For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Feb 20 2016
by Samantha Moody

A Guide to Staying on Your Professor's Good Side

By Samantha Moody - Feb 20 2016

Everyone knows that being on a professor's good side makes life a million times easier. It's always widely discussed how to make your professors like you, but how does one manage to remain on their good side? Even the brightest and most eager students and seem annoying if they do the wrong things in class. I asked 5 professors to name some of their "student pet peeves" and here's what they told me:

1. "When a student has the interest and the intelligence to do well in class but simply fails to follow through on their assignments and ends up flunking out."

This is pretty self explanatory. Professors genuinely want you to succeed in their classes! Nothing is more disappointing to a professor than a student who clearly has potential not caring enough about their grades to do their assignments. 

2. "Don’t ask for a lot of feedback via email right before a paper is due."

This is frustrating for professors because it becomes painfully obvious to professors that you waited until the last minute to get started on an essay. In most cases they won't have the time to drop everything and help you write the perfect paper if they decide to help you at all. Any issues you have writing an essay or really doing any assignment can usually be addressed with a quick visit to office hours instead.

3. "Grade-grubbing."

Grade grubbing is when a student attempts to negotiate or save their grade right before the end of the class, Not only does this rarely work, but many professors find it to be insulting that you only care about doing well in a class right before final grades are posted. 

4. "Not regularly attending lecture."

This was shared by a professor who regularly podcasts his lectures. While they are intended for studying purposes, they realize that many students take advantage on this and skip most, if not all, lectures. This professor has noticed that those who attend lecture and discussion regularly typically tend to be more successful than those who just listen to the podcast.

5. "Students who are constantly using their electronics."

Most professors are okay with you taking notes on a laptop, but they are aware that this isn't always what occurs on screen. Professors are usually able to tell when you're scrolling through Facebook instead of paying attention to their lecture. While they don't really care so much that you're choosing to jeopardize your own education by not paying attention, they hate the fact that it's distracting to the people around you when you're looking up cute kitten compilations. 

6. "Asking to add a class in the 4th or 5th week."

While professors understand that things don't always work out and rosters tend to change during the first couple weeks of class, they hate it when students try to transfer into a class 4 or 5 weeks in. This is especially annoying when universities are on the 10 week quarter system. Professors usually want to help you and would be more than happy to have you in their class, but they know that despite your promises to catch up on readings and make up past quizzes there is no way you will be able to catch up and understand materials well enough to succeed. 

7. "Coming to office hours right before class and expect me to do their homework for them without having looked at it."

As mentioned multiple times already, professors are more than happy to help you succeed in any way possible, but this does not include doing your assignments for you. This isn't to say that professors are opposed to students asking for homework help at office hours, they just typically want to see you put in effort first.

8. "Unreadable handwriting."

Not only does illegible handwriting make it a million times more difficult to grade, it usually leads to the paper's owner missing points they otherwise would've gotten. Professors can't grade what they can't read, so even if you wrote down the cure for cancer on your chemistry exam professors can't give you credit if they can't make it out. 

9. "Not using their actual name on assignments."

Professors find it irritating when students choose to write their nicknames on their assignments. It makes it much more difficult to give students the grades they deserve when the name on the paper doesn't match any names on the roster. 

10. Taking exams or quizzes even though they aren’t enrolled in the class

Personally, I didn't know this was a thing professors even had to deal with. Nevertheless, a professor told me that almost every quarter they are baffled by extra exams turning up taken by individuals who never actually enrolled in the class. While these students may just really enjoy the subject or are trying to test their knowledge, this is frustrating for professors and TAs who end up grading more tests than they really needed to. 

While these professors were able to provide a list of students' habits that get on their nerves, I found that many were actually reluctant to do so. As one of my English professors expressed when I asked for a list of their student pet peeves, “Since peevishness is not a good recipe for happiness or success, I try not to indulge in it too often.” Instead, many professors were actually more eager to express the things they love to see in their students. If you really want to impress your professors here are a few tips:

1. "Be 'present' in class."

It's one thing to show up to class, and another to actually become engaged in the conversation or lecture. Of course the easiest way to show your "presentness" is to contribute to discussion. But professors still acknowledge students who tend to be a little more shy too! Even if you don't like raising your hand or sitting in the front of the room, professors can still tell when someone is being attentive to the class by their body language. Whether it's taking detailed notes, nodding in agreement, or making a puzzled face at something that you don't understand, professors pick up on your body language and appreciate when students give their undivided attention to the subject being discussed!

2. "Exhibit curiosity!"

Professors love answering questions, even ones that seem a bit off the wall. While it's important to remain focused on the lecture topic in class, professors genuinely enjoy answering any questions you may have regarding their field either after class or during office hours.

3. "Actually looking at the sky."

This response was given by an astronomy teacher, but the main takeaway is that professors love seeing their students applying what they've learned in class to the real world. This astronomy professor is always delighted to hear about what their students noticed when they looked at the sky!

4. "Students discovering their real avocation."

Professors love seeing their students thrive after taking their classes. Oftentimes they are more than happy to write letters of recommendation for past students, especially when they see that you're applying what you've already learned to a career you love. 

5. "Getting back to me with questions much later, indicating that they found/remembered something interesting from the class!"

Again, professors take great interest in answering your questions! Even if you have questions regarding something that was mentioned the second day of class, professors teach what they love and really enjoy getting to share their knowledge with eager students.

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Samantha Moody - University of California, Davis

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