Monday, February 11, 2013

How To Annoy Your Professor : The Poll

Here it is: the poll based on your responses to my request for annoying questions and behaviors related to student-professor interaction. This was admittedly a one-sided request as it focuses entirely on annoying things students do. I have heard vague rumors that professors can also, from time to time, be annoying, but that is not relevant to our purpose here: to compile a handy list of advice for students to help them succeed in their academic life.

I was very gratified to find that others share my dislike of receiving 27 files all called homework.doc. I have found that if I instruct students about file-naming before the first homework is turned in, the majority of the submitted homework will have student names in the filenames, but if I don't mention it again before each and every homework due-date, the vast majority revert to homework.doc. 

Anyway, based on the comments provided, I have divided the poll into 3 categories: Annoying Questions, Communication, and Miscellaneous. I have not restricted voting to one item/poll, so you don't have to choose if you find some/all of the listed examples highly annoying. I suggest, though, that instead of just checking off all or most of the boxes, that we each attempt to pick our top-3(ish) from each category.


Annoying Questions
  
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Communication
  
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Misc
  
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22 comments:

just a TA, but... said...

Unsigned emails = the worst. My university uses intials+random_number@university.edu for student email addresses. Even if I knew all of my students' first AND last names (esp. at the start of the term), there are lots of duplicates and people named "Todd" in person but formally "Wallingthorp Todd Smith," so when wts3938@uni.edu emails about "making sure that thing we talked about today is correct," well...

Anonymous said...

As a student, I'm surprised to see informal email greetings on here! I've definitely been guilty of using just 'Hi' because I'm not entirely sure whether I've been told yet to use a first name, or using 'Hi Professor X' to tone done 'Dear Professor X' for an informal note. Is the preferred greeting 'Dear' or something else?

a physicist said...

One of my own pet peeves: Student knocks on my door, asks politely if I am free to talk. Great so far. Then student starts to talk to me about something, but never says who they are, often when I have never met them before and they are not in my class. Students: please introduce yourself!

Elizabeth Meckes said...

I guess maybe I'm a (not terribly old) fuddy-duddy, but I don't want students barging into my office even if it is during the listed time of office hours. It's one thing if there's already a large crowd of students, but if I'm sitting at my desk working, no one should just come in and start talking without knocking first. It's a basic courtesy that none of my colleagues, for example, seem to have trouble with.

a physicist said...

@Anon 9:31 am: If you're not sure, the best is to be most formal: "Dear Prof. X." Then you can see how they sign their email back to you. I usually sign my emails to students with "Prof. X" so that it's clearer to the students that it's what I liked to be called. ("Prof. X" is the convention at my school, that's the typical salutation my colleagues use.)

Anonymous said...

The poll was a great idea. It was interesting to see the diversity of opinion about what issues were most irritating. My own list has shrunk over the years. Having done this for 20+ years, some are things that now just amuse me (Dear Mr. X, bad spelling, funny email addresses) and a few that don't happen.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

As students, we often fall back on the heuristic of "address professors as they sign their email", but some use an automatic email signature (only), even if they'd rather have you call them by their first name. So you can't tell anything in this case, which has sometimes made me nervous. Sticking in a "-John" or whatever before the automatic signature would help, instead of just having emails like

"Hi, Alex,

Yes, let's meet at 3:30 tomorrow.

--
John Aloysius Smith
Associate Professor of Underwater Basketweaving
Office Building #123
Etc."

Always being as formal as possible is the best solution, but sometimes you feel ridiculous anyway (like if you've heard lots of other students calling them by their first name, but they haven't made it clear to *you* that that's what they actually prefer -- e.g., if the other students are more advanced or have been in certain other classes with them; my band director in college was "Mary" to the top band and "Dr. Jones" to the other band).

Anonymous said...

I will only call one man Prof. X, and that is Charles Xavier.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that many people seem to be annoyed at being called Mr. or Ms. At my undergrad institution Mr. and Ms. were the standard forms of address for all faculty and how they were listed in the course catalog.

Anonymous said...

I am with Anonymous ( 01:56:00 PM). I am a postdoc and I still struggle with how to address people in emails in the first place and especially when they only sign their replies with a full name signature line. I hate to offend anyone by being to informal, but I also know professors who dislike being called Professor X or Dr. X.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? I can't write "Hi Dr. Smith," without beng offensive? Cool.

Anonymous said...

That is Charles F. Xavier for you Anonymous 3:52pm.

Anonymous said...

I think many of us don't like emails that just start "Hi, ...", but "Hi Dr. Smith, ..." would be fine. At least, I am fine with that. I have also gotten emails starting with "Hey, .. " with no name, and those are somehow worse, though my feeling is mild annoyance not offence.

a physicist said...

Yeah, honestly, how I am addressed in an email is not one of my pet peeves. I'll even accept "Hey Mr. Y" although it will make me smile. My point was just to try to be helpful by signing my emails with a useful signature. I agree completely with Anon 1:56 pm, emails with no signature aren't so useful. I know one prof who signs his emails to students with his initials, also not so useful. Are the students supposed to write to him, "Dear ABC"?

GMP said...

PhD comics take on the salutation conundrum
What to call your professor

pramod said...

Thanks GMP, that comic was funny.

This salutation thing really is a problem. I was hoping that my advisor would tell me to call him by his first name at some point but he never did! And I learned from the other members of my group that he hadn't done that with any of them either. They unilaterally switched to the first name after some months of working with him. So I resisted for about a year and a half and then I eventually took the plunge. I wrote an e-mail saying "Hi firstname". It was of the more stressful moments of my (admittedly short) gradschool career.

inBetween said...

One of my past PhD students was always very formal (not from the US), and she always called me Dr. MyLastName. Always. Still does. But you know, I deeply respect and appreciate her efforts to be very professional and respectful, and it makes me smile. I just gave up asking her to call me by my first name. Now I call her Dr. HerLastName too.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I like "can I have your lecture notes?" I then show them my notes: a 1" Post-It with 5 words on it is my lecture notes for 3.5 hours of lecture. I then point out that I learned the stuff before trying to teach it, and no longer need to rely on cheat sheets. I can suggest that they learn the material that well also, and that there are some great books and web sites that I've pointed out on the class web pages.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely best response, ever!

Mommyprof said...

I battled on the file names and finally, i just started taking 10 point off if it required forensics to figure out which homework was yours. That fixed it for all but a few hard cases who weren't doing very anyway. I always put a note with the grade to the tune of "C+. This would have been a B+ if you had named the file StudentLastName_Assignmentname.doc"

I warned them on the previous assignment that I was going to do it.

Anonymous said...

Since we are on the topic of names, I have a question: I am an asst prof just back from a job interview at another institution. I like to write thank you emails to everyone that scheduled time to meet with me. This will include the Assistant Dean of Research, who may have introduced himself to me as Joe or Joe Schmo but I honestly cannot remember. In my thank you note, should I address him as Dr. Schmo, just to be safe? The meeting felt formal and this seems like it is the least likely to be taken the wrong way.

Thanks for any insights!

Amidst Science said...

I have written a short post about email greetings after reading your entry.

http://amidstscience.blogspot.com/2013/03/email-greetings-at-university.html

I link back to your blog. I hope that's ok.
Best wishes.