1. May I email you my essay for extra comments?
I always give each essay draft a full set of written comments. And I’m committed to meet with any student who would like to go over them as many times as necessary. However, I usually do not take requests for extra comments via email unless there is no other possible way a student can meet with me in an office hour or at some other scheduled time. Considering how easy it is to attach a file to an email, almost every student would seek this additional help. As a result, I would be deluged with requests for help, often at the very last minute, making it impossible for me to thoughtfully respond to them all.
- I am happy to discuss your work during office hours or at other times by appointment.
2. May bring my laptop to our office meeting?
I have softened on this a bit over the years, mostly because students always ignore my request that they bring a hard copy to my office. Also there is the crushing guilt I feel every time I walk by a tree and think of the toll this policy has had on the natural world.
In the past I’ve said no to this question because I found that students who bring laptops to my office often type the words that I say directly into their laptops. This potentially blurs the line between critique and authorship. Since it is important that you do your own work, it is best to avoid this problem/temptation by using a hard copy. But if you can avoid this temptation, I’m ok with your fancy technology.
3. I can't make office hours; can we meet another time?
I will be happy to accommodate students whose schedules conflict with my office hours. Contact me and we can work out the details. If we are unable to find a time that works for both of us, RWIT is another excellent option.
4. May I have an extension?
Sometimes life intervenes in our plans and rudely sets us back. If you get hit by a bus or contract ebola, asking for a paper extension is a reasonable request. But generally it is a bad idea to request an extension unless you find yourself in a similarly extreme situation. Many faculty are reluctant to give extensions because of a duty to the principle of fairness: if one student is granted an extension, the other students who turned their work in on time are disadvantaged. Of course, if you have a serious emergency that prevents you from completing work, I will be happy to work out a new due date.
5. How many times can I bring my paper to you?
As many as you like. But…
Your professors want to help you. Really, they do. But at some point, seeking help becomes a form of dependence. Taken to extremes, your help-seeking becomes an avoidance of your own responsibility as a writer, a thinker, a student, a human.
Over the years I have had many students who bring their work to me excessively and want my approval on every edit of their written work. The students who do this just want to do well, but consider what they lose in the bargain. At some point the essay or project ceases to be the work of the student, as the line between authorship and critique first blurs and then becomes indistinguishable. The student has completely surrendered their right to think and know and argue on their own terms, blithely giving away their freedom to an authority figure in the person of their teacher.
College should be a series of experiences through which you gain ownership over your own thinking and define for yourself your ideas and values and meanings. While your teachers are here to provide feedback, critique, and assistance, you should do your own work, think your own thoughts, write your own papers, and, through those experiences, become who you are.
6. Why aren't you grading me? I want to know how well I'm doing.
Consider why you want this…
If I told you what I thought your work was worth, would that be the right answer?
What does it say about you that you need me to tell you what your efforts amount to?
How hard did you work? Do you think you improved? What did you learn? What is the value of those things to you?
Has seeking a good grade ever made you compromise some belief that you held, however small?
Has seeking a good grade ever made your relationship with a teacher less honest and sincere?
7. Are you as grumpy as this FAQ suggests?