by Ryan Morgado
The world is in our pockets. Literally. Most of us carry a device that allows us to call a family member, book a ride to the airport from the stranger, look up that actor in that movie we forgot, and the best place to grab some sushi in a new city. At no point prior to 2016 have we had as much information at our fingertips and as many different ways to communicate. We have a plethora of apps to communicate to our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances of big life events, daily happenings, and moment-to-moment experiences. It’s a challenge attempting to navigate all these different ways to communicate and this isn’t limited to just my students. I’m beginning to experience challenges with how I communicate with them.
I have 4 primary ways to get in contact with my students: phone, text, email, and slack. (Slack is an group messaging app making it easier for large organizations to communicate digitally and pass info quickly amongst their members). I could reduce the phone to a .5, since, you know, my students and I hardly call each other outside of setting up and running our programs. But, I digress. The topic of giving students your number is subjective and everyone has a different comfort level. It makes my job easier when I need to get in touch with them immediately via phone or text.
Students, unsurprisingly, create their own schedules. Which means they can work on their homework and organization tasks into the wee hours of the morning. This resulted in me receiving texts as late as midnight or 1 in the morning with questions that they needed responses to before the next morning.
The challenge of having so many different avenues for my students and I to get in contact with each other wasn’t something I anticipated. So, here are the questions that came up as I worked throughout my first semester:
What are appropriate times to contact me?
I let them know that I work a 40-hour week (on a good week), and need to separate myself from work when I am at home and needed more time than 8 hours to respond to a question. To allow them to get their question out of their head, I’m fine with them sending me texts throughout the evening, but I won’t respond until I get to work the next morning.
What is my preferred method of contact?
Here is my hierarchy of quickness of response: phone call, text message, then email. If I’m at my computer I’ll usually email to keep everything all in one place, but I’ll also text my students if the request/message I have is of higher priority.
These questions helped me develop boundaries as I’ve gotten new student leaders. Have you all had similar issues with communicating with your students? How have you handled vastly different ways to talk with your students?