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Old May 9 2013, 09:37 PM   #76
Gryffindorian
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
Pavonis wrote: View Post
RoJoHen wrote: View Post
And this is the part that I just don't get. "Levels of familiarity."

I have a name. Whether I'm your spouse, your best friend, your boss, your professor, your neighbor, or a complete stranger, I still have the same name. Respect is not determined by what you call me; it's determined by how you treat me.

I could be the ultimate Supreme King of the Universe, and I'd still just want my subjects to call me by my first name.
Well, that's nice for you, but is it realistic? Spouses, friends, neighbors aren't under your authority. Even if you deigned to allow your subjects or students call you by your first name, you're still in a position of authority over them. Pretending that you're all friends by calling each other by your first names will make asserting authority more difficult when it is time to do so. At least, that's my thinking.
Underlined for emphasis...

This is the part I have a problem with. Just because we use first names doesn't mean we're friends. I'm not pretending anything. I can be your boss or teacher or authority figure without needing to be addressed by title. I don't think your authority is diminished by allowing students to call you by your first name.

You will have inherent authority just by standing up in front of the classroom. The students know you're their teacher, regardless of what they call you.

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't use a title. I just think you're completely overestimating your title's importance with regard to social interaction. You're a human being; what do you want to be called?
QFT

I call our finance director Eric as he prefers to be called, and our general manager is addressed as Alex. It doesn't matter if I'm an accountant or a janitor. Nobody's going to get penalized for saying "Mr. Johnson"or "Ms. Riley," but it's not required of us. That's how casual it is in my workplace, and I'm sure that's the culture in other companies.

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
Pavonis wrote: View Post
Gryffindorian wrote: View Post
While I can understand that you prefer to be addressed as Professor or Dr., I think you're placing way too much emphasis on authority and title here. I mean I can understand certain individuals being addressed as Reverend Jackson, Pope Francis, Mr. President, or Your Majesty. Calling prestige to oneself by insisting on formal titles can seem pretentious and self-important.
Perhaps I am. We'll see what happens when I start teaching.

And yet, "pretentious" has been used repeatedly in the thread to describe the use of titles, but pretentious means "attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed", and that is not what I'm doing. I actually do possess more importance and talent than the students I'm teaching. That's why I'm the teacher.

If one student doesn't show up for the class, I'll still hold a lecture for the rest of them. If I don't show up for class, though, there is no lecture. My absence counts for more than any one student's absence. They'd all have to skip class for it to have the same impact as my absence.

I understand physics; the students do not. That's why they're taking the class from me and not the other way around. Therefore I'm pretty important, as far the students are concerned. So I don't think pretentious is quite the right word.
To be honest, it sounds like you would be happier as a school teacher than an academic, your passive aggressive commentary here sounds like you need a level of structure and control that is beyond any university I have worked in - I also like the implied claim that you know everything and your students know nothing - wish I could say the same.
Pavonis, I obviously picked the wrong word. I didn't mean "pretentious." I meant overbearing. Pompous. Vain. Grandiose. Ostentatious. But, whatever floats your boat, Dr. P.
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Last edited by Gryffindorian; May 9 2013 at 10:02 PM.
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Old May 9 2013, 09:38 PM   #77
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Unfortunately, university professors are not taught to teach. As grad students, we have to teach, but learn how on the fly. When research is the primary responsibility, teaching is a side activity.

Fortunately, my interview included a demo lecture, and I'm told the students liked my approach to the material and the numerous examples and concept reinforcements I included in the lecture. So that gives me some confidence that I won't be a terrible professor.
Well, Pavonis, it's a shame those professors were never grad students themselves. They'd be ideal teachers today, like yourself.
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Old May 9 2013, 10:10 PM   #78
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
And this is the part that I just don't get. "Levels of familiarity."

I have a name. Whether I'm your spouse, your best friend, your boss, your professor, your neighbor, or a complete stranger, I still have the same name. Respect is not determined by what you call me; it's determined by how you treat me.

I could be the ultimate Supreme King of the Universe, and I'd still just want my subjects to call me by my first name.
Part of this is generational. I know you are around the same age as me RoJoHen, and our age group tends to be very informal and egalitarian. We don't really "believe" in hierarchies and formalities. Not to say that we're all disrespectful, we just show respect in other ways and based on other factors rather than a position or title.


RoJoHen wrote: View Post
Yes, obviously the professor is a very important part of taking a class. But what does this have to do with their title? You could insist that your students call you Senorita Buttface; you're still the one in charge of their grades.
This is a very good point. The students will know you are the professor. They will inherantly understand that you are in a position of authority. You don't need to "assert" it by trying to create a distance between you through titles. That distance already exists the minute you walk to the front of the classroom. Now, there are things you can do to degrade that level of respect over time, but that has little to do with what the students call you.

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Well, we'll see what unfolds. I am an academic. I've spent most of my career at a lab bench, doing research with only a bit of teaching on the side. We'll see how my first semester of intensive teaching (with research on the side) goes.

When it comes to teaching at a university level, don't students want confident professors who know the subject well rather than grad student TAs who were just recently students in the same course themselves? Should I pretend to be insecure to put the students at ease? I do know more about physics then they do. It's not an insult to them, it's just a fact. Teaching isn't about me bragging how much I know about, it's about passing my understanding on to them. If I didn't know the subject, why would I be teaching it? And if the students knew the subject as well as I do, why would they be taking the class?
Of course students want professors with experience and authority on the subject matter, but at the same time they want a professor that can speak to their level, that is personable, human, and understanding of the difficult situations that many students may be in. They want a professor who clearly has a passion for their subject matter and can make any dull subject seem lively and exciting by channeling that passion, one who can improve those inevitable tedious lectures by injecting some humor and happiness into the room. They want someone that is most of all approachable. This will be a very important point on your student evaluations!! They need to feel comfortable coming to your office and sharing their "stupid" questions with you without thinking that you may be looking down on them for knowing less about the subject.

If you are all of these things, they will respect you. Title is completely irrelevant. There is no need to create a distance between you. They DON'T want a professor who is perceived as intimidating or arrogant.


I work as a staff member at a university, in an office that works primarily with professors and handles all of their merit and promotion packages. There are two main types of academics that I encounter. There are those who are very concerned with titles and formality, and are offended if addressed in the wrong manner. Because of these folks, we have to be very careful about we address academics in correspondence, and even have a chart we use that outlines what each academic title has "earned" the right to be called (e.g. "Professor" and even the word "faculty" belong to certain groups only). These academics are also often very condescending to staff, because clearly we must be below them on the social hierarchy for failing to earn advanced degrees and for taking jobs doing office work. Staff is a dirty word to them. If that’s how they treat us, I can only imagine how condescending they are to their students. Actually I don’t have to imagine, because I read student evaluations all the time that discuss how the professor was not approachable and did not appear to care about their students.

Then there are those academics who care very little about title and actually treat us as equals. They are friendly and personable. They don’t try to assert a level of authority through formalities but instead try to maintain a level of kindness and understanding through compassion and humility. These are good people, and they are very good professors. I love reading these evaluations because the students rave about how much they have learned and how much passion for the subject has now been instilled in them. These are often the professors that don't mind if students call them by their first name.

Which type of professor do you think students, staff, and colleagues respect more?
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Old May 9 2013, 10:27 PM   #79
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
This is the part I have a problem with. Just because we use first names doesn't mean we're friends. I'm not pretending anything. I can be your boss or teacher or authority figure without needing to be addressed by title. I don't think your authority is diminished by allowing students to call you by your first name.

You will have inherent authority just by standing up in front of the classroom. The students know you're their teacher, regardless of what they call you.
You can but can I expect the same from students that are barely out of their teens? Can I expect students that use my first name in class to understand that I'm not their buddy and that they shouldn't try to cajole me into giving them the answers, or that I'm not available at all hours of the night to answer their questions?

Maybe standing in front of the room will be enough, but I'm not confident yet that it will be. If it is, then my approach will change accordingly. But I'm worried that students who were raised as friends with their parents and received trophies just for participating will not automatically see me as an authority figure, but as a pal who'll let them slide through the class so their self-esteem won't be bruised.

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't use a title. I just think you're completely overestimating your title's importance with regard to social interaction. You're a human being; what do you want to be called?
But the class room isn't a social interaction, though, it's a professional one. And unfortunately there's no middle ground between first name familiarity and a title. If there were, what would it be?


Gryffindorian wrote: View Post
I call our finance director Eric as he prefers to be called, and our general manager is addressed as Alex. It doesn't matter if I'm an accountant or a janitor. Nobody's going to get penalized for saying "Mr. Johnson"or "Ms. Riley," but it's not required of us. That's how casual it is in my workplace, and I'm sure that's the culture in other companies.
...
Pavonis, I obviously picked the wrong word. I didn't mean "pretentious." I meant overbearing. Pompous. Vain. Grandiose. Ostentatious. But, whatever floats your boat, Dr. P.
I'm not sure those words are any more accurate than "pretentious" was, since they're basically synonyms. If you're saying I should be less confident in myself, I'm not sure why I should be, but if you think it'll help the students, I might give it a crack.
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Old May 9 2013, 10:37 PM   #80
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Pavonis wrote: View Post
But the class room isn't a social interaction, though, it's a professional one.
You will be very surprised. Maybe even disappointed.

And unfortunately there's no middle ground between first name familiarity and a title. If there were, what would it be?
Mr X or Mrs Y is nice, it's polite and still formal without sounding pretentious.
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Old May 9 2013, 10:46 PM   #81
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

I still think you're missing the point, Pavonis. It doesn't matter what you're called. You're behaving as if these students are going to be crazy hormonal teenagers that are incapable of discipline. They're in college now; they deserve to be treated like adults. They will still be immature, especially if they're undergrads, but you have to treat them like their purpose is to learn. This isn't like high school where they're forced to attend and will act out because they're bored. They chose to go to college.

You're worried about them respecting you, but I already get the feeling that you don't respect them.

The main point I'm trying to make is this: you're the one that they are going to be addressing. What do you want to be called? Because I guarantee that they don't care either way. The level of respect you receive will be based on the kind of teacher you are. Respect based on title is purely artificial and ultimately meaningless.
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Old May 9 2013, 10:47 PM   #82
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Spot's Meow wrote: View Post
Part of this is generational. I know you are around the same age as me RoJoHen, and our age group tends to be very informal and egalitarian. We don't really "believe" in hierarchies and formalities. Not to say that we're all disrespectful, we just show respect in other ways and based on other factors rather than a position or title.
Is this a generational issue? I'm in my thirties, and so are all my friends and most of my colleagues. In my experience, we're all on a first name basis, and respect each other for being good scientists and researchers. What do other generations do to show respect?


This is a very good point. The students will know you are the professor. They will inherantly understand that you are in a position of authority. You don't need to "assert" it by trying to create a distance between you through titles. That distance already exists the minute you walk to the front of the classroom. Now, there are things you can do to degrade that level of respect over time, but that has little to do with what the students call you.
Will they, though? I'm not an old grizzled English prof wearing tweed jackets with elbow patches, a bow tie, and a pipe. Though perhaps I should adopt that style....

Of course students want professors with experience and authority on the subject matter, but at the same time they want a professor that can speak to their level, that is personable, human, and understanding of the difficult situations that many students may be in. They want a professor who clearly has a passion for their subject matter and can make any dull subject seem lively and exciting by channeling that passion, one who can improve those inevitable tedious lectures by injecting some humor and happiness into the room. They want someone that is most of all approachable. This will be a very important point on your student evaluations!! They need to feel comfortable coming to your office and sharing their "stupid" questions with you without thinking that you may be looking down on them for knowing less about the subject.

If you are all of these things, they will respect you. Title is completely irrelevant. There is no need to create a distance between you. They DON'T want a professor who is perceived as intimidating or arrogant.


I work as a staff member at a university, in an office that works primarily with professors and handles all of their merit and promotion packages. There are two main types of academics that I encounter. There are those who are very concerned with titles and formality, and are offended if addressed in the wrong manner. Because of these folks, we have to be very careful about we address academics in correspondence, and even have a chart we use that outlines what each academic title has "earned" the right to be called (e.g. "Professor" and even the word "faculty" belong to certain groups only). These academics are also often very condescending to staff, because clearly we must be below them on the social hierarchy for failing to earn advanced degrees and for taking jobs doing office work. Staff is a dirty word to them. If that’s how they treat us, I can only imagine how condescending they are to their students. Actually I don’t have to imagine, because I read student evaluations all the time that discuss how the professor was not approachable and did not appear to care about their students.

Then there are those academics who care very little about title and actually treat us as equals. They are friendly and personable. They don’t try to assert a level of authority through formalities but instead try to maintain a level of kindness and understanding through compassion and humility. These are good people, and they are very good professors. I love reading these evaluations because the students rave about how much they have learned and how much passion for the subject has now been instilled in them. These are often the professors that don't mind if students call them by their first name.

Which type of professor do you think students, staff, and colleagues respect more?
Well, thank you, Spot's Meow for your insight. I'll keep it in mind. I took the position at a teaching-oriented university to teach, not to intimidate. Still, I do want some distance between myself and the student body, because I want to avoid any problems that might arise from too much familiarity - bias in grading, for instance, or claims of preferential treatment of one student over another.
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Old May 9 2013, 10:51 PM   #83
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Will they, though? I'm not an old grizzled English prof wearing tweed jackets with elbow patches, a bow tie, and a pipe. Though perhaps I should adopt that style....
Of course they will. They're not idiots. And to these 18-19-20 years olds, someone in their mid-30s will probably seem ancient anyway.

Maybe you should conduct an experiment. When you start the class, introduce yourself as Doctor Billybob Pavonis (or whatever your actual name is) and see what they call you.

My guess is that most of them will call you either Professor Pavonis or Mr. Pavonis by nature, because that's what they've been used to in their education thus far.

Though let's be real. 99% of your students won't call you anything. Your name is *raises hand.*
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Old May 9 2013, 10:57 PM   #84
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

I think I'll try that, RoJoHen. Thank you. I guess I should've considered that from the beginning, and overthought the matter.

Still, I'd rather start with the assumption that they'll be a bunch of undisciplined hormonal teenagers and be pleasantly surprised when they prove themselves not to be, than to assume they'll be disciplined adults and be disappointed when they demonstrate that they're not.
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Old May 9 2013, 11:54 PM   #85
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Still, I'd rather start with the assumption that they'll be a bunch of undisciplined hormonal teenagers and be pleasantly surprised when they prove themselves not to be, than to assume they'll be disciplined adults and be disappointed when they demonstrate that they're not.
I imagine you will have a healthy mix of both.
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Old May 10 2013, 12:23 AM   #86
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

scotpens wrote: View Post
In the US, addressing a woman as "Miss Firstname" seems to be a particularly Southern thing.
Yes, it does. Never heard it growing up in NJ, but it's normal here in MD.

Gryffindorian wrote: View Post
Calling prestige to oneself by insisting on formal titles can seem pretentious and self-important.
But buying an honorary degree doesn't?

Pavonis wrote: View Post
I think I'll try that, RoJoHen. Thank you. I guess I should've considered that from the beginning, and overthought the matter.

Still, I'd rather start with the assumption that they'll be a bunch of undisciplined hormonal teenagers and be pleasantly surprised when they prove themselves not to be, than to assume they'll be disciplined adults and be disappointed when they demonstrate that they're not.
You'll have both disciplined and undisciplined students, no matter what their ages. And, yes, you've over-thought the name/title thing by now.

Now, go enjoy your first class!
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Old May 10 2013, 12:28 AM   #87
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

People who say a PhD isn't a "real doctor" just demonstrate how ignorant they are.
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Old May 10 2013, 02:22 AM   #88
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Pavonis wrote: View Post
You could do that, Maestro, but you'll inevitably be compared to the Seinfeld episode.
I find it somewhat interesting that you're eager to dismiss my concerns about graduate school address, Dr. Pavonis, while at the same time dismissing my interest in being addressed by a title that I have also earned.

Or perhaps, I find that to just be indicative of the pretense you have over your doctorate.

Did you address your professor in graduate school as "Doctor," or were you more familiar?
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Old May 10 2013, 03:28 AM   #89
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Fun fact: Graham Chapman (of Monty Python fame) was an actual medical doctor.
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Old May 10 2013, 03:48 AM   #90
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Re: "Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Spot's Meow wrote: View Post
Part of this is generational. I know you are around the same age as me RoJoHen, and our age group tends to be very informal and egalitarian. We don't really "believe" in hierarchies and formalities. Not to say that we're all disrespectful, we just show respect in other ways and based on other factors rather than a position or title.
Is this a generational issue? I'm in my thirties, and so are all my friends and most of my colleagues. In my experience, we're all on a first name basis, and respect each other for being good scientists and researchers. What do other generations do to show respect?
I mostly meant in terms of a professional situation. I have worked in offices where most of my colleagues were much older than me and there was a great deal of concern about the hierarchy, about knowing your place and treating those in power positions with a great deal of reverence. Although I participated and played by the rules, it wasn't a culture that I could understand, and it seems that way for a lot of folks my age. I've read a few articles that point this out as well, such as this one (not the most reliable source but makes some great points about transparency, hierarchy, and money). You may very well be a part of this generation as well, I'm just pointing out some trends that I have noticed. And letting you know that your students really won't care what they call you, the title will be very meaningless to them.

Pavonis wrote: View Post
This is a very good point. The students will know you are the professor. They will inherantly understand that you are in a position of authority. You don't need to "assert" it by trying to create a distance between you through titles. That distance already exists the minute you walk to the front of the classroom. Now, there are things you can do to degrade that level of respect over time, but that has little to do with what the students call you.
Will they, though? I'm not an old grizzled English prof wearing tweed jackets with elbow patches, a bow tie, and a pipe. Though perhaps I should adopt that style....
Of course they will! I think you are still stuck in the mindset of teaching as a TA while a grad student. The students feel more familiarity towards you in that situation and are more likely to think that they can take advantage by gaining favor with you. Even if you look young, the students know the difference between a TA and a professor, and right from the bat will feel more separated from you.

Also, it does seem like you have a rather negative view of these young people. You haven't even met them yet! Don't judge them based on their age, assuming that they will all be selfish, disrespectful, and whiny. Treat them with respect and they will do the same for you.
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