Find your most compatible degrees using our advanced algorithm. Back in elementary school, I ran into one of my teachers at the grocery store. I was shocked to see her outside of school, as though she lived, ate, and slept there. Of course teachers and professors grocery-shop! They also watch TV, fart, and take walks. Many students seem afraid of talking to professors because, for whatever reason, they forget that their professors are human.
Talking to you is part of our job. Students sometimes worry that showing up to office hours or sending an email is irritating to a professor. Remember, communicating with students is part of our job! It also helps us teach better. All students are different — some of them grasp material better during a one-on-one office-hours meeting.
Some of them learn better via an email conversation. When students articulate what helps them learn best, professors are more effective, and the class is a better experience for everyone. Looking to get the most out of a one-on-one with your professor? Keep each professor's communication preferences in mind the first time you reach out. Office hours are always a safe bet, especially if you have a question that will take some time to discuss or if you want to get to know your professor better.
A few years ago, one of my students wrote in his end-of-the-semester self-reflection essay: Couple this with office hours that conflicted with my schedule, and I was left with almost nowhere to look to for help. Professors are not mindreaders. The above student could have avoided lots of frustration and angst if he had simply emailed or talked to me at any point throughout the semester.
The same goes for students who are ill, have religious or athletic obligations , or are struggling for any reason. The vast majority of the time, problems can be resolved quickly and easily if the student speaks up. During an in-class meeting with my professor, I mentioned that I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to take my paper. As we talked through ideas, a lightbulb exploded in my skull.
In one instant, the veil was lifted and the path was illuminated. A very important lesson was learned on that tremendous occasion, one that in all likelihood should have been learned much sooner: If you speak up, your professor can — or certainly will try to — help you. If you get a difficult assignment, ask questions as soon as you can. This will save you time and trouble down the road. If you know weeks in advance that you have three finals on the same day that your final paper is due, ask for an extension right away.
The same goes for absences. Communicate about anything that may affect your performance in the class. There are many obstacles that may arise during the semester — difficulties with classes, too many extracurricular activities , too many shifts at work, homesickness, trouble making friends or problems resulting from having too many friends!
But students should tell their professors if something — anything — is going to negatively affect their classwork. Use proper etiquette and grammar. Most students are polite in office hours, but etiquette goes out the window over email. Here are some quick pointers: Proofreading email is a good habit in general.
Worried about making a mistake in your email to your professors? Read Tips from an English Teacher: As much as I encourage students to ask questions, I inevitably get at least a dozen emails each semester asking me when my office hours are. For example, I get dozens of emails asking about citations. Citations are tricky, which is why we go over them in class numerous times, and I make handouts with tons of examples. The best approach would be for the student to attempt the citation herself, and then email or show it to me after class to check.
Email allows for more casual and frequent correspondence, which is both good and bad. A good guideline is this: If not, you may want to see if you already have or are able to find the answer to the question. Students often shift the burden onto their professors, whether they realize it or not.
Professors are there to help you succeed and guide you through the class. Remember that they are trying to help lots of people learn challenging content, so make it as easy as possible for them to understand what you are looking for, and respect their time.
Want more advice on how to work successfully with your college professors? Ask pressing questions or read Expert advice on our college professors page.