Tips with Trish: Calling out Professors

Tips with Trish: Calling out Professors

Dear Trish,

I felt pretty good about how the semester started and thought my midterm grades were going to be strong. I have been going to class every day and handing in the work on time. I was a little frustrated that I did not hear back from a professor when I inquired about one class I was struggling in. I got no response after several emails with questions and inquiries about where I stood grade-wise. Is this typical? The professor does have office hours, but unfortunately they were at a time that I have another class. I had a hard time tracking him down in person and admittedly felt weird about approaching him after class. I would rather have the conversation without other students around. I have never gotten lower than a B, but got my first C- in his class. Although I knew this class was a challenge for me, I really had no idea that it was this bad. I was pretty bummed and the conversation with my parents did not go well.

I’m not going to lie, I know it’s my responsibility to do well, but feel a little let down by my professor. Don’t you think the professor should have some responsibility in responding to my attempts at asking for help? I am really trying to stay on top of things, but not knowing where I stand is creating a lot of anxiety for me, and as it turns out, I should be anxious. I like most of my professors, but a few intimidate me. I thought going to a small school meant having good communication with professors. How should I proceed? I don’t want to get on bad terms with the professor but I want to do well.

Signed,

Don’t know where I stand

Trish says,

Sounds like you are frustrated, and I understand why. Even though faculty do their best to keep up with multiple classes and busy schedules, many would rather be teaching than grading. Like many of us, some professors may put off what they don’t like. Nevertheless, you are paying for a quality education, and it makes sense that you want to know where you stand. Good for you. I wish all students would be this conscientious. Sounds like you are abiding by deadlines to get the work done and a specific professor is not returning the courtesy. To answer your question about whether or not a professor not responding is typical, I would say most definitely no. This behavior is not typical of the professors at Loras College. Most professors are great about responding to emails and making themselves available to students when in need.

My first suggestion is to address your professor in person. It is appropriate to ask faculty for their timeline in returning assignments. This can be done in class as there are likely many students who would like this information. If you don’t get a clear answer, you need to track the professor down. Office hours are ideal, but since that is difficult for you because of a schedule conflict, try a note on the door. If this doesn’t work, you may have to check in before or after class and suggest an appointment. It may be hard with others present, but you are only suggesting a meeting, not having the conversation there. You need to be assertive.

If this still seems to be ineffective, you can choose to send an email about a specific situation. When doing so, include a polite request like, “I would appreciate your input concerning a paper that I recently submitted,” or “I am concerned about my grade in the class.” Be specific. Describe briefly what your concern is, whether it be a question about when the grades will be posted or possibly the confusion about why you got the grade that you did. Be clear about the actual assignment, since the professor likely has several courses/assignments and may need some time to navigate through the details. Try to have some patience. Twenty-four hours is generally a good rule when emailing. In the email, suggest what you would like to have happen going forward. This doesn’t mean you are going to get what you want, but you can be clear about your desire. Oh yeah, and an ending like, “Thank you for your time and attention. I want to perform well in your class, and hopefully our communication will help me to do so more effectively” might be a good idea, too. Politeness always goes a long way.

In regards to difficult classes, consider other resources on campus such as the Lynch Learning Center, Headwaters, the writing lab, and SI sections. These have typically been very beneficial to help students succeed. Getting a tutor is also an option. If it really has more to do with the faculty not communicating well or returning graded work in a timely manner, then you may want to seek out your advisor or the division chair to see if he/she could prompt a more timely return of graded materials. The professor not responding or being available should not be a reason you are not doing well.

Hope this helps and does not cost me too many friends in the faculty department.

Signed, Trish

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