We all have different quirks that define the way we look at the world. For example, if you hate extremely loud noises, then you’re probably not going to be the type of person to get front row tickets at a rock concert. Or, if you’re the type of person that loves to read books, you’ll probably put more value in reading your NOOK at Barnes & Noble versus spending the night out partying with your friends at the local bar.
Well, when I’m teaching in the classroom (including in the digital classroom) I have certain quirks. I don’t like students who are in school for free on athletic scholarships and then choose to fall asleep in class. That happened once in my class and it burned me up to the point where I reported it to the kid’s coaches. He stayed awake and did very well in the class from that point forward. Also, I don’t like when I see a kid who is obviously coming from a life of privilege (believe it or not, most of my Freshman students would actually tell me that they came from wealth – very odd) wasting their time in class by slacking off or clacking away on their Droids or iPhones. These kids made me want to ask them why they’re wasting their parents’ money, but I don’t cross those bounds (yet!).
The purpose of this entry is to talk about one of my biggest quirks when it comes to dealing with my students: when they can’t spell my last name. This actually happens more than 50% of the time. That’s right – my students misspell my last name more than half of the time that they reach out to me for assistance…
How can students possibly misspell my last name?! Honestly? My last name is slapped on the syllabus for the course, it’s in my e-mail signature, it’s all over the course content – and yet there are still students who can’t manage to spell my last name correctly? Really? What?!
The paragraph above is how I feel every time I see my last name butchered by a student.
I think what really irks me is that while my name is a good, strong Italian name, it’s still printed on nearly every document that I hand out when I teach a course. In fact, it’s in the damn e-mail address that the college gives me to interact with the students! And if a simple-minded student can’t figure out that the e-mail address is my name, I have a standardized signature at the end of each message which gives my full name. That’s what irks me – the fact that the correct spelling of my last name is readily available to anyone who spends more than 5 seconds trying to find it.
When I have a student in class that can’t spend the extra 5 seconds to find the correct spelling of my name before they send me an e-mail or put it on one of their papers, then I know that I’m dealing with a simple-minded person. And this isn’t a statement of arrogance. Not at all. Actually, this is something that I began testing 5 years ago when I started doing this little teaching gig on the side. Whenever I had a student in class who continually butchers my name over and over again, I begin to take a closer look at their actions in class. Many of them don’t take notes or they choose to play on their phones during the lectures; many of them have poor attendance records.
If you’re reading this and you teach young adults or professional adults, then I’d be interested in your thoughts on this issue. I think this is about as direct a condemnation of the level of college-preparedness that we have in our public school system as I can provide.
We need to better prepare our high school students for college. And if they’re not ready for college-level study, then we need to stop encouraging them to attend college. We should NOT be encouraging these kids to take out a mountain of debt so they an live up to a now-archaic ideal that simply is not for everyone.
Anyway, if you’re a student and you’re reading this – spell your professor’s name correctly. While they probably won’t mention it if you spell their name incorrectly, believe me when I say that this sets off red lights in the professor’s head and makes them take a closer look at you as a student (both your in-class actions and your submissions). And for crying out loud – your professor’s last name is on the syllabus! Take the 5 seconds to find out the proper spelling!