Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to Address Your Professor

Dear Readers,

Madame L has not received a question about the issue of how students should address professors and instructors, but thinks you'll be interested. She has just read an article on the topic, "That's Doctor Instructor to You." 

Madame L has been on both sides of the issue: as a student, and as an instructor. Maybe it was the way she was raised, but as a student Madame L has never had a problem calling a professor by his/her title, such as, "Professor," "Doctor," "Ms.," Mr.," or "Mrs"---or by their first name, if that's what they want.

As a teacher, Madame L has told students they can call her by her first name or her last name with the appropriate "Ms." or "Mrs." attached. When a student has assumed Madame L held a doctorate of some kind and called her "Doctor," Madame L has corrected that error immediately.

Madame L understands that in some places it is typical and expected for students to call their professors by their first names.

When that is NOT the custom, Madame L believes students should show respect and just plain common courtesy by calling a teacher, of whatever rank, by the title that teacher wants to be called.

However, the author of that article points out, that "....the vast majority of college students often call their professors by the “wrong” name or title because the conventions for this are massively, overwhelmingly confusing."

It seems obvious to Madame L that the professor/instructor/adjunct/whatever can clarify the situation on the first day of class, and then afterwards as necessary.

As Rebecca Schuman concludes the article:
Most students, then, have no idea what to call us, so it’s up to us to let them know, immediately. On the first day of class, and in the syllabus, say: “I’m Dr. Schuman.” Or, “I’m Martika.” Or, “I’m Count von Count.” Whatever you want to be called, name yourself this thing in person and on the syllabus—and if the students don’t catch on, don’t be afraid to correct them (even if, in Gulliver’s case, you have to do this over and over). And here’s one for the ladies: If you ever get called “Miss,” don’t be afraid to tell them that if they’re going to treat you like a dance teacher, they’d best be ready to pliĆ©.
Obviously, that slim minority of the willfully disrespectful will just carry on, and there’s nothing anyone can do. And sure, they don’t respect us because they’re “smarter” than we are, but we grade those twerps—and you’d be surprised how often the openly disrespectful are poor students. But most students are truly, understandably clueless as to what to call us. So not only should we tell them what we want, we should also be patient while they figure it out. Me, I’ll be grateful if they ever stop opening their correspondence with “Hi.”
And if you’re a student and unsure? Err on the side of respect and let them correct you downward. Your professors, adjuncts, instructors, and staff worked hard to get where they are, and it never hurt anyone’s grade to acknowledge that.
Such common sense, that it makes Madame L wonder why this should ever have been an issue in the first place.

What do you think, Dear Readers?

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