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How to deal with your instructor

Here are the basic rules of etiquette for successfully interacting with your instructor.

Know your instructor's name. Many math instructors can't imagine that there is anyone else in your life of greater importance. Play to that. Use it to your advantage.

Decide what title to use when addressing your instructor. This apparently delicate question of etiquette is easily solved by using gross flattery. Suppose that your instructor's last name is `Nerd' for example. Then call him Dr. Nerd. Even though their earnings will never approach those of their pre-med students, their egos are entranced by this distant link to the medical profession. If your instructor is female, call her Dr. Nerd. It is inexpressibly annoying to female professors to have students call them Ms. or Mrs. Nerd when they hear graduate students obsequiously addressed as Dr. Nerd. Be generous with titles. No matter what they say to the contrary, no instructor in any subject will ever be offended by use of the title `Doctor'. While this designation is inappropriate for graduate students, who have not yet completed their doctorates, they'll still be thrilled to pieces.

Avoid rudeness. Remain polite at all times. You can be firm in seeking out explanations but do not be rude. Remember, your instructor ultimately determines your grade. Even the most idealistic professor, who would never let their personal dislike of a student affect that student's grade, may find that at the end of the semester, the student is dead center on the borderline between two grades. This is not a good time for your professor to remember that time you pointed out he was an incompetent goofball.

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Joel Hass