Throughout the semester there may be times that you are struggling with a paper, confused by the subject material or happened to miss the last class period but was confused by something in the classmate’s notes that you borrowed. During times like these you should talk with the professor. After all, they are the one teaching the course and know what they are looking for you to do. Here are some tips to help you say the right thing when looking for help:
1. Don’t say: “I’m so lost!”
Say: “I am confused about our upcoming paper. Here is what I’ve done: I read over the assignment sheet. I reviewed your examples. I am stuck on the transitions and two of my sources. Can you help with that?”
Here’s why: Instead of conveying blanket lost-ness, be specific. Don’t make your professor tease out where you’re stuck, which wastes time. Show that you’ve attempted to help yourself and you’ll get more focused assistance.
2. Don’t Say: “Will this be on the test?”
Say: “I used my notes and textbook and downloaded your lectures and PowerPoints to create a study guide for our upcoming exam. Would you look and see if I’ve missed any major areas?”
Here’s why: No need to mine for test gold and lose credibility. Show your professor you think all content is worthwhile. You won’t have questions handed to you, but you may get an assist if you’ve skipped a critical study area.
3. Don’t Say: “I’ve missed four classes, but can I still pass?”
Say: “I missed the last four classes, which was unavoidable. I do not plan to be absent again. I’ve reviewed the attendance and late-work policy on the syllabus. I calculated my lost points. Here is what I propose to catch myself up (submit your proposal), based on your policies. Have I missed anything in my calculations? I believe I can still pass if we agree on the dates I will submit this work, according to your policy and penalties.”
Here’s why: Your professor may have zero tolerance for absences. Still, a well-thought-out proposal has a chance. Asking your professor to save you likely doesn’t.
4. Don’t Say: “Can I leave early? Will we be doing anything important?”
Say: “I need to leave class early today. I noticed on the schedule that you are going over chapter six. I read chapter six and started on the assignment. I will have it done on time and will be prepared for the next class meeting.”
Here’s why: First, don’t ask for exit permission — your professor can’t fairly give it. Just go, be responsible for the consequences and don’t make early departure a habit. Second, your professor has a plan for class days, regardless how the schedule appears. You may be going over a test, building community through class discussion or having an unexpected guest speaker. Every class day is a day committed by you and your professor, and is important to your professor. It should be important to you, as well. Conveying otherwise? Not professional.
Use these tips when speaking with your professor and you’ll do great! Just remember, check the syllabus before asking questions about due dates as your class calendar should be in there along with any policies they have regarding attendance and grades. Confused about something? Just ask!
Extracted from www.usatodayeducate.com article by Ellen Bremen, M.A.