(Orientation) Professors share keys to respect in the classroom

Jenna Kuczkowski

Just like you, professors have to make it to that same 7:45 a.m. lecture each morning for class. They have to grade every assignment you work to finish.

Oh, and did I mention they were all students at one point too? Teachers understand what it’s like to be a student, but that doesn’t mean you should disrespect them while taking their class.

David Riccio, a psychology professor who has been teaching at Kent State for more than 50 years and is the university’s longest teaching professor, said one of his and many other faculty member’s biggest irritants is being called by their first name.

“It’s something most would never do with their physician or dentist or their high school teachers,” Riccio said. “As with those professionals, most faculty have spent four to six years after four years of college to earn their Ph.D and maybe more years in postdoctoral training. So they too deserve that small sign of respect.”

This includes times when you’re addressing your professor in an email, according to Matthew Lehnert, a biology assistant professor at Kent State.

“Your professor is not your friend nor your texting buddy. Start emails with ‘Hi Dr. “fill in the last name here”’ and end the email by stating thank you and then signing your name,” Lehnert said. “I hate receiving emails from students that simply state ‘what did I miss in class today?’ That is unacceptable.”

Speaking of missing class, another common pet peeve of faculty according to Lisa Waite, a communications senior lecturer at Kent State, is when students ask the professor if they missed anything in their absence.

“If you miss a class, don’t ask your professor, ‘Did I miss anything important?’ I’m likely to reply, ‘Of course not. Since you weren’t here, we just sat for 75 minutes and twiddled our thumbs.’ Of course you missed important material—every day is important,” Waite said. “Ask a classmate for notes that you missed and catch up post-haste.”

While in class though, remember to be respectful and give your professor your undivided attention.

Riccio said cell phones and other distractions take away from the learning process and also disrespect faculty who are lecturing.

“Do not use your phone in class,” Lehnert said. “Turn it off before class unless you are expecting an emergency phone call. Don’t just put it on silent … turn it off.”

Waite said that while she enjoys using technology and social media as much as her students, she also asks them to imagine trying to teach while students are on their laptops and phones, surfing the web and not paying attention.

“I try to help students understand that these policies echo the work environment they will assume after graduation,” Waite said. “Employers won’t tolerate you using social media on their time, nor do your professors, so check social messages before and after class.”  

Waite said she suggests and encourages participation in class.

“Don’t just show up and keep a seat warm. Get involved in discussion and don’t be afraid of being wrong,” Waite said. “If you had all of the answers, you wouldn’t need to be here.”

In order to be successful in class, always remember to be on time. Showing up consistently late or leaving early is not only disrespectful, but Riccio said it also cause a disruption.

Another tip from faculty is to always ask questions in class because not only will it make sure you comprehend the material, it will also allow you to establish a good relationship with your professor, according to Lehnert.

“Professors can open new doors for students,” Lehnert said. “It’s always a good idea to establish a good relationship with a professor and ask them how you can better achieve your career goals, whatever those might be.”

Most importantly, though, Waite said students should enjoy the journey through college.

“This is likely the only time in your life devoted fully to learning. Be a sponge, be curious,” Waite said. “It’s fine that you don’t know what you want to ‘be’ … talk to your professors about professions associated with different disciplines. We’re always here to help.”