How to Interact Successfully with your Teachers in College

The best way to interact with your teachers in college is to remember that a teacher’s goal is to make the student successful. The next best way is to also remember the definition of the word “interact”: It means “to act together,” in this case with a common goal of the aforementioned student success. So, being shy and afraid of your instructor is not a formula for success.

Here are a few pointers on your road to becoming educated:

♦ “Read and heed” the instructor’s course syllabus or schedule. If the instructor’s syllabus is especially detailed, it is best to become thoroughly familiar with what the instructor’s expectations, guidelines, classroom rules, etc., entail. The instructor took the trouble to publish all this, and the most successful students follow the syllabus religiously. The syllabus is a kind of “contract” between you and the instructor. If you have questions or trepidations, bring them up during the first or second meeting of the class.

♦  Learn the instructor’s office hours and plan on visiting the instructor for a face-to-face session at least once (preferably more) during the semester.  Both full-time and adjunct instructors are usually compensated for their office hours, and most appreciate it when a student drops in for counseling, feedback, and advice.

♦ If the course requires a term paper, ask the instructor’s advice on your thesis and research approach. A term or research paper can comprise a hefty percentage of your course grade. It can also present the daunting challenge of formatting, citing, and bibliographic work that can confuse and frustrate a student. Your teacher is there to help, so just ask.

♦ Speak up and talk back during lectures. College is a time for new ideas and critical thinking. Many instructors both appreciate and grade students on class participation. Actively engaged and proactive students are the ones that the teacher recalls when it comes time for subjective grading that can mean the difference between a slightly higher or lower overall grade.

♦ Volunteer and be a leader in class. If the class involves group projects, be the group spokesperson and facilitator. Pretty soon the teacher will begin to rely on you as an important “player” in the successful conduct of the class activities. Also, take advantage of opportunities to recite or do text readings during the class.

♦ Let the teacher know your learning style. Remember that learning, like teaching, is more of an art than a science, strive to know what your own learning style is.   There are seven recognized learning styles (visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary). Most students’ styles are a combination of the aforementioned, but everyone has a dominant one.  If the teacher’s style seems to conflict with the way you learn, tell the teacher how your style might be an impediment to your success and ask for study pointers.

Finally, remembering that the idea behind being educated is a kind of “connect-the-dots” process, you’ll need to go the extra mile in making contact with your teacher. If that teacher seems scary or aloof, you’ll need to overcome your natural reluctance and remember that your tuition or tax money pays that teacher’s salary and that the teacher’s job is to connect yet another “dot” in your road to becoming an educated person.