Harry Brighouse has an interesting post at Crooked Timber on how students address professors. Brighouse surveyed some of his freshman students on the matter. (Brighouse teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). Here are a couple of the responses he received:
Growing up, I was always taught to call adults Mr., Ms. and Mrs. (in this case, Professor). Unless he or she is one of my best friend’s parents who I’ve known for years and they’ve made it very clear that I can call them by their first name, I will always call them Mr., Ms., or Mrs. When it comes to professors, I will always call them Professor. I think it shows respect, and it makes me feel more professional. It doesn’t really matter to me how professors address themselves, and I will always recognize that some professors feel close enough to their students to sign their e-mails with their first name, but I’ll always call them by Professor.
I don’t think I’d feel comfortable referring to my professor with their first name unless I knew them very well. In high school I called all my teachers Mr./Mrs. except for one who I knew for about three years and called him by his last name only my senior year. I’m the same way with friends parents usually I say Mrs./Mr. or just don’t use any name at all. I’ve found that the situation where you would have to use a persons name doesn’t actually come up that often. Usually I only run into it when writing emails or referring to the person when they’re not present. Basically I’ll use the professional name unless I’m comfortable enough not to, and I know the person I’m referring to doesn’t have a problem with it. But even when I used a shortened name its generally not the first, but the last, or a different form. For some reason using the first name just sounds weird to me.
Students and former students out there, how do or did you refer to your professors? Professors–how do you want to be addressed?
My students often refer to me as “Dr. Fea” or “Professor Fea,” but I have never once told a student that they address me with one of these titles.
And here is a related question: How do you sign your e-mails to students?
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