Last week I offered some hints about how to make a positive impression on your college professors and why that's a good thing to do. I promised to get back to you with ways that students act that make a "bad" impression. The reason you want to know this is that a bad impression can affect how a professor perceives you and that impression might get passed along to other professors. Obviously, it can also affect your grade.
To get the real skinny on what drives professors crazy, I interviewed four faculty members: two former professors who taught at Stanford and the University of Michigan respectively and two professors who now teach at the University of California, San Diego. I asked them to give me examples of what types of student behaviors annoy them. Here is what they said:
Some surefire ways of annoying faculty members:
1. Not having read the assigned reading before class and not being able to offer an answer when called upon. No explanation needed: not being prepared is a bad move!
2. After class, going up to the professor and asking, "What do I need to know to get an A on this test (or this course)?" This really drives teachers crazy because grades are not supposed to be the sole object of your taking a course.
3. In the middle of a lecture, raising your hand and asking, "Is this going to be on the test?" Don't do that! Professors want you to distinguish the important from the unimportant on your own.
4. While a professor is lecturing, chitchatting with a classmate, playing video games on your laptop, cell phone or iPad or even worse, getting a phone call. Nothing drives professors crazier. Turn your mouth and gadgets off.
5. Sucking up (or kissing up) to a professor, i.e, demonstrating a willingness to say or do anything in order to gain favor from him or her. Example given: assuring a teacher that you share the same political views or taste in music.
6. After doing poorly on a test (receiving a D or an F grade) pleading with the professor to change your grade to at least a B so "you can get into law school, b-school, med school or grad school, etc." Instead, approach a professor about what you can do differently to be more successful in class for the future.
7. Making an appointment with a professor, then not showing up, and not even explaining or apologizing for missing it. This begs the question: why would you want to make a bad impression on anybody, let alone a professor?
8. Not addressing the essay topic that has been assigned, or not abiding by the suggested word count for a paper. Even more annoying is turning in sloppy papers filled with misspellings, bad punctuation, and poor grammar. Do this and forget about getting a good grade or a future recommendation.
9. Outright plagiarizing an author in a paper you write (especially if that author is your professor!). A really BAD, BAD, BAD move. You could get thrown out of college for this.
10. Coming to office hours with sunglasses on, chewing gum, and wearing a cap. One professor said, "If a student covers his/her face, they are usually trying to hide something or have something on their mind that is not good."
Those are the top 10 annoyances, but guess what? I just heard from another professor who came up with five very different annoying behaviors.
• Asking a question not related to the lecture, just to hear yourself talk.
• Being inappropriately confrontational, i.e., saying such things as "You're an idiot," or "You don't know what you're talking about."
• Being flirtatious, overtly sexual, or blatantly seductive, whether a male or female.
• Lying about why something is being turned in late.
• Deliberately humiliating a fellow student during a class discussion.
Let me know if you have any others to add to this list.