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In my final year project, and since it will be my last postgraduate year, I want to add a taste of truth in my Acknowledgment, where I think it's the personal part of the project, where you are allowed to express yourself.

After thanking my professors, supervisors, parents in a very formal and professional way, I am eager to add this paragraph at the end.

I had a period where I was the underdog in the high school, I was treated badly, and I lost motivation to study because I wasn't encouraged, all my work and even good results in exams were not even appreciated. I was called the stupid dude, the person who thinks he knows but knows nothing, and ... and all of the this was by my math teacher, not my colleagues.

After that I was accepted in one of the top universities in Lebanon, in one of the hardest entrance exams, with an acceptance rate of not more than 15%. And after entering the university I was a top student.

For that I have written in the last paragraph of my acknowledgment:

Since it’s the end of the years I spent in the Lebanese University-Faculty of Engineering, I’m glad to thank the math teacher who once told me: "you will never pass the entrance exam of the Lebanese University-Faculty of engineering, my nephew failed surely you will fail ". Thank you dude, you were my motive, and proving you wrong was one of my goals.

Would this be unprofessional?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ff524 Jul 9 '17 at 2:39
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    "Professional" is not what you should be asking. You should be asking "will I be better off if I write this or if I don't?" You will be better off by whatever feeling of revenge you feel if you write it. You will be worse off if somebody reads it and reacts negatively to you because of it in a way that matters. The odds of this are hard to evaluate, but probably very low. The "professional" thing is not to include it. Going forward, I would suggest this event doesn't matter but it is practice for holding your tongue in difficult situations. – Ross Millikan Jul 11 '17 at 3:22

14 Answers 14

83

I would refrain from adding this to the written/electronic version of the project report. It's very personal and uses colloquial language that should be avoided in a formal report, even in the acknowledgement section.

Having said that, you may still give to that particular teacher a copy with your personal hand-written dedication.

Btw, great example of negative motivation (or what it's called): a negative comment with positive result.

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    Although it could feel cathartic to "stick it" to this teacher (who was clearly quite rude), it probably isn't worth it. I wouldn't recommend that step. – Bryan Krause Jul 6 '17 at 15:53
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    +1 for giving that particular teacher a copy with a hand-written dedication. – MissMonicaE Jul 6 '17 at 18:03
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I certainly think it could be worded in a more positive and professional way. It comes off a bit salty and as if all your research work was to prove one man wrong. If I were to read your work, I would certainly get a bad initial impression.

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    He could write it subliminally, in such a way that only he and the teacher would know (assuming the teacher would read it). For example, "It's the end of my time at the Lebanese University-Faculty of Engineering and I’m glad to to have passed the entrance exam through all the challenges. Ultimately, I am thankful to the teaching staff who believed I would be able to scale this hurdle, for it requires adequate mentor-ship to succeed in such endeavors". – A.T.Ad Jul 6 '17 at 17:23
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    @A.T.Ad That's beautiful :) I truly hope the asker does that. Perhaps adding the name of the relevant teacher would be helpful in clarifying the point being made. It wouldn't be harmful in your version. – Clumsy cat Jul 6 '17 at 19:20
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    @A.T.Ad I'm going to use your Paragraph, it's well written and explains the point I want to deliver, which is mainly never allowing people's opinion to be your reality. – elia Jul 6 '17 at 22:18
  • @A.T.Ad Nicely written! Subtle, professional, and well executed. – Cloud Chem Jul 7 '17 at 10:00
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    @elia: Please do reword it, so it isn't verbatim traced to this site... – Mehrdad Jul 10 '17 at 9:24
40

I originally wrote this as a comment, but as I am seeing different opinions in several answers here I feel like I need to write a full answer:

Although it could feel cathartic to "stick it" to this teacher (who was clearly quite rude), it probably isn't worth it, and definitely is not worth showing it to this particular teacher.

Don't do this. No, it is not professional, it won't gain you anything.

People who know your situation might think it's funny - these are the people you should share this with, in another context, or anonymously somewhere if you are looking for some validation. Post it on Reddit under a throwaway, let people comment on it here.

People who don't know your situation well, or who have a positive predisposition toward the person you are referring to, or just don't know you are likely to have a different opinion. They might see this as petty, vindictive, or just disrespectful. It just isn't worth your trouble.

If this teacher was that rude to you, unless you think it was intended as motivation, they've shown they aren't worth your time at all anymore. You achieved what you wanted to achieve - move on and be your own person.

16

A bit immature and passively aggressive. :)

I too would advise against adding the passage as is. Yet, I'd suggest you replace it with something targeting at people who may be reading it, focus on perhaps how to stay true to one's dream and don't give up even faced with adversity or discouragement.

Second, would you like to reconcile with the teacher? It's clear that you're not over him (since you use "dude" I assume it's a male) and would go so far to dedicate a paragraph to his comment. Why not pay him a visit and tell him the good news? He could be upset about his nephew's failing at that moment. I do think after these many years, you both may have a different feeling. Give it a thought!

Let the negative nagging feeling go and enjoy your career.

14

Unfortunately, yes, it's unprofessional.

You could perhaps say something like this instead: "I'm glad to give special thanks to the math teacher who motivated me with his words about the Lebanese University-Faculty of engineering's entrance exam."

Only you will know what you really mean by that.

11

I had seriously been considering dividing my Ph.D. dissertation's "acknowledgments" section into expressions of gratitude and a few paragraphs with condemnations - of university management for oppressing the junior academic staff and for some things they had done to me which, well, are beyond the scope of this answer, but are quite terrible and sometimes illegal (I took them to court, too - and won twice). I actually couldn't wait to have the university library admit a copy of that into the archives for posterity.

But then some time passed; and I gave it more thought; and I realized that other than a brief (though sweet) sense of vindication, it would better to take the high road and keep the admonishments and denunciations out my dissertation. Looking back at it years later, I know I'll feel I did the right thing.

Still, you know what you really should do?

Go visit your old school, and ask the headmaster for permission to speak to the senior class. If they let you do it, you could use that opportunity - not to make a personal attack against that Math teacher, but to give your story as an example of why they should not be discouraged by nay-sayers, even if they are the supposedly all-knowing teachers.

And - you can always write an article or opinion piece and try to get it published in a newspaper. I can guarantee you it'll have more readers than your thesis :-P

9

Don't even spend a second of your valuable time on writing to or about these lousy (peep). Send them to (peep) when you see them in person. Or tell them to see Figure 1. Meet them after work outside the building and let them know how good you are such that they avoid you in the future. But don't leave any written trail of your attitude. It's better to remove them from the Acknowledgements altogether.

9

Don't. It seems immature and passive aggressive. And it belittles yourself and your work if you indicate that you spent years doing what you did not out of interest in the subject or because of job prospects or whatever, but to spite this one person (and it gives undue power to that person).

If it is important for you to mention the episode, then do so; but do it in a straightforward and honest way instead of ironically, and try to formulate it "positively", such as:

My high school math teacher once told me I would never pass the university entrance exam, but my parents (? or whoever..) never stopped supporting and believing in me, for which I am eternally grateful.

Or:

My high school math teacher once told me I would never pass the university entrance exam, which was hurtful and disheartening; but in the end I succeeded. If you are a teacher: Please refrain from belittling your students; if you are a student: please do not let yourself be discouraged by disparaging remarks.

  • This is one of the best answers on this site. Well-thought, well-explained and with pratical suggestions – Hatschu Mar 12 at 18:14
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You're a student, not a professional, so "professionalism" is a category error.

However, I find your proposed paragraph rather crass and it suggests that you've spent years and years harbouring a grudge against this person. You might consider something along the lines of the following, which still tells the funny story but does it without (IMO) making you look bitter and obsessed.

Since this the end of my time at the Lebanese University-Faculty of Engineering, I’m glad to thank the math teacher who motivated by telling me: "you will never pass the entrance exam of the Lebanese University-Faculty of engineering, my nephew failed surely you will fail."

  • At least, repeating "my nephew failed" still seems petty since it paints that teacher as an idiot (even if maybe correctly). PhD students can certainly be professional or not. For graduate students (as the OP) this seems borderline—but they'll be judged as adults by anybody reading (especially if they stay in academia). So maybe professionalism is a category error, but in practice you best behave professionally even as a student, especially in your thesis. – Blaisorblade Jul 10 '17 at 17:19
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That's the sort of paragraph that people who already like you will find funny. Some people who don't know you are going to find this negative. They might wonder why this teacher would say this to you.

I would use the space to thank the people who helped you. And if by some chance the teacher who said that to you reads your acknowledgements, he should have some idea why he's not mentioned. I think that when positive people have nothing to say about someone it has almost the same effect as when negative people have bad things to say about someone. (I'm not saying you're either.)

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    "They might wonder why this teacher would say this to you." +1. Sadly, some will think he was correct and you barely managed—including other professors with an elitist attitude. – Blaisorblade Jul 10 '17 at 17:24
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How about:

For all the wonderful time I have spent in the Lebanese University-Faculty of Engineering, I am glad to thank all those who have supported me or made me very motivated to do my best against all odds, including the university entrance exam.

Very accurate, and if you send your paper to your former math teacher, he/she would certainly know what you're referring to, yet nothing in it is accusatory.

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Answer this: Do you think this would be a sign or moral superiority or do you think a comment like this would come from exactly that kind of people who told you you're not going to make it in the first place?

I think it depends on the person you want to be here - besides the fact that such a statement in a formal report is kind of inappropriate. Do you want to stay above this? You showed them anyway. Don't you think not letting them know what you think is a much bigger punishment? If you write something like this, all they're going to do is say: "Yeah, he made it. But come on. Look at this poor comment he wrote into this document here."

Think about it.

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There is nothing wrong to tell the truth. What is the purpose of an acknowledgement? To show others how you make it in the end after so much hardship. An acknowledgement is also the integral part of your paper, so when you become a Nobel prize winner in future, it will be very interesting for us to read this part. As to the teacher who is not friendly or who should not be called an educator at all, why do you bother to consider how to keep his or her face because he never did so for you. Go ahead with your writing.

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    "so when you become a Nobel prize winner in future, it will be very interesting for us to read this part" -- do you really think this is helpful advice? – Yemon Choi Jul 8 '17 at 11:34
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    To help a young person to have his own confidence, is there anything wrong? Isn't it helpful enough? – NanningYouth Jul 9 '17 at 4:28
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    Giving people unrealistic encouragement, and encouraging them to be confrontational or arrogant, is not helpful – Yemon Choi Jul 9 '17 at 13:15
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    @bubba I disagree. Just because those words can be misused, this does not mean they are always non-applicable. My comments are based on experience of actually being a student and now being a teacher. I believe in giving constructive advice, not just the advice people want to hear. – Yemon Choi Jul 9 '17 at 14:22
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    "and it is also very objective because he is simply a recorder of the fact" -- in my experience, as a student and teacher and author and referee, this is very often not the case. – Yemon Choi Jul 10 '17 at 14:49
-1

Personally, I would include the comment, or something like it. I think it needs some re-wording (the word "dude"seems inappropriate, to me, for example), but the basic sentiment is OK, in my opinion. Clearly these thoughts are important to you, and they deserve to be expressed.

But note that I said "personally". In other words, this is just my own approach to things, and it may or may not work for you. I'm often considered direct (abrupt?), outspoken (harsh?), innovative (undisciplined?), and undiplomatic. I'm sometimes accused of being "unprofessional", and I actually regard that as a compliment, because, to me, "professional" typically implies stuffy, formal, and humorless.

So, short answer ... some people certainly will regard your comments as "unprofessional". That label doesn't bother me at all, but the key question is whether or not it bothers you.

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