Meeting with your instructors is an important part of your college education. Asking questions, sharing ideas, goals, and discussing the subject matter will help you and your instructor to get to know each other better.
INSTRUCTORS ARE GREAT RESOURCES
There are many reasons you may need to or want to meet with your instructor. Maybe you are having trouble understanding a concept or completing a class assignment or project. Perhaps you have questions about how a test or paper was graded. It could be you just want to check on how you’re doing in the course. Or it might be that you are ready to choose a major or make career decisions and want to know more about your instructor’s field of study.
Whatever the reason, the successful student will use his/her instructor as a resource. Many students find it difficult to approach instructors, unsure how to make contact, or not wanting to “bother” the teacher. Remember that each instructor’s job includes meeting individually with students, and most appreciate students seeking them out to discuss concerns and ask questions. It is important to bring issues to your instructor as they come up, seeking clarification or additional instructions in “small pieces.” Don’t wait until the day before a test to get help.
Taking the time to meet your instructor will make it easier to solve problems together if they arise later on.
MEETING WITH YOUR INSTRUCTOR
- The course syllabus given to you by the instructor should contain the procedures for arranging meetings as well as office hours, location, and phone number. Faculty office locations, hours and telephone numbers are also published in the Schedule of Classes.
- If the syllabus does not include a procedure for contact, ask after class whether you may drop in during office hours or need to make an appointment. Avoid trying to catch the instructor right before class starts when his or her attention is more likely to be on the class itself.
Most instructors will provide you with a phone number where you can reach them or leave messages. When calling an instructor, leave a complete message that includes your name, the course, the day and time your class meets, and the reason for your call. If you need an appointment outside the scheduled office hours, indicate days and times when you can meet. Avoid “telephone tag” by leaving 3 reliable times that you can be reached by phone, and be sure to say your telephone number slowly and distinctly.
Notes or Emails to Instructors:
If you are composing a note or email for your instructor, provide the same information as you would when leaving a telephone message. Providing complete information will help ensure instructor response.
THINK AND PLAN AHEAD
- Think about what other resources are available to assist you, such as other students, study groups or the Tutorial Center. Instructors are most receptive when students take initiative and demonstrate a sense of responsibility. For example, if you have missed class, ask another student for the assignment and the notes from the class you missed before approaching the instructor.
- Clarify for yourself whether you can discuss this issue with other students present or if you need a specific amount of time as well as privacy for this meeting with your instructor.
- Sometimes you don’t need to prepare. For those times that you want to know how you are doing, discuss an idea that interests you, or are feeling worried or discouraged, just show up and ask to talk.
- Think about whether your concern is truly class-related and something the instructor can help you with or if it is actually a personal issue. If you are uncertain, meet with your Disability Specialist for support.
- To make your meeting more productive, think about what you want to accomplish and how much time it will take.
- Review the class syllabus to make sure you understand the instructor’s expectations and the course standards.
- Make a list of the questions you have, problems you are encountering or areas in which you need help. Be as concrete and specific as you can.
- With math and science, be specific about the concepts or steps you understand and the ones you don’t. Be ready to point out exactly where you need help in your understanding.
AT YOUR MEETING...
- Bring your textbook, tests, notes, and any other materials that will help you focus.
- If you are waiting outside the office for your turn, let the instructor see you so that he/she knows you are there. Respect other students’ privacy by staying out of earshot.
- After you present the situation, stop talking and listen. Allow the instructor to respond and make suggestions.
- Be straightforward in talking about your concern. Make eye contact and use “I” messages which communicate your experience. Avoid blaming, attacking, or making excuses. It is easier to be understood when you say “I feel confused about the application of —— formula” instead of “Your lecture confused me.”
- Respect time, both yours and the instructor’s. When your business is completed,
Contacting Part-Time (Adjunct) Instructors: If you have difficulty reaching your instructor, you may ask the department secretary for support or to deliver your note to the instructor’s mail box.
Instructional Advisors are teachers who help students with questions regarding specialized training, job opportunities, and course selection in the area of their expertise. Contact individual academic departments for information.
WHAT IF? QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What if I feel uncomfortable meeting face to face with my instructor?
Talking with an instructor may be a totally new experience for you. You may have learned in your family or in your culture that it is impolite or unacceptable to ask teachers questions or take the instructor’s time for individual concerns. New students, whether just out of high school or reentering, may not be used to approaching an instructor individually. Any student may feel uncomfortable due to previous negative experiences with teachers or others in positions of authority.
Remember, the instructor is a resource and meeting with students is part of their job. If you are hesitant, consider bringing a friend for support. Having an observer will help you later to follow through on suggestions and ideas.
Another strategy, if you are feeling uncomfortable, is to make an appointment with your Disability Specialist to develop a plan for approaching and meeting with a particular instructor. They can serve as a coach and help you practice beforehand.
What if my grade in a class is radically different than I expected?
Speak to the instructor to determine if an error has been made or if you believe that your work warrants reevaluation. If there has been an error, the instructor is the only person who can make a grade change.
I realize I have the responsibility to bring my concerns to the instructor. Do I also have rights?
You have the right to meet with your instructor and discuss your concerns free from intimidation and harassment.
If you feel there is anything inappropriate about your contact with an instructor, you need to talk to someone else. Make an appointment with a counselor or the department chairperson to discuss your concern.
The department chairperson is also the appropriate person to contact if you find an instructor unwilling to meet and talk with you in spite of having followed the suggestions for making contact.
A complete list of student rights and responsibilities at SRJC can be found here.