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How to Talk to your Faculty

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not asking for help when you need it. Don't think that if you tell you instructors that you are having trouble, the instructor will think worse of you.  In fact, the opposite is often true. When you ask an instructor for help, that teacher knows you are serious about studying. If you never come to talk to your instructor, but are doing poorly, then the instructor may assume that you just don’t care. Make an appointment to talk to your instructor as soon as you start to slip; he or she will probably have some good ideas for improving your grades. Here are some steps to help when meeting with your teachers. These tips are from an article in the National On-Campus Report called, “Helping New Students Make the Most of Meetings with Faculty,” (1993).

Step 1: Make an appointment.

  • Review the syllabus for your instructor’s office hours. Go to his or her office during those hours. If you are uncertain of your instructor’s office hours, ask for them or call the secretary of your instructor’s department.
  • If your schedule conflicts with the office hours, tell your instructor why you can’t make the scheduled office hours. Then tell him/her about your concern.
  • Set up a specific time to meet with your instructor. Be sure to indicate the amount of time you think you’ll need.

Step 2: Establish Rapport.

  • Be on time for your appointment.
  • Visit your instructor with an open, friendly attitude.  Introduce yourself again (include your name and class). Professors really do enjoy talking to students and having personal interactions. After all, personal interaction is part of why they chose to teach at RCC.

Step 3: Present your concern.

  • Focus on the specific reason you are meeting with the instructor.
  • Have your question(s) or problem(s) written out so that the teacher can see where your difficulties are.

Step 4: Provide background information.

  • Explain the study strategies you’ve used to understand the material.

Step 5: Ask for clarification if instructor’s explanation isn’t clear.

  • Redirect his/her attention to the specific point where you became confused.
  • “Talk through” your problem so that the instructor hears your reasoning.
  • Summarize the instructor’s explanation, focusing on the step(s) you were missing.

Step 6: Thank your instructor and ask to come back if necessary.