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Fire and forget

Fellow academician and new-blogger-on-the-block, Mathias just came up with his top 10 list of things that he gets upset with students. I can concur that any of the ten could have easily made it to any academician’s list of Great Irks when it comes to dealing with students. And, if we were to sit down and talk more about it, even a top 100 list wouldn’t be enough.

One thing that he didn’t mention though, is what I call “email etiquette“, if there’s such a thing. E-mails are a quick, unobtrusive, semi-virtual mode of communication, very liken to how a normal mail is sent and delivered except that the server acts as the postman instead. But it is that very nature that makes it easily a fire-and-forget guided missile than an aiming rifle. Very often, people click “Send” without double-checking its contents, thinking that the recipient has already understood what he/she had intended it to mean. Funny isn’t it?

I have also received numerous emails from students which are written in SMS lingo, and I had a hard time interpreting what a bunch of symbols such as >.< means especially when it could be easily mistaken as programming language operators. They should keep smileys sideways, according to tradition :-)

I might have thrown some of these away in disgust but I’ll show you some of the remnants that survived the “Delete” button. Luckily no one called me ‘madam’, hehehe!


Common sense is far and few these days. Obviously open-book means you can only bring your textbook or reference books…


I have a policy of penalizing 1 mark per day late for assignment hand-ups, and this student in particular, was 10 days late (my!). After exchanging many e-mails, he is still in disbelief over simple arithmetic… By the way, “ryt” is actually “right”. :-)


Certainly I would help mark it!


This is one of the MANY emails from a particular student who wished she was a cat with nine lives. It’s surprising where these people get these ideas of “retaking until pass”. Also, check out the marvelous spelling, grammar and sentences. Just like hieroglyphs!

A few weeks later, it struck again. This time, it offloaded some pretty accusations at my alleged act of rewarding marks to undeserving people (not knowing that those who copied had been given a straight zero without question), followed by some sweet-talking praise of my leniency towards those who try and behave in class. It’s back to kindergarten, my friends.


Seriously, it really does sound sympathetical. But after so much grace given earlier in the quizzes and assignments, the line has to be drawn. In the end, it just irritates me too much for me to continue bothering whether the student had passed the subject. It really had gone overboard.

Make sure you double check the next time you send an email. Triple that if you’re my student :-)

18 comment(s) to this post


I got the similar email. Asking us to help them creating another test for them to sit till they pass. And I think I know which group of student would write that kind of email. An email with no spacing after full stop and when you read is like you have to read with one full breath. ;)

#1Matfoo  ::  15 October 2007, 20:58  ::  #

hm..i have this lecturer, when you go ask him to re mark your paper, or take a look at your answers again, his reply would be “i can give you lower marks if you want”

#2hlpe  ::  15 October 2007, 21:23  ::  #

madam john. i personally think that doesnt sound too bad.

#3krystyn  ::  15 October 2007, 21:52  ::  #

Erm, so far no one emailed me to give them higher mark as I am a tutor only. :p

Reply to #2 from hlpe:
I think it is true as i guess those lecturers had gave higher marks to the student in order to let more students pass the subject. :p

Anyway, there is one student emailed me by assuming me is a girl….

#4WunShe  ::  15 October 2007, 22:13  ::  #

No offense John… I sort of liked “>_

#5Pechin  ::  15 October 2007, 23:51  ::  #

There is some sort of bug with the comments, below is the actual post:
No offense John… I sort of liked >_< myself :-P
WunShe: Ms. WunShe sounds very nice to me :-D

#6Pechin  ::  15 October 2007, 23:53  ::  #

Oh no…now i am in the midst of emailing lecturers to find out more about student project and thesis. I hope I don’t sound too irritating or too irrational in the mail. If not, probably the gang of lecturers are laughing their heads off to the same reason.

Names can be really tricky! what would u do? Dear Mr. Fang Wei or Dear Miss Fang Wei?

Later i found out, it’s a she…. and she’s from China.

#7meisin  ::  16 October 2007, 00:43  ::  #

Hi John,

Really enjoyed both your post and Mathias’ insight to the unprofessionalism amongst the undergraduates. I guess somehow it all comes back to how everything was being spoonfed to us during our primary and secondary school days, making solutions the key priority rather than the true understanding behind things.

Good and entertaining post.:P

#8Matt  ::  16 October 2007, 08:43  ::  #

Meisin: Names can be really tricky! But, a photo can explain the gender. :p

My student should know my gender by viewing my photo. I guess my look should not be a girl.

#9WunShe  ::  16 October 2007, 08:54  ::  #

#7meisin: Normally I would just say, “Hi Fang Wei” or “Hi” :P

Anyway, glad that I won’t be dealing with these kind of email for some time.

#10Matfoo  ::  16 October 2007, 11:55  ::  #

wunshe: Should I advertise your pesona site? I think you have a nice pic there, hehe.

pechin: Haha…I think >_< means cringing, rite?

hlpe: remarking is fine lah…but not to the extent of pleading and begging and sending me bombs lor.

krystyn: I bet madam suits you too.

matt: Hey, thanks for dropping by. To be fair, “professionalism” is what they should learn in uni as well, not just getting good grades. It normally shows up when they get interviewed for jobs :)

meisin: Frau Fang Wei. :)

Btw folks, I’ve just put up a nifty ‘live’ comment preview, so now you can preview immediately how it would appear when your comment gets posted. You can play with some Textile formatting too… Also added a simple spam blocker (you have to check the box before submitting). Spams are getting more intelligent these days…

#11johnsee  ::  16 October 2007, 17:20  ::  #

Haha…..well mathias and John, i think you guys wrote well about the students in MMU or should i say it happens everywhere? Its sad if this things happen. And i myself had similar cases many times….. Manners and ethics are as important as good grades.

#12Muhit  ::  16 October 2007, 20:44  ::  #

For a student, good grades are anything. :p

I personally feel that certificate is anything especially when you wan get a job in industry and not stay in academic line. The knowledge you learn in university maybe not needed in certain company. Learning in a smart way is the student’s concern. Besides, attending certain classes is wasting time as the student maybe not focus in what the lecturer teaching or the lecturer is delivering something useless as all these material can be found in the lecture note.

Just my 2 cents.

#13WunShe  ::  18 October 2007, 14:29  ::  #

i’m so glad i’ve graduated and working now.
If we had such dedicated and outstanding academicians such as you, I would still be stuck in university.

P/S: I’ve been working for 5 years now :P

#14kalmness  ::  18 October 2007, 15:08  ::  #

muhit: Good to hear from you. Hope all is fine for you in Australia!
wunshe: Ahh, hot topic here. Most of the course structures have tons of room for improvement. I don’t have much power to do anything… but sometimes it all boils down to how people teach, not what...sigh.
kalmness: You’re always welcomed back. ;)

#15johnsee  ::  18 October 2007, 15:54  ::  #

kamness: I guess not easy to change the university lah, you may go out working one day even you stuck in university soon after you graduate. you not yet explore more “dark side” of the university :p

#16WunShe  ::  18 October 2007, 16:10  ::  #

Yeah, wunshe is a fine example of that. He got a taste of the dark side, muahahahaha.

#17johnsee  ::  18 October 2007, 18:41  ::  #

I just realized something! There exists the elites few, or “elites” who get paid while being “stuck” in university. How lucky you guys are!

and no way I’m going back to uni, not that they’re willing to accept me in the first place.

#18kalmness  ::  19 October 2007, 14:42  ::  #

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