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I Interviewed My Profs About What Pisses Them Off, So You Don’t Have To

Written by Kylie-Anne Grube
what pisses off professors?

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016 so while it doesn’t account for what pisses of professors via Zoom, it’s still a very good resource for staying in the good graces of the person ultimately responsible for your fate in class.

Sometimes you have to go straight to the source.

A professor of mine once said, “I don’t care about your grade; it is profoundly unimportant in the eye of eternity.” Of course, professors want you to achieve “the grade,” but more importantly than a numeric denotation is your growth in both an educational and personal sense.

While some of us may shy away from our professors, or feel intimidated by them, in fact, they are the absolute best resource you could possibly seek out. More importantly, they WANT you to succeed. So, in saying this, let’s hear what they have to say about your education. What drives them nuts? What is detrimental to your success?

I interviewed some of my favourite professors to find out.

Caution: The Following Actions May Piss Off Your Professor

Here is a general rule of thumb: Don’t annoy the shit out of your professor.

But, in all seriousness, let’s take a moment to acknowledge some pet peeves that not only test your professor’s patience but are also detrimental to your success.


Let’s break it down: Net – Etiquette. This pet peeve refers to your online communication with your professors.

According to Dr. Laurie Kruk, English professor at Nipissing University, “Shooting us an email reading, ‘Hey prof’, and treating us like pals in a bar is not the way to get that extension on a paper.”

Fair. I tend to agree. Professors’ inboxes are flooded with hundreds of student emails; if you really want their help, Dr. Kruk advised, “Be persuasive; speak their language.” More importantly, show them the respect they deserve.

Put the Phone Away… Chill, You’re Not that Popular

Let’s be real for a moment: Professors know the tricks of the trade. They can see the glow on your face from under the desk. They know it’s not a book you’re reading secretly behind your bag. And they certainly hope you’re not smiling at your crotch.

Professor of English, Dr. Cameron McFarlane of Nipissing University shared this helpful little tidbit on his syllabus to students: “Know thyself: if you are easily distracted, do not bring a toy that will distract you all the way through class.”

Professors are not fond of students utilizing their laptops or cell phones during class time for non-educational purposes. “First of all, it’s bad for the student in terms of their ability to focus and engage in a lecture.” Secondly, according to Dr. McFarlane, “there is a generational divide between students and professors. While students may not think of the use of technology is an issue, we perceive it as rude and distracting.”

Listen Up: The Following Tips Will Lead to Success

Alright, but how can students achieve success? Here are what professors have to say.

“Read, Read, Read! Write, Write, Write!”

When I asked my philosophy professor, Dr. Donna Jowett, how students can get the most out of their education, she had a simple response: “Read, read, read. Write, write, write.”

You will never learn anything by sitting passively in class. Perhaps you have crafted the perfect technique to pass your classes without even buying the textbooks, but there comes a time to decide whether you are at school for a piece of paper, or an education. To gain value from your education, you need to learn how to think. Read everything and anything you can get your hands on and write about it: Make sense of it on the page, find deeper meanings, make connections, and find broader implications.

Dr. McFarlane echoes this sentiment: “Classes can become surprisingly interesting if you have read the work under discussion in advance and thought about it before you come. By “thought about it,” I don’t mean “Googled it,” but actually thought about it! With your own brain!”

So here are the three magic words: Read. Write. Think.

Immerse Yourself in the World

Dr. Kruk advises students to “Be engaged, not only within the class, but be aware of what’s happening in the world. Keep up with culture in a larger sense.”

“Sometimes students view their degree as a means to an end.” But, as she shares, engagement with material both in and out of the classroom is what leads to growth, both personally and academically. Don’t isolate and compartmentalize everything you learn. Take what you learn in class and apply it to the outside world. Take the outside world and apply it to what you learn in school. Making connections is integral to your success.

Push Yourself: Because No One is Going to Do it for You

When I asked Dr. Kruk how students can succeed in post-secondary, she stated: “If you want to succeed in your major, you have to want to do it.” Successful students have a passion for what they do. They strive for more knowledge, and extended their learning beyond the parameters of each class. If you’re not connecting with your major, it’s never too late to change your direction.

However, in the end, it all narrows down to one thing: Curiosity. “If you’re curious, you will do the readings, you will show up to class, you will do the assignments. It’s as simple as that.”

Dr. McFarlane stated tasks such as reading, attendance, or attentiveness, which contribute to student success, but essentially it all stems from curiosity and a desire to learn. “Be curious, actually, genuinely curious and everything else will follow. Success will come from realizing that I, Dr. ‘Whoever’, am in fact the tiniest part of your education. Only you can make it happen.”

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