By Ellen Bremen, M.A.
By Creatas
You’re in a bind or you’re totally confused. What should you say to your professor?
Everything you read about speaking to professors warns that you shouldn’t tick them off, ruin their impression of you or say something to sink you further.
But should you keep your mouth shut? No!
I’ve witnessed 14-plus years of student interactions and I teach interpersonal communication. Not talking to your instructors isn’t the answer and texting is out of the question. The right words give you a shot at solving your problem and possibly getting better grades.
I’ve got two pocket themes you can use with your professor that work for many class-related situations: “Here is what I’ve done…” and “Here is what I propose…” A little background behind my recommendations:
When students have issues — late work, absences, needing help — they often come across as, “Solve it for me. Now!” Professors’ reactions? Mildly irritated to snarky to downright grizzly. Would you throw your lateness, your missed work or your confusion in your boss’ lap and say, “Fix it!”? That could cost you a job, right? You want to appear ultra-professional with your professor, even if you’ve blown something up. So use these phrases to sound proactive, rather than reactive.
• Instead of saying, “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?”
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