will not like excessive emails any more than we do. We are trying to run this wonderful educational experience in a realistic way. Part of that is that you take responsibility and treat us with a little respect.