Some students believe that asking a professor a question — let alone visiting them in their office — means that they will be marked as “the dumb one.”
To some students, entering a professor’s office means contracting a life-threatening virus.
To others, it feels like home.
The professor-to-student relationship usually — and unfortunately — lies at one of these two polar extremes. It’s not like colleges provide Professor Relationship 101, either.
Think of the next five hypothetical questions asked by students as a crash course. Hopefully it will debunk myths and stigmas around professors and how they interact with students.
1. “What do I call them? A professor? A doctor? Mister or missus?”
Since kindergarten, students called teachers mister or missus so-and-so. Most students probably didn’t even know a teacher’s first name until college. This can be overwhelming. A legitimate fear for some definitely exists regarding what to call professors. But students just need to trust their instincts.
If a professor said, “… But you can call me by my first name,” then it’s not unprofessional. But if you’re talking to the school president about a professor, you may want to mention him as Professor Smith rather than Joe.
The same goes for emails, interview requests, office-hour signups … and professor, doctor, mister, missus. Use common sense — but don’t believe he or she would never talk to you again if you choose the wrong title.
2. “I don’t want to seem dumb going to a professor’s office. What do I do?”
Some students believe that asking a professor a question — let alone visiting his or her office — means that they will be marked as “the dumb one.”
But the truth is professors would much rather deal with questions before (for example, a midterm) rather being asked afterward, “I bombed this test, can you please raise my grade?”
Professors want to educate students.
Even if you had a dumb question, they’ll respect you for having the guts to ask it. If going to the office still intimidates you, then send an email. A professor or a teaching assistant will either answer the question or set up a meeting at his or her office to discuss it.
3. “But what do I even talk about? Just academics? I’m sure they don’t care about my life.”
Most professors understand the academic and social pressures of being a student. After all, they went through that themselves and have seen all variations of it teaching at your college.
The myth that professors somehow don’t have the pulse of younger students is false. To some degree, they may know more about students than anyone.
For example, it’s often harder to talk to parents or friends about school troubles. But professors can be neutral about it and even share a story or two about a student who went through the same thing.
Not all professors will welcome non-academic talks, but some will. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask by saying something like, “I’ve been struggling with (something). Do you have any suggestions?”
4. “I still don’t see a benefit to talk to a professor.”
Just like college admission essays, a great letter of recommendation will stand out. And for someone to write an inspired and truthful recommendation, he or she would need to get to know you.
But don’t think of a professor as a vessel that writes a fancy document. Professors have priceless connections and advice, too.
For example, a professor may know someone looking for a roommate or a job opening with other alumni. Most assume professors only know old alumni. Like the Class of ’45 alumni. But professors still communicate with students who just graduated.
However, do not just send an email asking for a recommendation letter or job offer. You wouldn’t ask a girl to prom on Facebook Chat, right? Do it in person and thank them for their time.
5. “So what you’re saying is that there’s no reason why you shouldn’t talk to a professor?”
It is the professor’s job to be available for questions regarding his or her courses. Every professor is different, but most can — and willingly — double as a counselor, friend or mentor.
However, be mindful that professors have lives outside of school, too. (I know, shocking.) Plus, they have to be there for other students as well. Like you would treat your parents or friends, be respectful of their time. Thank them when applicable, and don’t be frustrated if they don’t get back to you immediately.
But most importantly, understand most professors want to help — academically, personally and intellectually.
Who knows? You may even make a lifelong friend out of it.
Powered by Facebook Comments