Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First-day oddities

Some things just don't compute:
  • Of the 10 women in my 9:00 class, 7 have names beginning with C or K, including three Chelseas. What are the odds?
  • To help me get to know my new students, I ask them to respond to questions related to the course material when I call roll in the first week or two of class. Yesterday's questions were "Who's your favorite African-American author?" and "What's the funniest thing you read or saw over the summer?" The most common answer, provided by more than half of the students in each class, was "I don't know" or "I can't think of anything."
  • Who is teaching students that addressing a professor as "Miss [First Name]" is a great idea? I'd like to get hold of that person for a good talking-to. This is not kindergarten, and I am not Miss Beverly.
  • It's always interesting to give students a writing prompt on the first day of class and see how they interpret the word "essay." Of the alleged essays I received yesterday, only a handful have a thesis statement or extend beyond a single paragraph. The good news is that most of them include some really interesting ideas.
Looks like I've got my work cut out for me! Time to tackle Day Two: all freshpersons, all the time. Wish me luck!


Contingent Cassandra said...

The colleague who follows me in a classroom (who is, to be fair, the parent of a toddler in preschool) addressed me as "Miss Cassandra" yesterday, just after I'd referred to him as "Prof. [lastname]," though the exchange was quick enough that one could argue that neither choice had time to be influenced by the other. The colleague, as you'll gather from the pronoun, is male; it may also be relevant that he has an MFA, and I have a Ph.D. (both terminal degrees allowing for the use of the title "professor" in our department). He's also a very nice guy with a wife as accomplished as he is, and I don't suspect any underlying individual sexism in his choice of address, though I, too, dislike it (more than being simply referred to by my first name, an option which I give my students, though I notice I don't really like it when they use it, so I may scale back to a choice between "professor" or "doctor" plus last name).

I, too, have had more students use the "Miss [firstname]" form of address in the last few semesters,too, so, yes, I think it's a trend. And I don't like it, and especially don't like the possibly-underlying gender dynamics of it. What's the male equivalent, anyway?

Anonymous said...

Alexander Dumas junior, though I confess not knowing he was black until recently. But he wasn't African American, so does that still count? That's a fun question... I think we'll do a blog post on it. Thanks!

Haven't gotten Miss Firstname yet, but there's been a pretty big uptick in Mrs. Lastname... so much so that our uni has started including it on their climate survey.