This is what your professor probably wants to do when you ask one of these questions.
Before you read any further, I want you to know two things about me, the author of this blog post. First, I am a young professor, which means that I completely understand the current demands of a student, how students go about selecting courses and all the tricks in the book for making excuses. I also want you to know that I have heard everything below, and this article wasn’t written to be comical in any way.
From a professor’s point of view, I want to tell students that effective professors care about their classes, put a lot of time into grading and lesson planning and genuinely want students to take away some knowledge from the course. Being a professor with the technology accessible to students today also means that we are expected to answer emails immediately.
Believe it or not, professors also want to see their students do well in their courses. However, we do form impressions about students and it’s undeniable that we consider assignment extensions based on a student’s attitude and effort. Therefore, in order to build a relationship with your professor, whether it be to earn a good grade for the semester or to secure a letter of recommendation in the future, here are some things to avoid saying at all costs. Seriously.
1. “Did I miss anything important/Did we do anything important in class?”
Let me answer this one for you in one word: Yes. The answer will always be “yes.” The reason is because professors never stand up in front of a room or create an activity that they consider useless. Professors value their course and think the content is important every day. I will also add a bonus pointer here that it should be the student’s responsibility to find out what was missed in class.
2. “I just took your class for an easy A.”
Professors translate this statement as the student didn’t care about the course material or want to put any effort into doing the work. Professors care about their course curriculum and they hope that it will be respected and taken seriously. When professors grade, quality counts, and taking quizzes, writing papers and completing group presentations are all part of earning a passing grade.
3. “I didn’t know we had anything due in this course.”
Saying this to a professor is equivalent to asking, “What days does this class meet?” and, “Do we have a book in this course?” At the college level, students have assignments due in every class, every semester. It is a student’s responsibility to look at the course syllabus. At the collegiate level, a student should not be relying on class announcements or personalized emails to be alerted to upcoming due dates either.
4. “I was busy studying for my other classes so I didn’t do my work for this class.”
Unfortunately, that is not an excuse. Students need to learn time-management skills and effective study habits. It is an insult for a professor to hear that their class wasn’t as important as another one.
5. “Did you answer my email yet?”
There are two reasons why students should never say this to their professors. First, if you expected that the professor should reply to your email, you should spend time checking your inbox for the response before asking. It’s extremely frustrating if a lot of time was put into an email response and the student doesn’t even read the reply. Second, it gives off the impression that you believe the professor’s life revolves around your email. Professors attend meetings, have research demands, serve on committees and sleep at night. Please allow your professor a normal response time, especially if the email was sent at 1 a.m.
Note: The more polite way to handle the situation would be to follow up with a second email if the professor does not answer the first one within a week.
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