Thursday, September 16, 2010

What did you just call me?

Seriously. You snowflakes need to quit calling me by my first name. The first time this happened, I was shocked almost to speechlessness by your lack of respect. Would you call your pastor "Chris"? Would you call your boss "Cornelius"? Would you call the captain of the guided missle cruiser you serve on "Victor"? (If you answered yes, slap yourself right now.) Then why the &$^! do you think it's appropriate for you, a 19 year old snotnosed kid student, to call his $&%^#*# professor by HIS FIRST *$*$&%* NAME?!? And this happens every semester! Sure, I look young - so what? Were you raised by wolves? Don't you realize how disrespectful you are? You don't even know me. Even if you DID, this is still a university %*%^$* classroom, I am your $*$*#!!!!! PROFESSOR! Even if you are 60 years old with 8 grandkids all older than me, by thunder, I still want to hear you call me "Prof. Rottolepalle" or even "Mr." instead of that odious, odious, odious "Hey Misono..."!


  1. I have never had a boss that I did not call by first name. Is this a regional thing?

  2. Ho capito che ti sei rotto le palle, but try to save it for something more meaningful. You can't force them to call you professor, but I guarantee that if you are worried about it they are like piranhas smelling blood. They'll figure it out in a nanosecond and they'll start calling you anything but that. If you really want that level of formality, then you have to command it by dressing the part (jacket and tie always) and maintaining an appropriate level of distance in your interactions with them, perhaps even by calling them Mr or Ms.

    If nothing else works, getting older sometimes works wonders. I found that once I got some grey in my beard they all started calling me professor.

  3. I called my bosses by first name - after they had told me it was OK to do. I, too, want that separation and formality in the classroom as I have to assess them. I'm not their friend or bud. After they get finished with me, they can call me what they want. Hell, they do now - just not to my face.

  4. I also agree that there are bigger fish to fry than this one.

    All you can do is keep correcting them. Make sure you state CLEARLY at the start of the term what you expect to be called. Omit your first name from your syllabus. Write the name you want to be called on the board at the start of every class for the 1st few weeks. Call them Mr. X and Ms. Y. (Jesus Christ, Archie and I agree on a lot of stuff lately. I'm a little scared.) Make a clause in your syllabus that you reserve the right to penalize students who disrespect you or their classmates (I've had students CALL OTHER STUDENTS NAMES in class. It was like kindergarten some days!) Modeling acceptable behavior can help, but some snowflakes are too damn thick to learn.

    If that fails, you need to pull the stick from your butt and just roll with it. It's not 1954 anymore.

  5. Eh, they're probably just yanking your chain. You may have no choice but to continually correct them: "Please call me Professor Rottolepalle," but best not to reveal that it ticks you off, otherwise, as AA points out, they'll just do it to annoy you. He also points out that you could try wearing a jacket and tie - a suggestion for which I was nearly eviscerated on another thread - but that won't necessarily prevent students from being disrespectful. You could try addressing them all as "Mr./Ms. Snowflake" and point out that you are not on a first-name basis, but it could be tiresome to remember all those last names, especially if you have a lot of students from India or Eastern Europe (i.e, with lengthy, vowel-deficient last names). Or call them all "sir" or "ma'am" to make it clear that you require respectful terms of address in the classroom (unless you are one of those proffies who gets enraged at being called "sir" or "ma'am.")

  6. I guess it's just a pet peeve, but it sure felt good to vent! I think part of the problem is that where I was raised, it would be almost unthinkable to call an instructor by anything other than [title + surname], even years later in a less formal setting.

    Yeah, there are bigger fish to fry. The thing is that I do try to maintain that formal distance, and I carefully disguise my irritation (at least I think I do). I feel that if I spell this kind of thing out so carefully the students will think I'm a pain in the ass right from the get-go. I don't want to begin the semester by creating a hostile atmosphere for something so foolish (relatively) as proper terms of address.

    But, heck, I could be wrong. Thanks for the replies folks.

  7. I remember a RYS post about this very subject. There are a few things going against you: the entitlement generation is rarely aware of respectful politesse, and also the post-baby boom profs tend to enjoy the "we are equals, call me Sam" approach.

    Also, people who insist you pay homage to their PhD "dr" title tend to be seen as self-congratulatory assholes. Not that that's fair - the PhD is a lot of work and we deserve our titles. But non-PhD's see it as affected.

    Me, I just hate when they call me a combination of title and first name. "Mrs Sarah" or "Professor Sally" makes me feel like a kindergarten teacher.

    Ultimately, I doubt they mean any disrespect. They are just clueless. But one in-public "Actually, it's Professor Rottolepalle" will probably get their collective attention.

  8. I'm going to go with those who say that you should use THEIR last names as well. I had a few professors do this, especially when they very pointedly were not to be addressed by their first names. It shows mutual respect. And then, if they don't get it, you have more cause to really be annoyed.

  9. Funny enough, I'm a TA and constantly have to tell people not to call me professor.

    And really, I'm in my mid twenties. Calling me Mr. Harker just sounds... weird.

    "Dude, Mr. Turtle's my father."

  10. For whatever it's worth, where I work undergrads say "Professor" and grads use first names. I let my honors students and independent study students call me by my first name, too. But insisting on "Dr." means: not on the tenure track. Getting riled up about "Professor" means: new Assistant.

    So there ya go.

  11. If you're female it's worse, because the little boys calling me by my first name are often actually trying to pull rank (you may have a PhD and 25 years in the field but I have a dick which trumps all that!), and the girls are playing the "more feminist than you" card (you may have a PhD and 25 years in the field but you're supposed to be a feminist so aren't we all equals and if you object you're just proving you're not as good a feminist as I am!)

    I am by no means saying that they're all doing this (well, most of the boys are), but you can certainly spot it by tone of voice, body language, etc. These ones know damn well that they're trying, not just to equalize a hierarchical situation, but to wind up in the one-up position.

    Some of them, of course, are just clueless. I feel a certain sympathy for the very many who call me "Mrs. Academic". Never mind that I didn't take my husband's name, so it's either 'Ms." or "Dr." (there IS no "Mrs. Academic", except my mother); they're using "Mrs." as an honorific. That's what they called their teachers in high school. So at least they're trying.

  12. I guess it is really based on personal preference but I tell them that they can either call me by my first name or professor. Most call me by my first name, which I actually prefer. I don't find it causes any problems in the classroom in regards to respect from the students. In fact, it usually seems to make them more comfortable when initially approaching me.

  13. Weird. My students never call me by my first name, even though I introduce myself and sign off all informal emails using it.

    I figured it was just too much effort for them to retain the information.

    I reckon they've noticed it bugs you.

  14. In my department, nearly all of the professors prefer to be called by their first names. There is a difference between respect you earn and respect you force others to acknowledge.

  15. I was ABD when I started teaching and I felt funny about them calling me "Professor", so I got in the habit of avoiding introducing myself all together and signing e-mails with my initials. Most of them still called me professor anyway. So I understand the OP's shock at hearing them just jump right in on a first name basis without having been told to do so.

    I was an undergrad at a snooty patooty SLAC in the North East where all of the professors went by their first names and a grad at a tier 1 State U where, as someone earlier experienced, they were Professor to the undergrads and Tom Dick and Harry to the grads. So I think whether or not it's an offense depends on the culture of your institution.

    I taught at a service academy for a while where if someone called you by your first name, they were basically telling you to fuck yourself. You had to demerit the hell out of them, knowing that it meant they'd have to shampoo their CO's dog's balls with their own toothbrush and then use it (or something similarly asinine) or they'd eat you alive.

    I'm at a small state college now and I've been around a while and I know what I'm doing and don't feel like a poser anymore, and I noticed I started introducing myself by first name without having consciously decided to. It's nice, it makes me feel like I'm one with my old mentors from Snooty Patooty College.

  16. I'll take [firstname] over Mrs. [lastname] anyday. The worst is when they ask if they should call me Miss or Mrs. First of all, it's Dr, as it clearly says on the syllabus, and second, if you have any reason to need to know whether or not I am married, you have worse problems than not knowing what to call me.

  17. The only students that call me by my first name are ones that are trying to pull rank, most notably males. So, I write my name on the board the first day and if anyone yells out my first name I ignore them until they correct themselves (giving them the glare of death, of course).

  18. One dimension of this issue is a simple Judith Martin issue; it's only decent and respectful to call others what they wish to be called. Students have the easiest social direction here, with academic convention and the clear cues of first day introduction and syllabus. Wait, who am I kidding? At least ten percent never glance at the syllabus, and as for paying attention in class....

    I'm fine with first name, but as a middle-aged white male and based on my interactions with the students, I don't get an impression that they're trying to erode authority. For me, it just makes for a nicely collaborative atmosphere, just as in private enterprise I called my bosses by first name (as others have observed). I can well imagine other motives, whether unctuously ingratiating, condescending, overfamiliar, disrespectful, or aggressive.

    But context and intent matter a lot here, as Wombat notes. And, really, when I was an undergrad and even in graduate school (following another career and in my thirties), I presumed everyone preferred to be called Dr. unless they mentioned they preferred professor or first name. So, I've always tended to be more formal from the student end.

    And I knew by the time I was in 3rd grade that most professionals prefer their title to Mrs., Miss (and later Ms. which came into use maybe when I was in 5th grade and which I immediately adopted in preference to marital coding). And I mostly paid attention to what my elementary school teachers were calling themselves--in my early years, either "Miss" or "Mrs." I found it surprising how many of my classmates were trying to compel marriage through honorifics.

    So, it's kind of appalling that college students still think it a good idea to mark marital status, as deborah-judge observes, and are clueless about degrees.

  19. When I began teaching college I had a really horrible last name (feminist or no, I ditched that sucker with marriage). It had a bunch of consonants in a row and if you pronounced it correctly it had a curse word in it. Most people never pronounced it correctly, and I tended to regard that as a godsend.

    Needless to say, I was all "Please, it's just FirstName" for those first... five years of teaching before marriage (I had to think about that). I've gotten used to using my name in this way and wouldn't imagine switching even now that Mrs. Proffie will soon become Dr. Proffie.

    Regardless, some of my students call me Miss Proffie or Ms. Proffie (and that's cool--I know the Miss is wrong but it's what we always did in ballet class regardless of the marriage status of the teacher, so it's fine/normalized with me). I also come from a field where the people who use the Dr. are seen as assholes, so there's that as well.

    I realize this causes a problem as some of my students may go into another class thinking that profs are okay with it. But there it is--this is my habit and I'm sticking to it.

  20. Yeah, no, I totally feel you on this one. I'm young and (relatively) hip, so - even though I always dress like I'm going to a business conference or a perhaps a convent - I always get students calling me by my first name (or a diminutization of my first name that I neither suggested nor authorized). But there's a new thing they're doing now that's also annoying: they've taken to calling ALL us professors by our last names with NO title, as though we're members of a football team. Right to our faces. "Hey, Gregovich," they might say. "What's the homework?" Or, "yeah, Trujillo just made us read that, too." I keep waiting for them to slap me on the arse (I'm not above breaking fingers) or upend a cooler full of Gatorade on me, but so far they've restrained themselves.

    I come from a tradition where only grad students got to call their advisors by their first name, otherwise it was insanity to imagine calling a professor anything other than "Dr." So-and-So... so I totally understand where you're coming from, brothah. ; )


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