9 Things You Do That Piss Professors Off

Professors can be fickle folk.  Sometimes they’re laid-back and hilarious, and they couldn’t care less if you’re texting in class.  Other times, they’re curmudgeonly and have serious problems with you updating Facebook during their lectures.  After the first few days of class, it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what a specific professor is going to let slide during the semester, but every once in a while you may find yourself doing things during class that you had no idea would piss your professors off.  Wondering what we’re talking about? Here are some surefire ways to anger the one person in your lecture you should probably suck up to (at least a little bit).

1. Eat or open food loudly  

We get it—sometimes there just isn’t enough time to eat a full meal in the 15 minutes you have in between classes. If your prof is nice enough to let you eat in class, don’t drive him or her crazy by making unnecessary noise opening or consuming your food. Apples, carrots and celery may be super healthy, but the noise you’ll make eating them in class will drive your prof crazy.

Packaged food is convenient when you’re on the run, but opening bags and plastic coverings can be really distracting to someone giving a lecture, not to mention your fellow classmates. Try to choose snacks that are easy to eat quietly, like grapes or yogurt!

2. Fidget


Maybe you tap your foot, click your pen or constantly play with your hair. Whatever your vice may be, there’s a chance it’s becoming a distraction to your teacher. AnnaLee, a senior at Notre Dame who has trouble with fidgeting in class, remembers her “easily distracted” political science professor saying, "Please stop twirling your hair, honestly—my God, we have to discuss LINCOLN!"

If need be, only write in pencil or tie your hair back into a chic topknot to keep your hands focused on taking notes.

3. Ask a question that’s answered on the syllabus

The easiest mistake to avoid is probably the easiest mistake to make in a class: asking the professor a question that’s clearly answered on the syllabus. Professors spend a lot of time preparing for their courses, and they use their syllabi as a means to communicate their goals and expectations for the class to their students. It’s disrespectful to ask your prof, “What day is our midterm?” or to complain, “I didn’t know there was extra reading for today!” when information about both are distinctly outlined on the syllabus she handed out on the first day of class.

Sometimes professors can be nitpicky about the office hours they put on their syllabi and won’t even talk to students if they stop by their offices outside of office hours. Florence Christie, president of Her Campus Exeter, remembers going to a professor’s office only to be refused “point-blank… as it would ruin his writing flow!”

In order to avoid pissing off the person who gets to decide your grade in a class, re-read the syllabus every now and then to make sure you’re staying on top of everything from classroom procedures to due dates. Be sure to write down any important dates in your planner as soon as you get your syllabi as well!

4. Ask a question someone else just asked

Nothing angers a professor (or your classmates, for that matter) more than a student asking a question that someone else asked five minutes previously. This indicates that you’re not paying attention in class or you’re not being honest when the professor asks, “Does everyone understand?”

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification when you don’t understand something in class; professors are there to help you out when you’re lost. However, don’t tick them off by blatantly ignoring your classmates and then repeating a question that was already covered in class. If you don’t understand the answer that was given, ask your professor to explain further and be specific about the details that you’re stuck on.

5. Whisper to your neighbor

We know you think you’re being so quiet in the back of the class while talking to your friend about how her weekend went, but no matter how inaudible you think you are, people in your class are going to hear you. Even if they don’t call you out, either because they’re too nice or they don’t want to take the time to, professors get mad when other people are talking while they are. Wait until a break, or better yet, after class, to talk about your weekend escapades with your friends. We can guarantee that your prof doesn’t care about your wild, partying ways

6. Make a big deal of going to the bathroom

In small classrooms and large lecture halls alike, everyone notices when someone gets up to leave the room. Some professors ban bathroom breaks during their classes, but other (read: normal) instructors are totally cool if you have to go, as long as you do so as discreetly as possible.

If you know that you’re going to have to leave class before it even starts, common courtesy would suggest that you sit as close to the door as possible so you don’t cause a scene when you get up to leave. Tripping over laptop cords, slamming doors and plodding down lecture hall steps are all a dead giveaway that you’re dipping out. If it’s absolutely necessary that you leave the classroom, tread lightly and try to avoid walking right in front of the professor.

7. Don’t bring the required materials to class

In most college classes, you’ll spend a significant amount of time discussing whatever reading you’ve been assigned for each class period. By forgetting your book or whatever materials are required for the course, you’re setting yourself up for failure in discussion and are probably going to tick off your professor. Usually, part of your grade includes class preparedness or participation, which means by neglecting to bring your reading along, you’re risking a drop in your final grade.

8. Text

This one might seems obvious, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to put your phone away during class! Professor Rayburn*, an English professor at Boston College, says, “Students aren’t engaged in class when they are constantly on their phones. It always reflects on their grade.” He adds that he can always tell when someone is on their phone – no matter how discreet you think you’re being, collegiettes!

Mandaline Dunne, a senior from Loyola University Chicago, remembers a professor with a similar viewpoint, which he expressed in a way she’ll never forget. “[My professor] once said, ‘If you’re texting, please do it above the table. It bothers me when I see students smiling at their crotch,’” she says.

Though that particular prof was relatively lighthearted about his pet peeve, others won’t be as jokey. Stay on your prof’s good side by silencing your phone and putting it in your bag during class. You’ll learn more and keep the people around you from getting distracted, too!

9. Ask for a recommendation the day before it’s due

It seems crazy, we know, but professors have more to do than just teaching classes! Though it’s awesome if you’ve developed a good relationship with your professor and want to ask for a recommendation letter from him or her, make sure to do so at least two weeks before the letter is due. Professors have papers to grade and often their own research to conduct, so giving them enough time to complete your requests ensures they’ll have adequate time to write a good and honest letter, which will probably make you look better!


By being respectful and courteous to your professors, it’ll be much easier to develop good, lasting academic relationships with them. It’s not hard to stay on their good side; just try to avoid being inconsiderate, and they’ll appreciate your efforts.

*Name has been changed.