Tuesday, June 7, 2011

That's Professor Workaholic to You

One thing I like to do every day is read advice columns, like Dear Amy, Dear Abby, and Dear Prudence. In my opinion, the typical advice column could also be called Obsessive Neurotic Central, so it's like I'm reading the stories of "my people".

I read in an advice column once that some people don't like calling professors "Dr.". These people felt that academics didn't have the right to be called "Dr." since they weren't "real" doctors.

I know that a professor and a medical doctor have very different work responsibilities. Professors don't save lives or teach people how to safeguard their health (except of course for the professors who teach med students and also practice medicine). But at the same time, it takes more years to earn a master's degree and a doctorate than it does to earn a medical degree. So when I do finally complete my Ph.D., I can guarantee you that I will identify myself as "Dr." or "Professor", because I believe that I'll have earned that right.

I've been teaching college students for years now, but I don't really consider myself a professor yet; I'm not a full-time faculty member and I'm still working on my Ph.D. I've had several titles, including "adjunct", "instructor", "lecturer", and "teaching assistant", even though I was basically doing the same job under all these titles. But I have my own ideas for what my title could be, though they probably wouldn't catch on since they're too long. I still think they're fairly accurate though.

For example, instead of being an "adjunct", I might call myself one of the following:

The Grader of Papers

The Collector of Excuses from students who don't think it's necessary to come to class or turn in work on time

That Poor Instructor who practically had to arm-wrestle one of her fellow instructors for desk space in the one office that all the adjuncts/teaching assistants share whereas the professors get their own offices that they only use once or twice a week.

The Invisible Woman who never gets to go to most of the department meetings since she has no say in how the department is run

The Ultimate Multi-Tasker who works three jobs and has no time or money for vacations

Having spent years working in retail, I've found that retail employers are fond of job titles too. They use titles like "Team Member", "Sales Associate", "Client Host," and "Brand Ambassador". I think they use these fancy titles as a way to make the employees feel better about their jobs, and perhaps to try and make up for the low wages. But personally, I'd rather just be known as That Chick with the Name Tag as long as I got paid more.

Instead of "Sales Associate," I could also be called:

She Who Operates the Cash Register

The Folder of Clothes

The Maid who picks up after all the customers who believe that tossing the store's items on the floor is perfectly acceptable

Miss Smiley Face who smiles even after a customer tries on seven different outfits, each in at least two sizes and three different colors and then decides not to buy anything

The Bookseller who doesn't actually succeed in getting most people to buy books because they prefer to spend two hours in the store reading for free rather than buy anything

The Patron Saint of Patience, because ANYONE would need an incredible amount of patience to listen to the same CD played over the store's speakers OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN EVERY SINGLE WRETCHED DAY

What do you think of job titles? If you could come up with your own job title, what would you call yourself?

Side note: Stop by Theresa Milstein's blog Substitute Teacher's Saga (and follow her too if you haven't already, because she's a great blogger, writer, and teacher). She's hosting a contest where you can win a free copy of Elana Johnson's YA novel Possession. 


  1. This is so funny... You certainly have some creative alternate titles. I must agree with you that while being a medical doctor is amazing (something I would do if I was good at math and science), being a professor is equally amazing. If I were to ever be able to get my PHD, God knows that I would be "Dr"--in the classroom, on the address labels, email signatures,... you get the point. I think it's something to be proud of. If someone can suffer through all that, isn't 2 letters and a period a reasonable award?

  2. Thanks for the shout out.

    I so hear you on titles. When I was a teaching assistant at Harvard we were called teaching fellows (Oo la la!) Now I'm a sub. When I first started blogging I wrote a post about the different names for subs around the world. Supply teacher, for one.

    As I looked through your funny list, i kept thinking of initials to go along with them. But Grader of Papers would be GOP, and you may not want to be confused with a party affiliation in your work title. Also, I wasn't sure what to do with the battling over desks one.

    Saying a professor can't be called doctor because she isn't one is like saying a priest can't be called father because he doesn't have kids.

    Then there's Mrs. Miss and Ms. I use Ms, which confuses the kids. In fact, someone asked why on Monday. So I explained Mr. leaves a marital status anonymous, and so does Ms. I explain this constantly. If they press it, I just say, "Miss means I'm not, Mrs. means I am. Ms. means none of your business."

    I should've gotten a Ph.D..

  3. I'd like to be called, "She who is waiting to go home". No matter what job I have, I'm always watching the clock to see when I can leave.

  4. You have a lot of titles but The Folder of Clothes really stands out! I mean, how simple is it for a customer to refold an item? I know the clothes are neatly lined up in size order but apparently some customers, or wannabe customers 'cause they won't buy, can't fathom size order...

  5. Job titles in retail crack me up. I'd rather be 'folder of clothes' than 'sales associate'.

    I'm loving the 'novelist' job title right now! :)

  6. Hi Teddi,
    I was never very good at science, which is one major reason I never pursued a medical career. I like the idea of being called "Dr." or "Professor", because it really does mean something.

    Hi Theresa,
    I love your explanation of the difference among Mrs., Ms., and Miss; I'll have to keep that in mind the next time someone asks. Some of my students do call me "Miss", but I prefer "Ms." One thing I've never liked is being called "Ma'am"; that seems to happen more now that I'm getting older.

    Hi Libby,
    I'm always watching the clock when I work in retail, because the work isn't very interesting. Somehow the time seems to go by much more slowly during the typical workday.

    Hi notesfromnadir,
    I've noticed that when I go shopping an employee will often offer to get the shirt for me. I guess it's so I won't rearrange the piles of clothes. Now that I've worked in retail, I can understand why.

    Hi Talli,
    "Novelist" is definitely a great job title. It's one that I hope to have someday...

  7. I thought of you when I saw this article; thought you might find it interesting: http://www.thenation.com/article/160410/faulty-towers-crisis-higher-education?page=full

  8. Hi Teddi,
    Thanks for the link! I'm going to check out the article.

    Hi Theresa,
    Recently on a plane I was called "ma'am" by a couple of sailors who were several years younger than me; that definitely made me feel old.