Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advice for Wannabe Majors

When students want to declare a major or minor in my field, they talk to me. That's part of my big cheesiness job these days. I see a couple students during a slow week, and more than that during a busy one. Some of them email me first, some just show up.

Here's some advice I'd like to offer to students coming to see me about the program. I think it's probably good advice for students going to see professors in general.

1. Shower.
2. Introduce yourself. Really. I don't know who you are just because you've emailed me and are standing in my doorway.
3. Don't loom. If I turn to do something at the computer and you stand up to look, okay. But don't stay standing over me. Sit down.
4. Answer questions. When I ask what you're taking this semester, I am not inspired to confidence by a blank look. It's the last week of classes, do you really not know what you're taking?
5. At least pretend that you're interested in the program you're declaring. Don't tell me that you don't really want to do it but that you can't do what you want to do.
6. If I suggest that you see a support office because you've told me you can't do what you want to do, nod politely. You don't have to go, but you might want to consider it. If you nod politely, I won't push. Making excuses about this or that doesn't really add anything. I'm suggesting something I think will help, but I'm not your mommy, and I'm not going to nag you. Nor am I going to worry much beyond the end of our conversation.

7. I'm adding one: don't call professors you haven't even met yet "Jones" instead of Professor or Dr. or Ms/Mr Jones. Not to me, anyway. (I refer to other faculty as Professor so and so to students because it matters to some of my colleagues.)

In conclusion, most of our students do shower enough, but the ones that don't really get my attention and not in a good way. Most of our students also have fine social skills and know which classes they're taking. Again, the ones that don't stand out.


  1. Wouldn't it be great if there were a student etiquette section of the student handbook that gave tips on just this sort of thing? I really think students have no idea how to deal with teachers. More often than not, I find that I have boundary issues. Students want to confess everything -- down to their recent sexual exploits. I just want a serviceable research paper -- not information on where you lost your purple panties. Sheesh.

  2. DrGunPowderPlot12:27 PM

    A breath mint wouldn't kill anyone, either.

  3. I am going to post this on my door. I realized this term that crying students no longer move me to more than annoyance.

  4. Belle reminds me to restock my tissue box. It's out and while we're into exam time, that doesn't mean the end of crying students.

    I'd also add "Don't come in without an up-to-date version of your transcript that you've studied enough to know what you have and haven't done." I'm tired of students who come in and have no idea what course subjects they've taken, what their academic standing is (vital if they wish to apply to certain enrolment-limited programs) or even if they are in a given program.

    Yes, we can call this information up on the computer if the system isn't down, but it makes a student look even less impressive when they're so clueless about what they've done, let alone what they plan to do next.

  5. a lot of this is just basic living skills. hygiene: it's good. introduce yourself; the world does not totally revolve around you, and even someone you've met somewhere might not be able to place you. be prepared, especially when you are taking someone's time. be polite. and etc.

  6. I'd add that I'm not Susan to you.At least not yet.

  7. *Yes* on the introduce yourself. Your professor has been doing this for a very long time. Even if she happens to have met you, in some class or hallway, seven semesters ago, she will not necessarily remember you right off.

    And *clearly* if she has never met you she will not know who you are just because someone sent her an email about you three days ago. Yes, you are Mama's Precious Button. You are, nevertheless, someone the professor could not pick out of a line-up. Give your name and purpose for appearing at her doorway in your first two sentences, please?