what not to write

One of my wise friends used to offer a sound piece of advice, usually in the context of relationships, but I think it works for the teaching context too. Basically, she said, you have to pick your battles. If something your mate does *really* bothers you -- if it's going to be a major annoyance every time you see the toothpaste tube uncapped, then you should say something about it right away. The first or second time. Because otherwise your irritation will build up to ridiculous proportions. On the other hand, if you recognize that the toothpaste cap isn't really that important, you have to practice laughing it off and letting it go. Because life is too short and too rich to waste time on the silly stuff.

So, I have this student, who is problematic in all kinds of ways I can't discuss here. But he has emailed me 3 times now. The first message addressed me as "Mr. Lastname" -- this was just before classes started. I replied, including my signature file (which includes my full name and title as is conventional at my U -- "Dr Mel Lastname, Associate Professor" ). His second and third emails have been addressed to "Mrs. Lastname." ARGGH.

I realised that although I laugh off a great deal of student email silliness (I don't care if they write to me from their surferdude87 account, or don't use capital letters, or much of the stuff that irks my colleagues), this was something that REALLY pissed me off. I couldn't help but read it as a marker of sexism -- even though I knew it was possible that this student was just ignorant of the correct conventions for addressing faculty. But those students who occasionally address me as Ms. don't bother me nearly as much. I've never before had someone attempt -- and persist -- in calling me "Mrs".

So in my last reply I simply said "the correct way to address faculty at the university is as "Dr Lastname" or "Professor Lastname." I'm interested to see what happens next.