I have had some interesting exchanges with students over the last few days. The word that seems to link these interactions lately has been TRUST. Can I trust my professor?
Let me explain. In one of the courses I manage, a large number of my students are taking other courses from another department that just so happened to book their midterms on the same weekend as mine. This has left approximately 100 students out of a class of nearly 600 with 3 tough exams in a 24 hour period. Normally in cases like these, we send the students to their Dean’s office to officially register the heavy exam load and then we as course managers will decide if whether we deem this a case in which a student should be offered a make-up exam. We wait for their emails, we wait for confirmation emails from the Dean’s office and then we send emails with makeup times and dates. To avoid the endless stream of emails and administrative back and forth night mares, I decided to streamline the situation. I spoke with the Dean’s office to get their okay, and received the list of students who would be affected by this 3 exam weekend. I emailed all affected students and explained to them that all that would be required of them was a simple email back to me stating “YES” or “NO” to write my exam as their make-up. If they elected no, they would write all 3 exams as planned or receive accommodation from one of the other exams. I had given all information regarding exam location and time, and even stated that I would let the Dean’s office know who had accepted my offer.
I thought I had it simplified as much as possible and hopefully reduced a mass influx into my inbox. Then I received an email that went something like this:
“Dear Professor, YES, I would like to write the email. However, would you mind emailing me back so that I know that you received my email and my answer?”
I was taken aback. Did they not trust that I was capable of opening the email and recording the YES or NO answer. Did the student not think that I was keeping track. Did the student not think that my inbox would accept their email? Then it dawned on me. Maybe the student didn’t trust my ability to be a thorough administrator. Maybe the student had been missed before…Or maybe the student just lacked trust in other individuals period.
Of course this was only one small example of trust issues I’ve encountered this week. But it made me sad that students don’t think they can trust us with doing our jobs well. Although I hate to miss emails, sometimes I do and I certainly appreciate when students resend their original request if they haven’t heard from me in a few days (although I have had resends of emails when I haven’t responded within a few hours……*Sigh*). Is our next generation a group of individuals who don’t trust those around them, including teachers, professors, and others in authority? Have we in authority been disappointing as a whole and demonstrated to be unworthy of trust? How sad if this current generation is growing up with a lack of trust and how sad if those of us in places of authority have lost the trust of those around us.