Let’s begin with a little bit of good truth: chances are your professor doesn’t hate you. If we hated students, we wouldn’t be in this business. Trust me.
Instead, chances are your professor is overworked and tired and has a lot going on. This semester, for example, I have over 100 students. That’s a lot of grading to do, a lot of papers upon which to comment, and a lot of questions to field. In addition to this, I’m a writer for carinsurance.org. In my work as a car insurance expert, I research and write comprehensive guides on how pricing factors into car insurance. So that’s a lot on my plate at once.
Plus, I try to have a personal life and accomplish that all-mysterious notion of work-life balance. Luckily, I love teaching college students, so work is most often a pleasurable experience.
So your professor probably doesn’t hate you. But from time to time, we probably get annoyed with you if you make our job harder.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that annoy professors the most, how you might avoid them, and what to do if you do find yourself on the receiving end of a cranky professor.
A) Did you check the syllabus?
Most of us–us being professors–spend a lot of time crafting a thorough syllabus for each of our classes. These documents not only serve as a contract of what you can expect in our class, but also provide a road map of how the class will be laid out. A syllabus is like a recipe, or a script, or directions for putting something together. In short, you need to read it. But I’ve found a lot of students don’t read. Or they read it once and then don’t look at it again for the rest of the semester.
Cut to a lot of the emails we receive from students as college instructors:
a) When is our research paper due?
b) Do we have a final exam?
c) What are we supposed to read for tomorrow?
d) What are we doing in class today?
e) What did I miss last Tuesday?
f) When are your office hours?
These are legitimate questions, don’t get me wrong. But if you have a question that resembles one of these, your first step should not be to email your professor.
Why, you might be wondering? Well, two reasons:
a) your professor gets a lot of emails. According to the University of Missouri “on any given day, your professor might get 50 emails. If it’s the day before an assignment is due, that number is more like 100. Your adviser probably gets closer to 120.” That’s in addition to any number of personal texts and doctor’s appointment reminders and bills to pay. So if you’re emailing us with a question we’ve already answered, we might get annoyed. So where is the answer?
b) It’s on the syllabus! I, along with my fellow professors, am constantly amazed by how many questions we receive about things that are clearly explained in the syllabus. Due dates, office hours, a reading schedule–it’s all on that long document we gave you on the first day of class.
So remember, just ask Dr. K. Childs, it’s on the syllabus:
Oh, and if you did miss class, don’t ever ask us “did I miss anything important?” Look at the syllabus. We view the class as important, so never form a question that trivializes what we do on a regular basis.
And remember: being an informed student is one of the keys to student success. This is just one of the many things that can influence your success as a student.
B) Do you email us like you text one of your friends?
I recently received the following email:
“hey prof, hyd? i missed class yesterday bc i was sick (throwing up emoji). can u tell me what i missed?”
So, what’s wrong with this email? For starters, as we’ve seen above, before asking the professor what you missed, consult the syllabus or ask a classmate. But most blatantly obvious here: NEVER EMAIL YOUR PROFESSOR LIKE THIS.
Business Insider reports that the thing professors hate the most is the use of unprofessional correspondence. According to Dr. Lisa Wade, “Your instructors are not your friends. Correspond with them as if you’re in a workplace, because you are. We’re not saying that you can’t ever write like this, but you do need to demonstrate that you know when such communication is and isn’t appropriate. You don’t wear pajamas to a job interview, right? Same thing.”
So do not email us using the same language with which you would text your roommate. Use the writing skills we are teaching you to correspond with your professors.
C) Are you using your phone in class?
So many students think we can’t see them texting or Snapchat-ing or Tweeting during class. But trust me, we know. Your head doesn’t just stay fixated on your lap because you’re shy. Put your phone away during class. This annoys your professors so much.
D) Are you prepared for class?
Your professors all know what it’s like to be a college student. Literally, we were all college students once–it’s a job requirement for becoming a professor, after all. So we understand you have a lot on your plate — multiple classes, work, family obligations. And hey, we understand that you want to have a personal life that gives you that ol’ college experience, just like Friends’ Chandler and Ross.
But with very few exceptions, none of these things is an excuse to consistently come to class unprepared, such as skipping out on the readings or ignoring assignment deadlines. Remember, someone–be it you, your parents, or a scholarship program–is paying for you to be enrolled in college. By not preparing for class, you are wasting money, not participating in the learning community of which you are a part, and not gaining the skills you need to succeed in the future.
A caveat: we all have crap that happens in our lives. In my junior year of college, my mother had a heart attack and I had to rush home to be with my family, missing a few classes. It happens, and your professors, for the most part, and if you don’t take advantage of them, will understand. The key is to communicate with us. As soon as you know you are going to miss a class or a deadline for a valid reason, get ahold of us (in an appropriate manner, as we discussed above).
E) Do you think of yourself as a customer or a student?
Currently, there’s a trend in higher education to treat students as consumers, as if they were customers at a coffee shop, sporting goods store, or spa. In a recent RealClearEducation article, “Students Are Consumers. It’s Time to Treat Them That Way,” Carol D’Amico argues that “students and would-be graduates are, in fact, consumers. They compare options and evaluate the return on potential investments. They are brand-conscious. They are looking to an increasingly diverse array of providers to fulfill their interests and aspirations. This means that even our most venerable institutions now face competition for consumers — and for public investment.” Okay, on the one hand, sure.
On the other hand, and this is especially true of your professors in the humanities like me, many of us believe the university is not a business, but rather an incubator for the production and dissemination of knowledge. We believe you are not in our classes just to check a box, but to learn something. Thus we treat you not like customers at Chipotle, but rather as, shockingly, students.
If you walk into our classroom expecting us to serve you like a waiter, instead of walking in wanting to learn and create knowledge together, we’ll probably get annoyed with you. Overcome this by actively listening and participating in class, and by at least pretending to be interested in the subject matter at hand.
By the way, we understand college is expensive–we’ve literally all been there–and you want to get the best value. And there’s always help on the internet for searching for scholarships and student grants.
F) Are you ready for college-level feedback?
The transition from high school to college can be difficult for a lot of learners. And a big part of that difficulty is what is expected of you as a student, and how your professors will critique your work.
So ask yourself: am I emotionally ready for college-level feedback, and can I learn from it without getting defensive?
If an instructor gives a lot of critical feedback on a paper or assignment, that’s not a sign they hate you–that’s a sign that they care. Keep in mind that giving feedback is hard work for our instructors, and it signals we’re taking an interest in you and your future. Also remember: we’re experts in the field in which you’re studying, so we might have a thing or two to teach you about succeeding in that field.
And if you’re still in the process of looking for a college, here’s a great resource.
G) Did you visit the writing center?
Speaking of critical feedback, when a student gets upset with me about the grade they received on a written assignment, I always ask them: did you visit the writing center? The answer, sadly, is often no. This is unfortunate because most colleges and universities have a writing center to help students become just that: better writers. You can easily make an appointment with a writing tutor to help you at any stage of the writing process.
H) And do you know where the library is?
It’s true: many of your professors will have a very romantic idea about physical books and libraries. And we know a lot of research can be done online–don’t forget, after all, that we’re researchers by training and that we also use these online databases.
And yet, it upsets us when students turn in a paper after paper without any sources that were found in person as opposed to online. Why? It’s not just our romantic notions of dusty libraries with soft green lighting. No, two reasons:
a) A lot of the research you do in the future in your career might require you to do “offline” research. Going to the library and hunting down sources helps you learn how to better do that.
b) The library houses a whole lot of resources beyond just dusty books. Periodicals, government documents, maps, art, often the writing center, and the person who can become your best friend and most helpful confidant in college: research librarians.
I) Are you name dropping because you think it’ll impress us?
We’re glad you’ve read Foucault before, but you don’t need to throw around big names just to impress us. Instead, show that you can apply your reading and knowledge to the task at hand. And don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something, either. We are literally here to teach you, and we love helping students grapple with difficult material. It’s what we’re trained to do!
J) Are you acting like you’re too cool for school?
Do you sit in the back of the classroom every day, slouched over and texting under the desk? Do you roll your eyes when we do in-class writing exercises or have class-wide discussions? If you act like this, we get annoyed because it signals you think our class is a waste of time.
Even if the subject at hand isn’t your favorite–and we know lots of college classes are required, and not ones you’d necessarily choose to take–do your best to stay engaged and to at least appear interested. This goes a long way in making your professor like you.
Also, when you have that “a-ha moment,” that time when you finally get something you’ve been struggling with, we love to celebrate that with you! Don’t be afraid to let your excitement show in class. You might be worried about what your peers think, but are they the ones giving you a grade?
K) Are you packing up before class is over?
Same as acting “too cool” for class. Don’t do it. We get three, maybe four, hours a week with you to cover a lot of information. Wait to pack up your backpack until we make it clear that the class is over.
L) Also, are you always late?
Do you consistently show up 5 minutes late to class, once we’ve started a discussion or whatever is on the agenda for the day? This is extremely annoying. Don’t do it. It disrupts the flow of the class, which is already hard enough for us to control. (And it’s even worse when you show up with a Starbucks you clearly just got at the student union before class.)
Do your best to show up a few minutes before class begins. This goes a long way to show you care about your education and this class in particular, which goes a long way, in turn, to make us care about you.
M) Have you come to see us in office hours?
Our office hours are the time when we can help you one-on-one. Ironically, the students who need this help, in my experience, are rarely the ones who will come to office hours. If you’re struggling in a class, stop by and see us. Again, we’re here to help!
N) Are you close-minded?
One of the great things about college is that it’s a time when your previously-held ideas and beliefs are challenged. (You have ol’ Socrates to thank for the Socratic Method of teaching that permeates college life.) Instead of walking into our classrooms defensively, come in with an open mind.
We’re not here to indoctrinate you, but we are here to help you think critically about the world around you, and sometimes that might mean challenging previously-held ideas and beliefs, assumptions and biases you bring to campus with you.
O) Oh, and are you rude to your classmates?
I’m a pretty easy going guy. And a lot of professors that I work with? Pretty laid back people, too. But we value respect. One of the quickest ways–and only ways, really–to make me really angry is to blatantly disrespect your peers.
All of my syllabi contain this statement: Our classroom is a community that thrives on the respect and understanding of all forms of diversity. I would like to stress that all members of our community must respect the work, opinions, and human dignity of others. Expressions of disrespect degrade the community and damage us all, and they will not be tolerated.
So be kind. It goes a long way in building a better — and more fun — classroom community, and to get your professor to like you. I will go above and beyond to help a student I see being kind.
P) Do you ask questions in class?
None of us, students or professors alike, like an awkward silence. So even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone, ask questions and make comments and grapple aloud in class! As Professor Jane E. Dmochowski writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “if one student doesn’t understand something, it is very likely others don’t either.
Stopping the professor to clarify a point gives us the opportunity to really teach and stay in touch with our students. I am always grateful to students who risk looking ‘dumb’ to ask a question.”
We love it when students engage. It makes our job more pleasurable. And it makes us like you more.
Q) Do you know the hierarchy of college instructors?
Not all of your professors are treated equally by their employers. You might be taking a course from a graduate assistant, who is not only teaching your class but also taking a full course load of their own. You might be under the tutelage of an adjunct or part-time instructor, many of whom are underpaid for their labor and don’t receive the same benefits as full-time employees. Or you might have a tenured or tenure-track professor, who has to juggle teaching, research, and service obligations.
Just like any workplace, there’s a hierarchy of employees charged with your education. Learn more about this labor system so that you know what kind of work-life your instructors have, which will also help you know what to expect of them and how to better communicate with them.
R) Are you communicating with us like we’re humans?
Like many of you, a lot of us professors have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. (An adjunct professor, for instance, can make a measly $2,000 per course. That’s not very much considering the hours and hours that go into planning and grading, let alone teaching itself!)
There have been points in my professional life where I’ve been a college instructor at multiple campuses, a barista, and a freelance writer, all at the same time. It’s a grind, to be sure, but such is life under this thing we call capitalism.
So why do we do it? Put simply: we love teaching. We love our subject area and field of specialty. We believe in higher education to better the world. We went to graduate school not because we wanted to get rich, but because we believed in something.
For many of us, that something is, if I could distill it down to a single thing, the human condition.
So don’t forget: your professors are people, too. We have a lot going on, but we care about you–and we don’t hate you! Treat us with respect and we will likely return that same respect to you.
This is just my 2 cents, and now, keep reading to know what these folks have to say on the topic.
I think the most common things that frustrate or irritate professors is when students are clearly not putting in their best effort, when they don’t read the syllabus before emailing, asking a question that is clearly stated on the syllabus, or when they don’t prepare for class or complete assignments on time.
Here are some tips to fix issues a professor might have with you:
A) Review the syllabus before emailing to see if your question can be answered on there.
B) Address your professor as what they prefer to be called, usually
Professor or Dr. Avoid using Mr. or Mrs. unless they ask you to call them that.
C) Come to class prepared. Ask thoughtful questions or participate in discussions.
D) Don’t make excuses or ask for special exceptions unless it is a true emergency or unique situation.
E) If you need help, reach out sooner rather than later.
F) Complete assignments, homework, and papers on time.
G) Smile, be pleasant, and be courteous to your professor and other students.
Not communicating within the right time frame. I get that stuff happens, but if you don’t communicate when expected to, especially when a student has no good reason not to, this can annoy a professor. For instance, you email a student to take an exam that s/he missed but don’t get a response before the exam due date, and/or before the submission of the final grades. And out of the blues, the student emails you, feigning ignorance of any prior correspondence(s), asking for a retake of the exam.
Another example is when a student intentionally disrupts the classroom, for example, with the use of the cellphone or by chatting with another student while the lecture is ongoing. Or when students casually walk into the lecture room late even after ensuring that you see them before a class begins.
I have been able to curtail these behaviors by assigning grade percentages to students’ attitudes. And this works because many students don’t take their grades for granted.
In addition to the above, based on personal experience as a student, attempt to resolve a problem before going to the professor for help because many of these professors have other engagements and lives, and your problem(s) might just be compounding their already overworked life, which could make them angry at you.
And finally, no matter how much you hate the lecture, show interest in the course by asking questions and showing up on time to class. These will go a long way in making your professor like you.
3) Jodi Smith
As an adjunct business professor and a nationally known etiquette consultant, My professor pet peeve is when a student misses a class, sees me in the hallway and asks if they missed anything important as if they are expecting me to provide them with a private performance of the entire lecture on the spot.
When a student misses a class, for whatever reason, they should connect with a fellow student for the notes and an overview of the class. Then if there is still an unclear concept, the student should attend office hours to ask about the specific concept.
4) Guy Arthur Canino
We are of course all human and as humans, we don’t always get along with everyone. In my career, I have had a few students I didn’t like but as a professional, I have never let my feelings show.
I treat and grade everyone fairly and objectively as I think almost everyone in my position does. However, after working nearly 20 years in academia, I have made some observations.
Some professors and lectures sometimes grade people they don’t like harder, even if they’re doing it subconsciously. If you think you’ve been graded unfairly, simply compare your paper to other students and then ask your professor to change the grade. And remember, just because you think your professor hates you doesn’t mean he or she does, it might just be in your head!
5) Paul Bromen
I was liked by most of my professors, but there was one professor that hated me. He was my Asian culture professor. The class sat in desks arranged in a circle. He would stand in the middle of the circle lecturing.
He developed a habit of calling on me, and then midway through my answer, he would walk towards my desk, use his bulk to block me from the rest of the class, and speak over me until I stopped talking. Maybe it was just a weird personality quirk, but he never did it to my other classmates. I am sure he hated me.
To fix the problem I would try to be a model student in the class, keep my answers short and pleasantly say hi when I saw him around campus. It did not work. Sometimes you can be nice to people and they can hate you for no apparent reason.
There was this one professor that whatever I did, she was not satisfied, and would say that I wasn’t performing well. This was surprising because I was one of the best students that year and didn’t have any problem with other professors.
On test days, I scored low, not even above average. When I asked her what I’d done wrong, she said she didn’t like my handwriting, couldn’t read it, which is why I got a low score.
I got curious about the situation, and so on the next text day, I copied the same answer from my best friend, with good handwriting. The professor didn’t notice that I copied it but again, I scored lower than my friend who had the same answer.
I didn’t want this situation to remain as such because I haven’t done anything wrong. And so, one day, I asked her for a meeting. I told her I knew she didn’t like me and showed her the facts at hand. It turned out, she had a personal issue with my family and it had nothing to do with my academic record.
I asked what I could do to resolve the conflict or at least set the personal matters aside and concentrate on my professional skills.
She was surprised by the confrontation and soon, the conflict between her and my family was solved. She started grading my papers according to my abilities and not according to her personal feelings.
I think that one of the best ways to solve a conflict with a professor is talking to the professor and telling him or her that you think they don’t like you, and then asking for the reason(s) behind it.
This is because professors might not like you on a subconscious level without even understanding it. For example, you might have a strong resemblance to someone the professor hates.
This is what happened to me and how I solved this conflict. I graduated with honors since I was a really good student and solving this conflict helped me show my academic knowledge the way it was.
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