Are you there, it’s me: Teacher-Student Texting Mid-Semester

Phip Ross

Below is a copy of a text conversation I had last night, as I write this. This student had dropped out last semester of my class. She works three jobs and is a non-native speaker living at home. We had planned to meet via Zoom earlier in the day—at noon, she requested, but I never heard from her until she texted me at about 9 p.m.

I was at the piano playing guitar. That’s just how it works with me.

I did hesitate before responding, but quickly gave in. I hate texting. I am all thumbs. It’s a pain. During this exchange I consider sending her a Zoom link, but from our past experience her house can be quite loud. We push on buoyed, in part, by her determination I haven’t encountered last semester or this in the face-to-face environment where she tends to be aloof and distracted, often by her phone.

Why I’m sharing this is because I’m excited we survived the exchange—spoiler alert–and because she figured it out and you will see how little help I am. Honestly, it’s hard for me to learn and re-learn not to give answers away. And she is so very tired, but I want her to read instructions closely. I want all students to read instructions closely.  Not just mine.

So, there’s some success (the student’s) I’m sharing, happily. But there’s plenty to critique and learn from. For one, at the end of this exchange I will present the assignment instructions and share a couple comments. Readers can also view this “transcript” as some interesting data about communication between teacher and student that is informal and in what to me is new. I’m “speaking” to a student and she’s speaking back to me at times using emojis and thumbs up. Is it too informal? How is it working or not? What opportunities were missed in the exchange?

This is a space (text-messaging) where I do not spend much time, can you tell?

Please consider and share.  Let me just take this off the table: Especially at the conclusion, I was ready to crash. No excuse: I missed an opportunity to praise her diligence in her struggle. This is an explicit goal of mine: Seize every opportunity to praise someone.



[I took a screen shot of the assignment and cropped it to what I think she was not reading]



The assignment post:


Comment: The good—Steps are separated, easy to read. The not-so-good: I am particularly drawn to “Upload three (3) different photos …” sentence. It makes the assumption of taking the pictures.