As I noted last week we have a whole week off at Thanksgiving. Or at least away from the classroom. But they were working on their assignments and I brought home grading to do when I took a break from caring for and entertaining an elderly father (mostly by driving him crazy, I guess -- nothing has ever changed). So it wasn't really a break.
But it seemed to mean more to them as a break than it necessarily did to me. There were several who emailed me over the holiday to ask questions about assignments and they were almost always rather diffident and apologetic. One, who asked about an assignment in maybe seven or eight emails over the first several days, always made a point of saying she hoped my holiday was going well before asking a very specific and well-thought-out question, then apologized for bothering me "yet again" even though I had told her it was not a problem in the previous email and the one before that. Her niceness and courtesy freed me to be polite as well, and wish her the happy Thanksgiving thing. These are the niceties of interactions with students that I enjoy, and I have no problems with emailing with students if it is possible.
Hop, skip, jump, below the orange croissant if you would, for a wee bit more...
There was only one student who emailed without a salutation (I don't really get bothered by that, but it does make things a bit more polite to include one) and incomplete sentences. Much to my slight amusement it also was more a wishful thinking query (MLA all right?) than a well-reasoned one (I require Turabian as the form for all citations in the class, and it is specified on the syllabus). I responded that no, MLA was not all right; Turabian is the required format for all citations in written work for the class. It was a small question, and clearly stated (even if not terribly sophisticated in its presentation!), and it was easy to answer. I don't really think it is rude to respond with the form that students use to contact me -- if there is a salutation I will use one in response, for example. But I don't know if I would be better off (or just huffy) to always respond with a salutation and a signature, to communicate that this is the proper form when contacting someone in an unequal relationship.
I'll think about it next semester but I would love to have your thoughts on email etiquette in that situation (or any situation, please -- elaborate in the comments below).
Generally the students who emailed over break were working on their assignments, thinking carefully about the work they had to do, and needed some help. It was easy for me to help them, and it didn't take much out of a rather leisurely schedule for me to help them. If I had been traveling more extensively it would have been harder, but I still think these are the students who know enough to ask for help -- it is the least I can do to offer it in a pleasant (and helpful!) way.
So that is why I have been answering student emails over break.
What have you been doing during your days off from the classroom? Do you hide and turn off the computer, or have you continued to be attached virtually to your students? And do you feel okay about it?