An open letter to students with projects


Dear student,

I am flattered that after looking at my site for maybe 45 seconds, you have decided that your paper would be improved by my help. Therefore, I try not to ignore you when you email me asking for help. However, I would like to offer you a few guidelines for your future petitions for assistance:

1) “Tell me all you know about Amazons” (or “Greek Goddesses” or a major goddess like, say, Athena) should not be the main thrust of your request. All I know about [your ridiculously broad project topic here] could fill a number of books. In fact, it DOES fill a number of books and they are sitting on my shelf. If this is as it appears, and you know absolutely nothing about the subject you are covering whatsoever, do me the favor of reading what I have already taken the time to publish on it before emailing me.

2) Please DO tell me what you already know, and give me at least a general sense of what direction you want to go in. Will you be more or less giving a general summary to your teacher? Are you planning on writing a myth of your own with Amazons/Greek Goddesses/Athena as the main character? Are you planning a research paper on a more specific topic and ifso, what is the general thrust of your thesis? In other words, the more specific, the better.

3) If you have actually got more specific questions (which is great!) please do not make it glaringly obvious that you have actually just transposed the worksheet that was your homework. I will not be responding to emails asking me, “Please list the following: give a brief description of each of the Olympian gods and include their symbols, what their powers are, and what year they were born.”*

4) Although it is sort of hilarious, please refrain from cussing at me in your request.

I’m sure there are other points to remember, but these jump immediately to mind. Of course, there are similar guidelines for people who email me asking me stuff like “what’s your name and how do I cite you” – but that’s already laid out for you in the FAQ, and if your not looking there the chances of you looking here seem slim to none. I feel I should also tell you, dear student, that while many of you actually do write me great questions that I could easily answer, I am not ALWAYS available to write back that very hour. Thus, if your report is due at 9:00 AM Monday and you are writing me a 10:00 PM Sunday, you are very likely to be SOL.

Yours truly,

Ailia Athena

*P.S. What year the gods were born is generally a very silly question anyway. Think about it for a second.


5 responses to “An open letter to students with projects”

  1. HA! This is too hilarious. You do get some interesting requests. Maybe you should have a section on the blog about the interesting requests you receive. Maybe you should make a quiz to see what other people get in terms of requests for information/filling out worksheets. If it weren’t for humans, humans would be sooo boring.

  2. Shocked and appalled I am by your lack of caring. These students are our future! You may be in a rest home one day and hear a voice say, “Remember not helping me on my project…”

    As a teacher, I found your open letter hilarious. I could also see some of my students (not my mythology students, they are a bright bunch) asking those very questions.

    Now, the students you are talking about, however, wouldn’t read past “flattering.” If you don’t mind, the better approach would be to just give them completely wrong information and see what happens.

    Just a thought.

    I’ve often thought about giving them wrong information. I’ve also thought about sending incredibly nasty emails railing at them. I have yet to do either. You’re right that none of them will read that post though, and I probably shouldn’t waste my time responding.

    Unfortunately, I think I actually DID have some like that in my myth class – bright they were, but the interest wasn’t there for all of them (middle schoolers are tough!).

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. adfamiliares Avatar

    You know, it’s funny that you can’t say what year the gods were born, but you pinpoint *where* they were born — I mean, that the Greek gods are located in human space, but not time. (Quite in contrast to the Christian God, eh?)

  4. adfamiliares – you know I never thought about that! That’s gotta mean something culturally, but I have no idea what. I’ve been thinking about it since you commented, anyway, which has been a couple months at least.

  5. Actually, im doing this for a school paper and ive been on here for in total, about 3 hours! your website is the most informative ive found so far and i love your little witty comments! it is probably my fave website, cause im mad about ancient greece and im all about feminism! in fact, thanks to you, im now going to read the oddesy! congrats and thanks for being so helpful!!

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