It’s important to note that I wasn’t really a professor. At least, that’s what my new department chair told me. The Deans had just imported her from some Ivy League school to run the Writing Program. It was my second year of adjunct work at this particular State University, and she—let’s call her Betty—was helping me clarify the particulars of my professional title.
She’d requested a private meeting with every member of the part-time faculty, an introduction and review of curriculum. Betty called it a “Getting to Know You Session.” She wasn’t very witty. I accepted the summons to her office via email and headed to the meeting.
But then one of my students saw me outside her office, waiting, and said, “What’s up, Professor B?” Betty overheard him, and the greeting rubbed her the wrong way. She reminded me that I wasn’t really a professor, just a part-time lecturer—like a teaching contractor that the University rehired every semester. The Professors, Betty assured me, were something different, something much more prestigious and important.
Betty insisted that I not encourage the students to refer to me as such—Mr. B. instead of Professor B, please. I said I understood, of course, no problem—I needed to be rehired in the Spring. I thanked Betty for the career guidance and left to teach my fourth class of the day.
I didn’t see her again until the Christmas party, last day of the semester. When she saw me, she rushed over to greet me. She smiled, and hugged me, and said: “Happy Holidays!” Then she asked, still smiling, “So, how was your semester, Mr. B?”