Never Say These Things to Your Professor was originally published on Firsthand.
Your professor goes through a lot. They deal with multiple classes per day; many students, all with different personalities and needs, and the enormous pressure of making sure each of those students succeeds. This is why we should always treat our professors with respect, even when things get difficult. Today we’re going to talk about some things you should never say to you professor. Let’s begin.
“Did you finish grading the last exam?”
If you’re a particularly conscientious student, you might be more concerned with knowing how you performed on a recent assignment or exam. Always keep in mind that you are one student among many, and your professor is hard at work preparing lectures and grading numerous papers and exams, so having patience is key. It’s okay to feel frustrated if things are taking longer than you’d like, but don’t take it out on your professor—rest assured, you’ll get your grade in due time.
The right way to handle this situation is to approach it from a different angle. Rather than asking a question that can put pressure on your professor or make them feel rushed, try asking the question this way: “I’m really excited to see how I did on the last exam. Do you have an idea on when we’ll be able to see our grades?” Your professor will appreciate your interest in the material, and if they can provide a timeframe for you, you’ll be less likely to feel frustrated while you wait for the results.
“I really need an A in this class”
In this scenario, you’re concerned with your average because of a program you’re interested in getting into and as such, you need to maintain a high GPA. The only problem is you’ve been underperforming in a particular class, so you approach your professor and explain to them that you really need a higher grade so you can achieve your goals. The likely outcome is your professor will tell you that if you want a better grade, you’ve got to put the work in.
The truth is, any good professor wants all their students to do well. If you’re doing the work of a B student, you’ll get a B; a C student will get a C, and so on. The best way to approach this situation is to express your concerns to your professor by saying something along the lines of “I’m not happy with my performance in this class so far. Do you have any suggestions on how I can do better?” Sharing your concerns with your professor will show them that you care about excelling in their class, so they’ll be happy to offer some advice. Never be afraid to speak up if you’re having trouble—this is how we learn and improve.
“What are we doing in class tomorrow?”
This question may seem slick, but your professor will see through it right away. You’re planning on missing a class; maybe you have an important prior engagement or you can feel a serious cold coming on, but you’re not skipping class frivolously, right? Okay good, just making sure. In the event you absolutely cannot make class on a certain day, take a look at your syllabus to see what’s going on. Typically, your syllabus should include at least some indication of what to expect, whether it’s a lecture, an assignment, or an exam.
Letting your professor know ahead of time would be the right thing to do. If you’re going to miss a day, check that syllabus, and then go to your professor and notify them of your impending absence. Say something like “I will not be at the next class. Can I start this assignment on my own?” This will show your professor that despite the fact you won’t be able to attend class, you’ve done your homework and you care about keeping up with the material.
“This isn’t the only class I’m taking”
This one is a big no-no. Your professor puts a lot of time into their lectures and assignments, and they’re not concerned with the other classes you’re taking. We all get overwhelmed sometimes, and that’s okay, but if you feel that one of your professors is expecting too much, just remember that they’re not out to get you. If you walk up on your professor and tell them you think it’s too much and you’ve got other classes to worry about, it’s not going to go over well.
Keep in mind that your class isn’t the only one your professor is teaching. Furthermore, they’ve also gone through college before, so they understand how crazy things can get sometimes. A better approach would be to tell your professor that you’re struggling, and that you’re concerned about your performance in their class. Your professor should be able to offer some advice, or spend some time going over the material with you.
“How come you’re never in your office?”
Another way to provoke the ire of your professor is to tell them where they’re supposed to be whenever you need them. Sure, your professor has an office and that’s a great place to meet them, but that doesn’t mean they sit there all day like a video game NPC waiting for students to show up unannounced. On a typical day your professor is busy teaching classes, reviewing and grading papers, and performing a variety of other tasks. In other words, they’ve got a lot on their plate.
Even if you manage to catch your professor in their office at some random time without speaking to them about it first, you’re likely interrupting them from their work (such as grading those exams we talked about earlier), and they won’t be prepared to speak with you about the topic at hand. It’s best to approach your professor after class and ask them when they’d be available to meet. Chances are, they’ll be happy to accommodate you.
The takeaway with all of this is good communication. If you’re having trouble, your professor is there to help you; you just need to know how to approach the situation. It’s far better to express your concerns constructively than to let your frustrations get the better of you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professor or ask for help, as doing so might have a positive impact on your GPA.