Wednesday, April 20, 2011


One of my students, not a native English speaker and from a culture where women are not generally in positions of authority, has clearly taken to heart some advice about being careful to be respectful to female academics. Even though my department has a first-name-terms tradition, he greets all academics as 'Hello Doctor'. No name, just Doctor. It's better than being called 'Miss'!


  1. In many cultures, it would be unthinkable not to acknowledge a person's doctorate, as it's considered such a prestigious achievement -- and it's not always a common one even among university professors (who are often Master's-degree holders only).

    As a not-yet-Doctor TA, I get wonderful variations from my international students, especially in emails -- many insist on using 'Ms.' before my first name, and I've gotten 'Dear Respected TA CouldBeBetter' more than once.

  2. I had one of those this past semester (which just ended, up here in Canada--do you all hate me now?)! Except that he called me 'Professor', and in an email, 'dear Professor'. "Dear Professor, I am having culture shock in your class. Dear Professor, I want to change my paper topic again." It was kind of sweet.

  3. ALL my students, the majority of whom are native English speakers, call me just "Professor." I don't know if it's that they don't bother to learn their professors' last names or if it's just too much trouble to use all those syllables, but it is a wee bit annoying. On the other hand, it's less annoying than being called "Hey" or nothing.

  4. I'm currently studying abroad (undergrad. senior) in the Middle East, and the students, especially the young ones, simply call our professor "teacher". I once mustered up the courage to tell a student that where I come from (US) that would not be tolerated - she didn't understand what was wrong with calling someone 'teacher'. According to my professor, who had overheard our conversation, it was merely a cultural difference; I have my doubts about whether this is a cultural difference because the students are constantly disrespectful.

  5. I'd say I get called just "professor" more than anything else, too. I like it better than "Mrs." plus my last name, which is probably the second most common form of address ("Dr." or "Professor" plus last name probably tie for third, followed by my first name, which I tell them is fine). And then there's the "stand in front of her and look expectant until she speaks" approach; that's pretty common, too.

  6. "I don't know if it's that they don't bother to learn their professors' last names or if it's just too much trouble to use all those syllables"

    They don't want to accidentally say the wrong name, it's safer to go with just "professor".

    ...kind of like just going with "baby" in bed.


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