Being a Woman · Teaching Political Science

My Students Are Killing Me

Pretty much every university I know requires some sort of introduction to American government course for students.  These are service courses that most every student at the university has to take, and I have the great fortune to teach on a semi-regular basis.

I know that sometimes, as a woman in political science, I’m probably oversensitive to gender issues, and possibly even seeing them when they aren’t there. But, I can’t help but think that some of the things my students pull wouldn’t happen if their instructor were male. Let’s talk about some of them.

  1. Calling me Miss Firstname.  Miss Firstname.  Not even Mrs. Lastname, which while insulting, can at least be attributed to students having all female high school teachers.  I’ve never heard any of my male colleagues referred to as Mr. Firstname (or Mr. Lastname, really), so Miss Firstname is the worst.
  2. Questioning my Credibility.  One thing that tends to happen both in meetings with students and in my evaluations is students questioning whether I’m really qualified to decide whether they deserve a certain grade.  A student once complained to the Dean because I said he had to include citations in his paper. He told my Dean that, “just because she holds the opinion that information needs to be cited doesn’t mean that it actually does.”
  3. HEAVILY Playing the Sympathy Card.  I know every professor, male or female, gets the semesterly requests of “oh, something terrible happened to me, please give me an extension,” or, “I really, really need to get into nursing school, please bump my grade up.”  But I find that I often have students asking me to “have a heart” or “show a little kindness” or something similar.
  4. Calling in Reinforcements. Related to #2, I feel like students may try to go over the heads of female professors more often than male ones.  Whether it’s their parents or the Dean, it feels like at least one student per semester complains to management (don’t you love parent phone calls?).

Do they do this stuff to male professors? Really, I’m curious. My totally informal and nonscientific poll of my friends seems to say, “Not as much,” but speak up! And, are there things that students try to pull with male professors than they don’t with female ones?

-Miss Candy Ann


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