A Grabbag from my Email Inbox.

So, semester started, which means I already have a series of hilarious emails from assorted snowflakes, which I am of course willing to share, for the lulz.

First, we have the common or garden “I am going to miss the first 3 classes because I will be still on vacay in Mexico with my parents” email. This one never ceases to appall me, even though I get at least one a semester. There are a couple of things that make this kind of email elicit a WTF response. One, of course, is that the dates of the start of semester are not secret, and so what kind of parents are these, who jeopardise their child’s academic success for the transient enjoyment of some kind of hedonistic beach vacation, during which, odds are, family members bicker constantly, possibly even about Junior’s grades last semester? Two is, why do these morons think telling me they are lying on the beach is somehow something I want to know? I am slaving away getting up before the crack of dawn in order to hand out course outlines to slack-jawed yokels who will lose them by next week. Don’t you think I want to be lying on a beach somewhere drinking margaritas?

The next email, or “eamil” comes from a dude who is clearly in the right place in English for the Backward, but needs all the class time he can get, couch or no couch. I quote, for your delectation.

Hi my name is Flakky Snowflak. I’m in your class on mondays and wensdays.
I will be in class this monday but im going to  miss tomrrow becuase
i’m sick and I can’t stop couching. Please eamil me the course outline
and any homework you assin tomrrow.
my eamil is flakky@hotmail.com

He’s polite, I will give him that; most of them don’t say “please”.

Finally we have the email from the student who thinks I am incompetent. Already! Some background: there’s this software, possibly designed by a committee of Hell’s least competent demons, called “Blackboard”. It is “Courseware,” whatever the hell that means, and its supposed use is that it has a series of functions to support academics who are teaching at post secondary level. The word “supposed” here is key.

An example of Blackboard’s functionality I experienced just this week, when I contacted the teaching support goon at our institution:

Me: So, hey, I had this hip and groovy idea to do a short weekly podcast for my students, you know, announcements, things they missed, stuff like that.
Goon: That sounds very technology-forward of you.
Me: So can I do that in Blackboard at all?
Goon: Theoretically, you should be able to, but we are finding that the RSS feature doesn’t actually work very well.
Me: What does that mean, exactly? As in, with regard to implementing my idea?
Goon: Well, you can upload the mp3s to Blackboard, and then you can email your students and tell them to download the mp3 and figure out how to play it.
Me: [stabbing self in back of hand with plastic fork I am using to eat my lunch] Kthxbai.

It is experiences like this, along with the fact that the parts of it that do work annoy the hell out of me (like the gradebook. Do I want my grade-grubbing students to be able to see their marks to 2 decimal places at any hour of the day or night so they can come bug me about them? I do not) that have caused me to abandon the use of Blackboard, in favour of a nice simple blog where I post helpful information and links. No, not this blog, gentle readers; I laugh heartily at your pleasantry.

I explain this whole blog business to my students at great length, putting the blog address on their course outline, showing it to them in the first class, and linking to it from their college computer account thingummies. I say, “I do not like Blackboard; I will not use it, Sam I am,” incorporating jokes, dance moves and music to reinforce the message. Despite this, I get emails like the following, and no doubt will continue to get them throughout the semester.

I was looking on blackboard and it doesn’t list english 18th literature
as one of my classes on the right side. Should I contact someone to fix it?

The thing I really like about this is the snotty undertone, with its suggestion that somehow the student has more authority to get my course sorted out than I do. I offer you here my fantasy response, since in real life, I can’t put in the swears.

Dear Snotty McSnotterson,
Did you come to the first class before you decided to micromanage me? Your question indicates either that you are too stupid to understand plain English, even when a statement is repeated 3 times, twice orally and once in writing, or you an arrogant bitch who is emailing me with complaints about the way I decide to run my course without even bothering to attend a class. Either way, fuck right off.

Man, that felt good.

Back to responding to the emails about whether I will be attending “Meet a Prof” night at the pub – god, no; whether I prefer a 10am or an 8am meeting – duh; and whether I can manage without my textbooks for a couple of days because they are lost in the mail, or fell off the truck or something – experience having been a harsh mistress in this department, the answer is, yes, because I now routinely assume my students won’t have texts until week 3 of semester.

8 thoughts on “A Grabbag from my Email Inbox.

  1. AS

    You know, you can set blackboard so its “entrance” (or something like that) is an outside url… that way when students open the class the big main page is whatever you want it to be, including an outside blog. That way you can set up blackboard once, and then never really deal with it again, just use the blog.

  2. M-H

    As someone from the BB support team at an Australian Uni I grieve that you have to deal with this crap. We have the RSS feature working, and we have a streaming system to allow you to podcast whatever you damn well like and deliver it through BB. One solution to maybe cut down your email traffic from idiots is to put up a BB site with only one thing in it: a link to your blog.

  3. Bobbie

    The posted-grades-thingie–UGH. I and my colleagues all hates it very much, thank you. At the secondary level, they mean that kiddoes now get regular, perhaps even daily!, beat-downs from the scary mean popses instead of the once-every-five-weeks-at-warning-letter-or-report-card-time. So far we’ve managed to stave the inevitable off at my own school; word is that the staving will lose function next fall semester. UGH. Ugh.

  4. Sile

    I also feel your pain with the Blackboard, but from a support standpoint. Back when I worked for the College, in their IT, I had to deal with several special snowflakes that just happened to be professors (though I don’t really know how, because they were tremendously flaky) who seemed to want blackboard to do many things that none of us in IT could figure out how to make it do, which, of course, means that they put all these things on ME to try and figure out, on top of all the other crap they had be trying to figure out.

    Which is why, to this day, I cannot stand the phrase “learning experience” and feel the need to punch whoever utters this phrase squa’ in the nuts!

  5. K-Dawg

    Oh my, Blackboard. We use that here, too. They aren’t kidding about the RSS issues. It was Blackboard that told me the time and place for an exam after I had already taken it.

  6. Jay Fade

    Urgh. Blackboard. I loathe that thing so much. My uni previously used WebCT and then switched to Blackboard. The thing is even worse than WebCT was, something I thought was impossible, but they just had to go and prove me wrong. Is there some sort of plugin you can get for your other blog that would allow you to do a podcast from there? Of course, since it wouldn’t be in Blackboard, your snowflakes probably wouldn’t be able to figure it out…


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