What do your professors hate about you?

Just as any retail employee can tell you about customer behaviour that never fails to get under their skin, every university professor, no matter how much they love their job, knows of a few student behaviours that brings out their deepest rage … or at least mildly annoys them. 

Here’s what a survey of some Kwantlen instructors turned up.

Stop texting and get off social media.

I heard this from each professor I interviewed. You might think they don’t notice when you are staring at your phone, but they most certainly do. Having someone stare at a computer screen while you try to speak is annoying. One can only imagine how irritating it is seeing the same students doing it every class.

“I’m not even sure they always recognize that cell phone use isn’t appropriate. Many students, particularly younger students, are so used to having their cell phones with them every day that they don’t even realize that they should be paying attention.” – Kim Larson, English


Like most post-secondary instructors, Mark Hamilton knows of a few common student behaviours that annoy him.

“I know that you’re not looking at Power Point slides or doing anything associated with class when you’re looking at your computer.” – Jan Thompson, Geography

Go to your professors when you need help.

This is literally what they are there for and yet many students end up missing vital information because they refuse to get help from professors when they need it. Professors have a vested interest in their students’ success: It does not reflect well on them when their students perform poorly. Any professor worth his or her pay will sit down with a student to help them understand the material and that’s why it can be aggravating when a student would rather fail the class than come to them.

“Use your instructors. So many students wait until the last class to say, ‘Oh, my gosh I’m not doing well. What can I do to make up marks in this class?!'” – Jan Thompson, Geography

That said, if the answer is clearly established, then don’t waste your professor’s time.

Nobody likes fielding the same questions over and over. This is why professors hand out a syllabus at the beginning of every semester, with the answers to any frequently asked questions. Still, every now and then a student is going to come up and ask what the midterm is worth, despite the fact that that info is clearly available on that magic piece of paper.

“Students ask me, ‘Can you give me details about this?’ and I’m like, it’s on the syllabus which we already went over.” – Katie Warfield, Communications

Don’t invite your friends to your class.

You paid to tuition to be in class. The cost of admission grants you and you alone the right to be in that classroom. Despite this, every now and then, often in lab situations, students in geography professor Jan Thompson’s class will invite friends into the class to keep them company. Don’t do this.

Yes, if you missed a class than you missed something important.

This might be more of a matter of poor wording than anything but there is one question that Jan Thompson hates being asked more than perhaps any other.

Did I miss anything important last class? asks the student as if it’s likely that the class spent the entire period doing nothing of consequence. Not only is this a dumb question, because certainly something important will have been covered over an hour-and-a-half or three-hour class, but it also says something about the student’s attitude that he or she doesn’t consider all of the material covered important.

“One of the big things that I have is when someone missed a class and then comes to me and asks ‘Did I miss anything important?’ Well, everything is important.” – Jan Thompson, Geography

To add to this, if you didn’t do the readings don’t expect your professor to give you the Sparknotes.

“Students sometimes don’t do the readings and then expect me to tell them exactly what was in the readings. These students don’t take responsibility for their own learning. They want you to provide them with all this information without doing the work.” – Kim Larson English

Class time is not porn time

This one might be a little specific and incredibly obvious but according to psychology professor Dr. Dan Bernstein it does happen. He says he had an occasion where he took a look at what was on a student’s laptop and there it was – hardcore full frontal porn for the enjoyment of that student and any student who happened to be sitting behind him. Save it for after class.

“He was a good student but…that was not good.” – Dr. Dan Bernstein, psychology

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is a student journalist at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He is also a regular contributor to the Runner, KPU's student publication.


  • Ryan Lehal
    Reply November 13, 2014

    Ryan Lehal

    This is definitely an interesting and relevant topic to write about. I agree with what the professors were saying in that most students don’t realize that it is noticeable when they are not paying attention in class. I think that the response that you got from the very last professor was well structured in that it kind of gives the reader a treat for reading the article and also adds humor to the situation. This is a piece that students should read.

  • Daniella Javier
    Reply November 16, 2014

    Daniella Javier

    I really enjoyed reading this article because it is so relevant to all students, whether they are guilty or not of doing one of those “pet peeves” in university. Personally, I hate it when a professor is trying to give a lecture and a student is still on their phone. Although, I have to admit that I am guilty of some of the things listed in this article. I do, however, ask a professor for help whenever I have questions. If I had to give advice to a new university student, I would definitely tell them to take advantage of their professor’s office hours because more help from them is better than no help at all. Students shouldn’t be afraid to ask their professors for help because that’s what they’re there for.

  • Avatar
    Reply November 17, 2014

    Mallory O'Neil

    This was really well done! It was awesome that you had multiple professors that all shared similar views to make your point. The last paragraph added some humour to the piece which was definitely an attribute. I also like your presentation style by separating your paragraphs through different bolded headlines that state each issue. Good job!

  • Andrea Ross
    Reply November 21, 2014

    Andrea Ross

    I was extremely excited to read this article! As a 4th year student, I was able to guess most of the irritation points, aside from the porn incident! I do feel it is disrespectful to be on your phone when someone is talking, but I will not lie, I have done it myself. Great job in finding interviews within many different fields of study, great to hear all the different experiences.

  • Sascia Smith-Jensen
    Reply November 27, 2014

    Sascia Smith-Jensen

    This is a great article! It’s good to hear from the other side of the room and to know what our professors views are of us. Although, most of your points are common sense. But I like the points you mentioned.

  • Cole Heggie
    Reply December 7, 2014

    Cole Heggie

    It’s interesting that our generation was among the first to see the issue of technology (specifically smart phones and laptops) become a serious issue in terms of classroom management. It’s easier to take notes on a laptop, but there’s the risk that students won’t be doing much note taking or learning at all once their laptops out.

    I’ve seen professors deal with this in a list of different ways – some will have a zero tolerance approach, some are completely okay with it. Over time I’ve realized the latter tends to be more successful; if a student doesn’t want to take advantage of class time then it’s in their hands. It’s not fair to blame the technology entirely; while it undoubtedly has an effect, students have been finding ways to distract themselves since long before smart phones.

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