Communication Etiquette: Getting To Know Your Professor

To many college students, a professor is simply a faceless entity hidden behind a barrage of emails.  Interestingly enough, university classes do not always have to turn out this way.  A majority of the time, students (including myself at one point) do not communicate well with their professors because they are either intimidated by them or do not know the proper means of doing so.  The task is much easier than most students think.  It just takes a little common sense and well-thought out approaches.

Ask them what they would prefer you call them.

Getting past a teacher’s name is a huge part of breaking down communication barriers.  Say your teacher is John Smith.  Do you call him Professor Smith?  Just Smith?  Or even John?  Get past this awkward conversation during syllabus week (the first day or two of classes), and you will be well on your way to understanding your faculty.  This also makes them learn your name easier if you respect their wishes.

Save the questions. Check the syllabus first.

Another easy way to get off to a rocky start with a faculty member is to disregard information they have already given you and asking the trademark “dumb question” anyway.  Before inquiring on the time of office hours, reread the syllabus.  Instead of raising your hand to demand to know when a paper will be due and how much time you have to complete it, please do read the syllabus.  Once you have deduced that something is, in fact, not on the syllabus then you may ask your professor.

Skip the email and confer with your professor in person.

One fatal mistake that many a college freshman will make is holding important questions until after lecture and come and gone.  If you have a problem with a paper or assignment, bring it up to them right then and there.  Otherwise, you will be all the more upset when they deny you any pity through the cold shoulder of the Internet.  Plus, through the joys of face-to-face conversation, you have ceased to be just another faceless name in the crowd for your professor.  They now know you as an individual who gets things done and is actually able to reach out and get to know someone, and a teacher at that!

If you must email, keep them cordial and to the point.

This is not the same as instant messenger, people.  Several professors take email correspondence very seriously.  Depending on the professor, some may not even reply if your email breaks the boundaries of student-teacher etiquette.  Write in full sentences.  For the love of all that is grammatically correct, do not use terms like “ur” and “ttyl” anywhere near an email to a professor.  Also, make sure not to over-embellish your writing.  They are not looking for a novel, and while you should be polite, do not be a kiss-up.  Remember to state your name and class because some teachers have several lectures under their observation.  Overall, they should be short, sweet and to the point.

Overall, your professor has the authority. Do not question it.

If a professor tells you something, obviously you should listen to what they have to say, absorb it and carry on with your life.  From time to time, you may find a mis-grade or two, but these are rare occasions.  Unless you are completely and utterly sure they are in the wrong, do not argue what a professor tells you.  After all, they are certified to do this for a living for a good reason.  Even when you remotely do not agree with something, bring your points up politely.  Often, questioning grades is not a wise decision because it makes you seem petty and only caring of the points and not the true academic nature of the course.  Basically, keep your mouth in check unless absolutely necessary.

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Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Theatre. On campus, Tori can often be found working on various projects for Her Campus Illinois, acting in a production or reading. While at home, she enjoys working at her family’s restaurant or exploring with her friends.