Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Professors Are Not Monsters

College Professors

Some professors are more approachable than others.

Perhaps some professors are more amicable or approachable than others, but it’s true. They aren’t monsters.

The grand majority of them will give you the time of day, if you ask at the right time, with the right information, and in the right way. It really isn’t as scary as it seems.

It’s important to note that when you’re dealing with university professors, you’re dealing with serious professionals. They’re not your friends in the cafeteria, but they’re also not demigods. They’re very knowledgeable about what they teach… and they’re being paid to teach it to you. It’s their job to help you! You don’t need to fear talking to a university professor, but it is important to be prepared, and to be humble.

After all, they know a lot more than you do, and are choosing to share that knowledge with you. Be thankful. Can you imagine having to learn everything from the textbook?

On that note of cautionary encouragement, let’s examine how to prepare yourself to talk to a professor.

First of all, when do you need to go and talk to a professor?

Talk to your professor if the issue you’re having is directly related to their class – either something to do with the subject matter they teach, or something to do with a specific assignment they’ve given. Only ask questions that only they can answer. That way you’re not taking time out of their schedules to ask them a question that someone else can answer. For other questions, look around your campus. Is there a writing skills centre? An academic skills centre? Student advisors? Student tutor services? All these people are being paid to answer your questions about other things. Make use of them.

Before you even make an appointment with your professor, or plan to show up during their office hours, think over your question. Make sure you have background information on the question you’re planning to ask. If you’re having trouble figuring out a point about the material, make sure you read it again. Ask another student. Ask a tutor. If you’re still really stuck, then at least you can tell the professor with all honesty that you’ve read the material, you’ve asked other people, and you still don’t understand.

When you do go to see your professor, be punctual, polite, and professional. Be there five minutes early, if you have an appointment. Don’t show up right at the end of their office hours unless you have no other option, you’ve talked to them previously, and they’ve said that’s okay. If your professor uses email on a regular basis, send them a message beforehand stating what you’re having trouble with and asking about a good time to meet. If your professor doesn’t use email, catch them at the beginning or the end of your class with them for the same reasons. This way they’re not taken by surprise by your question, and if they need to look anything up in order to answer you, they can do so.

Politeness and professionalism go hand-in-hand.

Don’t call your professor by their first name unless it is a common practice with that professor. If they have a doctorate, refer to them as Dr. Zacharias (for example). If not, Professor is fine, or just normal ‘honorifics’ – Mr., Mrs., Miss. “Sir” and “ma’am” might be a bit overboard, but you never know. Don’t interrupt them; ask smart questions and clarifying questions if you need to. Be forward and clear with your speech. Be confident. Be honest. Speak your thoughts, and listen intently. Remember you’re there to have a question answered.

When they do answer your question, thank them! Don’t take your professors for granted. Some of them could be making a lot more money in another career, but they’re there to teach. Or to research. Either way, though, they chose to be there, teaching people like you. Respect that.

Above all, don’t be afraid. Remember they’re there to help, and you’re being honest with them. Be confident. You’re paying for this, but you’re probably not paying near enough for the wealth of information that university professors can provide.

They took the time to learn it all, they more than likely want to share it. They’re not going to bite your head off. Relax. Smile.
They aren’t monsters.

Editorial Staff
Author: Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff at STUDY Magazine is a team of industry professionals.
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