Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Was I ever this clueless?

I am the advisor for majors joining our department for the first time as part of my departmental service. I will follow this group for the next 3 years. These are college sophomores, supposedly "digital natives", and a TON of work to deal with.

I am setting up some ground rules given that I will be working with these students for 3 years (and yes, these are responses to things people have already tried since August):

1. Never, ever call me at home or on my cellphone, even if you somehow figure out the numbers.
2. No drop ins. Appointments MUST be scheduled in advance.
3. No phone calls. Email only for questions.
4. Email is greatly preferred to face to face appointments, but appointments will be granted upon request.
5. I will not talk to your parents unless you are having an extreme medical emergency.

So far, the rules are working pretty well. Most of my questions are of the hand holding sort (i.e. Am I taking the right classes? What classes are required for X?) Even after all of the ink spilled on how much better these "digital natives" are at electronic communications, many students still can't find the departmental website. Most of my student advisees are fairly independent, but at least 25% were unable to find the "Typical schedules", "Program requirements", and "Course listings" found right there on our Information for Majors page (linked from the home page). Some of it is certainly scars from helicopter parenting, and some of it is laziness. But the number of people who tell me "Thanks for the link--I didn't see it!" is shocking.

I am also very, very surprised by how the students address me. I expected all the "Miss Academic" after teaching last year (although it really pisses me off). I even expected some "Hey Prof!". I didn't expect undergrads to address me by my first name, nor did I expect then to give me an unsolicited nickname. As part of my advising duties, I am gently informing them of our university norm (which is to call professors Dr. Academic or Prof. Academic unless invited to use something else).

Although it is fun to help the clueful students figure out their science electives, and interesting to see how our major works, it is killing me to have to do all this extra work right when classes start and before the fall proposal deadlines!


Dr.Girlfriend said...

I was a 25 yr freshman so I hope I was not that clueless. However, for my second year I was undergraduate exchange student for in the US and I just kind of expected higher education to work to pretty much work the same - duh! The first semester I enrolled on 6 upper level biology courses and had no clue that homework and quizzes counted towards a final grade. If I had not been so obsessive about my studies I would have been in BIG trouble. As it was I could have really done with an advisor and sought out one for the second semester.

I had to look up the term "digital native" and google tells me it is someone born after the implementation of digital technology - internet, cell phones, etc.,

I guess that makes digital immigrant :)

Anonymous said...

Since it seems like you have a lot of questions that are the same, maybe email templates for those questions would help? Maybe send out an auto-reply to those students who email you giving them links to certain things until you have a chance to personally (maybe never if you're lucky) answer their question?

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Short answer: no.

Are they at least making up GOOD nicknames for you?

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how few people can use websites - including these digital natives. It could point to poor website design, but more likely laziness/never having had to do it before. I'm certainly glad that my parents weren't helicopter parents. With respect to digital natives - I'm supposedly one (I'm 22) yet I struggle to keep up with the progress of technology and from experience many of my peers are equally so, if not worse with technology. It's somewhat of a myth!

With respect to speaking to academics - at my undergraduate institute and amongst my peers it was certainly the case of calling someone Dr. X or Prof. X until they explicitly told you to use their first name. After that I wouldn't hesitate to use it - to use it straight away shows a lack of respect which could also be a consequence of being mummy and daddy's little angel who gets everything. Using a nickname they've come up with is just rude, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Last year, an undergrad from another department, who I had never met before, and who was coming to ask for advice addressed me by my first name right away. I was so shocked I did not even know how to react without sounding like a a$$, so I let it go.
But what is a good way of correcting these students when they use your first name? I just don't know how to tell them. Maybe it's because I am still not used to calling myself Dr or Prof that I can't bring myself to tell people to do so?
Any advice?

Dr.Girlfriend said...

"But what is a good way of correcting these students when they use your first name?"

Personally I prefer my first name and invite everyone to use it. However, some students might need the general etiquette spelled out to them - i.e formal until invited otherwise. Even then the formal should be maintained in indirect references. For instance I call my PI by his first name, but when speaking to students I will refer to him as professor. Just hearing professors refer to each other formally should be enough of a hint, but often it is not.

Sometimes a person needs to be pulled aside to have the etiquette gently explained to them before they call the wrong person by an unsolicited nickname!

Arlenna said...

I get the firstname thing too, and the "Miss Arlenna" thing. Funny how they never, ever call the older, male prof I teach with by his first name or by "Mr. X"

prodigal academic said...

@anon 2:51
THanks for the tip--I set up autoreplies today!

@unbalanced reaction
A student addressed me with the equivalent of "Hi Prod!". I was shocked. I would never shorten anyone's name without permission. It is flat out rude in any setting.

@Anon 6:44
It is much easier to address via email than in person (I find) because some people are very embarrassed to be corrected like this. I started telling my students on the first day of class that I prefer to be addressed as Dr. Academic or Prof. Academic, because I found that some students are not sure what to use, and appreciate the direct approach. You can always use something like "Please call me Dr. Anon. Thanks!"

@Dr. G
I have been trying gentle correction, because some students are socially awkward and/or from very different cultures and I don't want them to embarrass themselves with the wrong person. It does get wearying, though.

Yeah, the Miss thing really annoys me. Last year I got a few emails addressed to Miss Academic and Dr. MaleColleague so we both could actually SEE the sexism at work (though I an not sure if Dr. MaleColleague noticed).