It’s as common in the classroom as reading, writing and arithmetic: a teacher’s pet. An eager student appeasing a teacher with an answer is a discourse often viewed as “sucking up.”
For many students at Temple, showing off with a raised hand is not a genuine academic inquiry, but rather an equation that doesn’t add up. Although many view sucking up simply as “Lips + Butt = Good Grades,” others liken it to subtleties that could be the difference between
that A and A+.
It involves more than just parting the lips to pay a compliment to a professor who you’d otherwise ignore. To many, it’s the first who initiates dialogue when conversation has stalled because no one else did the assigned readings.
“I see the goodness in people. When a student says to me that ‘I’m really enjoying the class,’ I don’t see it as sucking up,'” said Dana Saewitz, an advertising professor. “I view it as very positive and sincere feedback.”
Others echoed that that responsiveness was all just a part of being a good student with no ulterior motives at play and not necessarily a manipulative gesture to form a rapport with a teacher.
“As a teacher, I love student participation,” said critical languages professor Kumi Omoto.
Omoto said that in Japan there is a distance; students mostly just listen to their professors and take notes but do not offer their opinions.
“I think from interactions with teachers, you get to know what certain teachers want. You get the idea that you need to be a certain type of student,” said Natalia Smirnov, a junior American culture and media arts major.
Smirnov also said that flattery is not lost on professors. She explained there was a fine line between jockeying for grades and earning it through class participation.
“You can either choose to play the game or not play the game,” she said. “Inevitably, it will reflect on how well you do in the class.”
Playing the game also entails showing up to class on time, turning in homework promptly and staying awake during lectures. These steps are as fundamental as the ABCs, but many still try to befriend teachers for an extra edge.
“Different students try different things to get better grades,” said Khalid Blankinship, a religion professor. “Some do all the work. And some do the work at the last minute.”
Others felt similarly, believing there is a noticeable difference between a good student and one who postures for an advantage.
“I don’t really think it works. Participating in class is one thing, but just the whole grade school thing of bringing apples isn’t going to help,” said Mandi Walsh, a freshman English major. “The teacher could like you better, but it’s not going to help your grade.”
Other students are not deterred from trying to improve their failing grades.
Kayla Jones has seen firsthand what her peers have done in pursuit of this goal.
The senior marketing and BTMM major described how her two-faced classmates trashed their professors in front of other students, but privately pleaded with instructors for extra credit with a charm offensive.
Jones said she can’t bring herself to do the same even if some of her professors might find “a– -kissing” cute.
“I have never [done] it personally. I refuse. That’s probably why I’ve gotten some of the grades that I did,” she said.
Junior theater and communications major Sam Paul frowned upon gaining a teacher’s favor, satisfied by his own work. He believed some teachers aren’t insulted by the subtle and even blatant brownnosing but encourage the efforts.
Paul classified instructors by two mentalities: high school and college. He found the former more welcoming whereas more experienced teachers tend not to indulge in the antics. Paul said he reserved more respect for instructors who put their foot down as opposed to rewarding suck-ups.
He expressed disdain for students who rely on making nice and dog-ate-my-homework excuses to pass courses instead of putting in actual work.
“There are those people who have ‘Suck-Up’ on their back. Those are the people you genuinely hate. Or at least dislike,” Paul said.
Stephanie Guerilus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.