Another important rule of interacting with students is that, no matter how close your relationship with a student is, it is never a good idea to comment on the student's weight or physical attributes. I had this male professor who kept bugging his female students with questions like, "How much do you weigh? Have you been gaining weight? Are you sure you don't eat too much?" I am blessed with having a very healthy attitude towards my body, so whenever this professor greeted me with "You are getting really fat, Clarissa. Why are you so fat?", I had no problem responding in a jocular tone, "Well, I never be as fat as you, professor" or "You know how much I admire you, so I'm trying to emulate you and get as fat as you are." However, students who had body image issues or even had a history of eating disorders suffered greatly.
It's a good idea to avoid touching students when it isn't absolutely necessary. There was this professor who really liked my hair. I like my hair, too, and I understand how one might feel the compulsion to touch it. However, it would get really annoying to be sitting at the library or working in the stacks and feel somebody grab my hair and tug it. I'm especially sensitive to people touching my head, so it was extremely annoying. I couldn't do the same thing to the professor to teach him a lesson because he had no hair I could tug.
Self-deprecation is a tool that many professors use to show students that they are human and to make the students like them. I, however, believe that self-deprecation is counter-productive in the classroom. Not only all of my colleagues, administrators, staff members and janitors are completely 100% fantastic, but so am I. If there is something that I don't know or forgot to do, I just say so without engaging in a self-deprecating rant that would only make everybody feel uncomfortable. Students are not my therapy group and it is not their job to make me feel better about myself.
It is often hard to keep one's cool, especially at the end of the semester when work accumulates and tempers get frayed. I saw a very soft-spoken and polite colleague last week yell at a student in a way that made even me feel scared. I'm sure that the student really messed up to make the professor this angry. I also think that yelling is a completely normal and healthy way of venting one's frustrations. However, I believe that it is only permissible to yell at people who have no problem yelling back at you. When you have a person who is powerless in their relationship with you, raising your voice is just abusive. When I feel that I'm about to explode, I just leave and take a walk around the building while trying to breathe very deep. This usually helps to contain the anger. Blogging about it is another great venue of releasing pent up anger.
You can find the first part of this post here.