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Term of address

I ask my students to refer to me as Professor Roberts. It's a position I decided to take when I first started teaching, and despite how I don't feel totally comfortable and confident doing it, it's one that I have stuck to.

I guess I'm not a hundred percent sure it's the right thing to do. After all, I'm only an adjunct professor, not a full one, so it may be claiming a title I don't really deserve. Also, insistence on titles (particularly ones you only have marginal claim to) tends to be a sign of being a self-aggrandizing asshole. I worry I'm coming off wrong in both of those respects, and as such I have a hard time being a stickler for it when they call me "Miss Roberts" or "Miss" or even by just my first name.

But the reason I do it is on a particular principle. People are less likely to respect the authority of women as professors and, whether consciously or unconsciously, are more likely to fail to use their proper titles when they are absolutely warranted-- like when they are indisputable, FULL professors. So I decided that in an effort to combat that, I would have them call me Professor Roberts just to get them in the habit of addressing their female college instructors that way-- even when they're young, or perhaps not what they expect a professor to be like, like me. I also think it helps shore up my personal authority, which I worry that my relative youth and inexperience undermines, but mostly because I want to contribute to that overall sense of how women professors deserve the same respect.

Posts from This Journal by “feminism” Tag


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 20th, 2016 07:51 pm (UTC)
That's really interesting. When I was an undergrad at Wellesley the computer science department took the opposite approach (everyone, including 60-year-old full professors of both genders, asked their students to address them by first name only). It was fairly unique. This was a situation where all of the students were female (and quite shy/insecure), and half of the faculty was male; so the informality helped us speak up.

The humanities departments, of course, were much more formal. Young female teachers were always addressed as "Professor such-and-such" (even though many of them were visiting lecturers and quite young). It didn't seem self-aggrandizing at all.

Undergrads don't keep track of whether or not their teachers have tenure. I would totally expect anyone teaching English at the college level to go by "Professor such-and-such"; English is a formal field. There's no reason for your students to address you less formally than anyone else in the department.
Dec. 20th, 2016 08:07 pm (UTC)
I mean, I think it's plenty okay to claim "professor" if you're teaching college classes. Doctor implies a certain level of schooling, but I think professor is totally appropriate, regardless of tenure or anything like that.

More importantly, there's a definite weirdness to teaching people who aren't *that* much younger than you are ((I feel much more comfortable with first graders, in some ways, than with high schoolers)) and finding whatever formality lines feel good to you is a good idea.

Dec. 21st, 2016 02:43 am (UTC)
In grad school, I tried to get students to call me by my first name. Professor drove me up a wall.

When I was postdocing, I signed emails by my full name, and was fairly indifferent to first name vs. doctor. I don't remember if students used the title professor with me, and if they did, how I reacted. I did still feel the "I'm not really a professor" weirdness. Mr. was just... no. Just no. If you want to be formal, I have a fucking degree and my teaching position depends on that degree; fucking use it.

One possible difference between math (and other STEM subjects) and the humanities is other ways of indicating authority. When I'm teaching you number theory, or calculus, or whatever, I know this shit and you don't, at least not at the beginning of the course. The students know this; they see me know this stuff cold that they're struggling with. Of course, you know writing cold too and the students are struggling with it, but in the humanities it's easier for students to bullshit and think that they've fooled you. Of course they haven't fooled you, but they behave as confidently as if they did.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

About Me

My name is Phoebe. I'm Boston area theater professional and English professor focused in writing, acting, directing, and modeling. I'm known for having lots of interests, lots of opinions about those interests, and a very high estimation of the value thereof. This blog is for talking about whatever's on my mind, from my daily life to my activities to musing on any number of abstract topics. Thanks for taking the time to read.

My productions:

Upcoming Productions:

MRS. HAWKING part 2 and 3

at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016

presented by The Chameleon's Dish

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts

at 2PM


Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts

at 6PM

Saturday, May 13th 2017
at 274 Moody Street, Waltham, MA

Other Achievements:

"The Tailor at Loring's End" screenplay
Quarter Finalist in the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition 2013

"Adonis" screenplay
Top Ten Percent in the Bluecat Screenwriting Contest 2015

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