Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yes. I'm a Woman. No. I'm Not His Secretary

Monday marked the first day back. I spent all of last week digging my heels in to the ground in hopes Monday'd never come. I went to all the pre-semester meetings. Our department meeting was fairly uneventful -- I'll sit on some easy committees. After the meeting I returned to my office to reluctantly sift through stacks of course notes. As I scoured for the right courses a shadowy figure appeared at my door. He was looking for my neighbor.

Student: Do you know if Professor Zhou is in his office?
Me: I don't know. Why don't you knock to find out?
Student (knocks and is silent, walks into my neighbor's empty office)
Student: Do you know where Professor Zhou is?
Me: I'm afraid not. He comes and goes as he pleases.

I guess I'll be extra sure to lock my office these days.

Then comes Syllabus Day. Things start off well. A little flattery flies in the first class. I'm apparently already much better than their Potions Master. That enthusiasm will soon fade. By the second class I was running low on charm. This would be the class in which I'd need it. Fifteen minutes into class and Sammy Snowflake is already complaining about my policies. One of my maternal figures at church once told me that I should tell them that I'm very good at what I do. I didn't have the words to express that on Syllabus Day. One of my church paternal figures said on Syllabus Day I should wear a T-shirt which says"No Mercy." I wish I had.

The last class of Syllabus day was a cushy upper div and surprisingly full. Lots of frantic emails piled up in my inbox last week. Most of which I ignored. Finally I added the students who met the pre-requisites. Sally Snowflake started not at my door but at the chair's. She, of course, emailed me with the student's plight. After all that hubbub Sally informs me after class that she is dropping the course in favor of another flavor.

Today Insecure Irene emails me a few times with questions. After each answer she emails "Thank you so much." I appreciate the courtesy but one "Thanks" per day will suffice. There is no need to cram my inbox with essentially unnecessary emails. I will not respond with "No prob." or "You're welcome" as that would just prolong the awkward conversation.

"Thanks in advance" met me on another email. I wouldn't have thought much of it but for a high school Facebook friend thanking all her Facebook friends in advance for their patience as she starts her new graduate program. That phrase has always bothered me. It extorts consent. It leaves the unfortunate recipient with two options: comply or break the implied contract. But I think that the worst part is that the thanker never seems to actually appreciate that you have gone out of your way to do them a favor. It sometimes feels like "thanks in advance" people are neither very sincere nor are they actually thankful. Too many student emails I suppose.


  1. CMP: Thank you in advance, and after the fact, for posting this. :o) I am in that purgatory that those of us on the quarter system seem to fall into when everyone else goes back to school. Your experience on Syllabus Day is giving me hives and I still have a month to go. Every year I ask myself: "Why isn't this year different? I thought maybe I'd be cut a break. For once. Not so." I hope things look up for the rest of the week (seeing as how there isn't much left of it; I can do THAT kind of math). I'm sorry!!! Thank you very much.

  2. And for the record, students always ask me when "Professor Cynic" will be back when I'm sitting in my office... so who knows... perhaps it's a function of our gender that we cannot possibly be authority figures or professors.

  3. "....perhaps it's a function of our gender that we cannot possibly be authority figures or professors."

    No, it's that whenever advertising and TV central casting need a "professor", he is usually played by an old white guy in the "Paper Chase" or B-grade scifi movie tradition. So "geezer male prof" becomes an archetype to the idiot-box watching youth, and you get the gormless freshman asking if "Prof. Cynic" is coming back when you are sitting in your office.

  4. Strenikov, I can at least send them away and say, 'Professor Cynic won't be in today" and get back to reading this blog. :o) But you are RIGHT--thanks a lot, Hollywood! And by expressing that it's a function of our gender, I hope you know I was being sarcastic and don't REALLY believe I can't be an authority figure or a professor...

  5. "Thanks in advance" makes me instantly angry, every time. It's Office Space-ese for "I own you."


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