Parents, tutors and friends can all be great resources when you find yourself stuck on an assignment. Any time you reach out for help you are giving yourself another chance at understanding the material and learning valuable life lessons. Sometimes, however, those resources won’t be there; that’s when professors know best. Follow the suggestions below to learn when to contact a teacher and the best way to go about it. Educators are busy people so you’ll want to use their time wisely, especially if you’ll want help in the future.
Good reasons to seek help directly from a teacher would be after an absence, if you’re severely stuck on course material or a particular assignment, or if you’re seeking advice for professional/academic advancement. On the other hand, you should rethink making an appointment if you have a bad attitude, want to know exactly what’s on the upcoming test, or desire to negotiate your grade.
What do you need?
Don’t simply say, “I’m lost,” or, “None of this makes sense.” Take time to figure out exactly what you do and do not understand. Come prepared to share what you’ve done to solve the problem on your own. Look at the syllabus or class postings to determine where and when the teacher usually meets students. If you can’t make it to their office hours, try to find another way of speaking; telephone or email may be options.
How urgent is the issue?
If it’s the afternoon before a project is due and your computer gets a virus that destroys all your work, a phone call may be warranted. In any other case, it should be a true emergency for personal phone calls; most professors do not like being contacted outside of school hours. If it’s not urgent, use their preferred method highlighted in the syllabus. When contacting them to make an appointment, state what you need help with and when you’d like to meet. For example, “Professor Smith, I’m having problems with this week’s assignment. I have used my notes from class and looked at other resources for help, but still can’t finish it. Would you be able to meet tomorrow during your office hours from 1:30pm-2:00pm?”
Are you ready to meet?
Bring along anything that will help you explain where you are stuck, and extra paper to take notes. It’s also helpful to have your questions written out. You may forget to ask a particular question, and it’s useful for the professor to know what students are struggling with.If this isn’t the first time he’s seen a student, you may be helping others in the class by alerting the teacher to a comprehension issue. Before you leave, never forget to say thank you.