November 28, 2021
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Dear Freshmen (and anyone else who might need this reminder),

Do you know when someone in a movie or a TV show says something they shouldn’t, and you feel a sense of secondhand embarrassment? And do you know how that feeling worsens when it happens to you in real life?

Well, take it from a senior: those moments are way worse when they occur between you and a professor.

And while there’s no way to effectively eliminate these embarrassing moments, there are a few things you should avoid saying to professors that can help:

8.) “May I go to the bathroom?”

I mean, professors understand why you might feel inclined to ask. In high school, you probably had to ask for permission to leave the classroom. But in college, unless the syllabus (see #6) explicitly states that you cannot leave to go the bathroom, feel free. No need to interrupt the professor. Just be prepared to catch up on your notes when you return.

7.) “I don’t want to buy the book.”

You must not want to pass the class either.

If you want, try splitting the cost with another student (if possible) or borrowing/renting the book from someone who’s taken the class. But if the syllabus says that there is a required text, that means that you have to have access to it in order to be successful in that class. Which brings us to #6…

6.) “I didn’t read the syllabus.”

Read the syllabus. Just do it. It’s the easiest text you’ll read for any class.

5.) “I’m only taking this course because it’s required for my major/concentration/non-Western/etc.”

Yes, we all have classes like that. What’s your point? And why would you tell the person who controls your grade that you don’t really care about what they’re teaching?

4.) “I was hoping class would be cancelled.”

This is a universal hope among college students, especially with classes at the beginning or the end of the day. When we see the piece of paper taped to the door of our classroom, we typically hope that it will notify us of a surprise cancellation. No matter how much we might love a class or a professor, we’re always happy to get a break. Still, if your professor has prepared a lesson for your class, don’t complain about not wanting to show up.

3.) “Mr./Mrs. ______ …”

There are some exceptions to this rule. Some professors are okay with being called Mr./Mrs./Miss whatever-their-last-name-is. Some will even let you call them by their first name. But for most professors, their preferred title is either “Dr.” or “Professor” and it would be in your best interest to refer to them as such.

2.) “You’re wrong.”

Of course, professors make mistakes. And sometimes, they have opinions that differ from your own.

But sometimes professors provide facts that challenge your current understanding of the world. It will happen. It will happen more than once. You are here to learn, after all. And considering the fact that your professors are experts in their fields, it’s safe to assume that every professor here knows a lot more than you do.

1.) “I was absent. Did I miss anything important?”

The answer is always yes. You missed something important. That’s why your professor decided to teach that day. So just sidestep that pitfall and ask what you missed. Or better yet, borrow notes from a friend who was there. It shows initiative.

This definitely isn’t a comprehensive list, but this is a pretty good place to start. If you keep these things in mind, I’m sure your professors will thank you. And around midterms and finals, you might just thank me, too.

Signed,

Michael Jones, Class of 2017

[This article was considered for the Fall 2016 Print Edition of the Catawba Pioneer.]

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