Here are the best ways to reach out to your professors:
Get to Class Early or Stay Late: It’s nice to give your prof the heads up that you have a concern, or something you want to speak to them about. This doesn’t mean you have to spill your guts to them right there in front of your whole class, but it does set the stage for you to gather your thoughts, let them know you want to discuss a few things, and set up a time to meet.
Email or Call Them: On every syllabus I’ve received, my professors have listed both their email and phone numbers—the really brave ones even put their cell phone numbers with the bold statement to “shoot them a text”. Now, you don’t have to send them any emoticons or give the 411 via text, but if you aren’t comfortable speaking to them in front of others, send them an email asking about office hours, or when they would be available for a meeting. This is low risk, and doesn’t put your prof on the spot to tell you when they are free—in fact it gives you the chance to check your schedule too!
Stop by Their Office: So you don’t want to talk to them in class, and you don’t have a computer handy, instead why not try stopping by their office. You can be casual and see if they are free, or make an appointment to come back. Going in person lets them put a face with a name and a little time to prepare information for your meeting.
Here are some important tips to remember regardless of how you decided to approach them, in any situation it’s best to remember these rules—even if you “shoot them a text”!
- Don’t blame your teacher or accuse them of anything. No matter how unfair you think that last test was, or how much you struggle with their teaching style try and remember to make “I” statements, not “You” statements. You can feel a certain way and express those opinions constructively. If you blame your professors for your frustrations you put them on the defensive and they are less likely to want to be accommodating.
- Be calm. The reason why it’s so effective to set up a meeting and come back to the situation is that it gives you time to cool off and collect what you want to say. Especially if there’s a problem, you want to come to the table prepared and not overly emotional. By putting some space between the event and your meeting you can put your best foot forward, and also give your prof some time to do the same—and think over any questions you may have posed when you set up the time to talk.
- Finally, don’t underestimate your teachers. However scary or “mean” they seem in class, you may not be getting an accurate depiction of who they really are. The “meanest” teachers I’ve ever had actually turned out to be completely reasonable and ended up having the biggest effect on me. I learned more from professors who were tougher in class than I ever did from professors who tried too hard to be your friend. Be open to going to talk to your professors and don’t be nervous that they won’t understand. They want to help, they want to make sure you understand—that’s why they are there in the first place. Be open, be confident and be willing to see the bigger picture. Professors can help or hurt your attitude about a class. It’s your job to help connect the dots and find out how the two of you and your classmates can start to gel and really understand each other.
I’m reading The Hodges Harbrace Handbook