Help needed with college instructor ...

8 weeks of a foreign language. I’m very inquisitive. 2 tests = 96& and 93%. Doing really good.
Send another email to the instructor (yes, I did say “another.”) Wow, I get an email back in CAPITOL letters - he’s YELLING at me - he says no more questions…what???

Wait a minute - you’ve told me most of my questions are good ones. I’ve caught one error in the text book and one error on the website we are “attached” too.

I ask a question about a “comma” and then a second question about if the word ever has an “s” ending. You seem to blow up at me with that YELLING.

I email back and say that I give 100%- I give a little more information about my question in that first email. I say I’m open to another book or website to refer to so I don’t send emails with questions. I close by saying I don’t deserve to be yelled at and if I can’t ask questions then that puts me, as a student, at a disadvantage.

He shoots an email back saying I’ve asked more questions than anybody he’s ever known. OK, I counted them, cause I save them…in 8 weeks the average is 2-3 per week and remember, he said most of them are good! What the heck is going on? He’s a good teacher but does this guy have an anger problem I need to address to someone higher up. Dang, he’s the “Chairperson” of the language department, that means to get a superior, I’ll need to go outside of the department. What to do?

Maybe some of the questions have answers you can easily find on your own, rather than just immediately emailing the instructor.

Just a thought.

Have you ever had a three year old?

Since the OP is looking for advice, this is better suited to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

It appears you’re annoying your instructor.

I will also mention that the all caps=yelling convention isn’t entirely universal, especially among older folks. Some people just use them like italics, to emphasize words, not necessarily “yell” them. Does the message make sense if you read it that way?

You may want to save your questions for office hours or during class or save them for a single email. Please note that this prof may have three to five different classes and it can be overwhelming to be constantly replying to emails that could easily be answered on their own or in class. You may be inadvertently sending a message that you are using him in place of your own work or as a private tutor. Sometimes well meaning students can come off sounding demanding or not realize the impact of many emails week after week.

For comparison, I get maybe 5 email questions a semester pertaining to the material in total! Everyone talks to me in class or during office hours.

Or he’s just being impatient with you for no good reason.


The first thing to do is to look at the questions you’ve asked. I know the instructor said “good question” a few times, but some instructors will do that to encourage students to be engaged - even if that particular question isn’t good, it’s good that the student feels comfortable asking something.

It’s not good, though, for a student to feel too comfortable asking questions - especially simple questions about topics that have been covered in class or in the assigned readings. In my experience (I teach earth sciences to graduate students), 2-3 emailed questions a week would be a lot from the entire class, let alone from one student. When I have one student asking that many questions, it’s usually somebody who lacks confidence in his/her ability to do things independently, and is looking for simple affirmation of things that (s)he should already know. For example, after assigning “Goldilocks,” I might get an email that reads, “so I got that she tried three bowls of porridge - did I miss any?” A student at the level I teach shouldn’t need me to confirm that. I’m not saying that that’s what you’re doing, but you may want to take a good hard look at exactly what you’re asking.

Even if that is what’s going on, the instructor handled it poorly. Is he a young or relatively new instructor? He may well be embarrassed by his response. I don’t think this is something to escalate, but I also don’t think it’s something that you can work out over email. Does he have office hours that you can go to? You want to address the general problem with your questions first, and you want to do it as calmly and unemotionally as you can. Figure out what he expects you to have done before asking him (“does it ever end with an s,” for example, seems to me like it could be answered with a dictionary), and make sure you’ve tried to answer the question on your own before emailing anything. Don’t make this first discussion about your question, but about the process of learning the language.

Once you have that straightened out, then (depending on how that’s resolved) you can ask your most recent question(s) separately.

If that’s what happened then the instructor should have directed the OP toward the sources, instead of answering the questions and then abruptly telling the OP to stop asking questions.

The OP’s post indicates his professor is Chair of the department.

He probably considers the questions trifling. The question “is [verb] ever conjugated with an s” - the answer is probably in the required dictionary or verb handbook.

Also some, ahem, eager beavers only hear what they want to hear. For example, in response to a previous email, the professor may have said, “that is a good question, the answer is . In the future, you can get answers to this type of question in 501 French Verbs, available at the library or the Bookstore.”

However all the OP hears and remembers is GOOD QUESTION.

Happens all the time.

Or the professor is a dick, which is not unknown when you are “lucky” enough to get the chair of the department for a lower level class.

True enough - students aren’t the only ones that ask questions they shouldn’t need to ask!

Some good points (I’m not 3 years old, tho). He said at the beginning of class to email rather than office hours. No assigned dictionary or verb book - might be part of the problem. Instructor retiring in 3 years, been there forever. I hear Enginerd and appreciate everyone’s responses. There is, of course, a lot more relating to the issue because he “cuts” students off in mid-sentence (if we can even begin a sentence…) We are on page 220, class moves fast in 8 weeks. I requested from him an outside source book or website, no response. I’ll try to check into what’s available out there. Thanks. And to the moderator, I’ll try to get on the right board next time.

This is going to depend a lot on the type of course, how it is organized, etc., but, as a former college instructor, 2-3 email questions per week from a single student sounds like an awful lot to me. Admittedly I usually only had quite small classes to deal with, but I do not think I would often get very many more email questions than that from the whole class, in the whole semester.

I did not discourage email questions, but I am glad I did not get too many. Answering student questions by email can be surprisingly time consuming, especially if they are “good” questions, i.e. ones that actually deal with the course content and show some interest and insight into it. Questions like that can take two or three carefully constructed paragraphs to answer properly. I know, as an instructor, I felt I had to produce email answers that were clearly written, grammatical, accurate and spelled correctly. That can take real time. Even simple procedural questions can take 5 or 10 minutes to answer properly (certainly for a poor typist like me). On the other hand, a perfectly adequate verbal answer to a question asked in class (or just before or after, or in office hours) could probably be given quite quickly, and it might benefit more than just the one student. I think most instructors would probably much prefer to be asked most questions that way.

By the way, it is “capital letters” not “capitol.”

Even if you can’t go over his head within the department, you can still talk to other professors in the department (preferably those who teach the same language or otherwise work with him). Just ask them for advice, like you’re asking us: Someone who knows him may understand much more what’s going on.

And for the record, I can’t imagine myself ever telling a student that they’re asking too many questions. OK, yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question, but the students who are asking those are exactly the ones who most need an answer.

2-3 questions per week, or 2-3 emails per week, each with multiple questions?

This is what he should have done. But he didn’t … and if this guy is the department chair then (IMHO) chances are slim to none that anyone cares that he told a student that they were asking too many questions, with CAPS in an email.

My guess was that he was dealing some other deadline and the OP’s last email just came at an unfortunate time. I wouldn’t continue this conversation anymore. He probably knows he was rude to some degree, and also probably has no intention of apologizing. I think a better response to his first email would have been that you had no idea your emails were unwelcome, but now that you know you will try to limit questions.

2-3 emails per week really doesn’t sound like a lot to me. At least not given that he decided to do office hours via email.

He tells you to quit with the questions, so you email him again? Bad idea. First you were merely annoying. Now, you’ve likely pissed him off. Stop with the emails already. College is not high school. He is not there to hold your hand.

As a professor he should learn how to deal with students who aren’t aware of certain social boundaries. This isn’t hand holding, it’s called teaching.

Some professors just aren’t that helpful. If you can’t work it out with him, leave it on his evaluation at the end of your term.

In the meantime, can’t you get a tutor? A peer paid to answer your questions would probably be a lot more willing to help you.