—Jordan, Berea, Kentucky
The humorous answer: “The best approaches are very careful ones.” Although I like to say that we don’t bite—at least I haven’t bitten a student yet—I do think that knowing how to approach a teacher and what to say (and not say) are great ways to make the most of your encounter.
Tips for success
Take it outside
Many of us teachers love the stage of our classrooms, but with so many students, it’s sometimes hard to give each person the individual attention they might need. Because of this, we actually love when our students stop by and see us (at a pre-arranged time, preferably). If you want to get the attention you need and deserve, ask to speak with your teachers outside of class, where they can give you undivided attention.
If the purpose of the meeting is to get back on track or recover from a failing grade, I recommend that you not confess your sins. Keep the conversation focused on getting your grades back on track. Teachers don’t want to think that their class isn’t your most important one—even if that’s true. They also don’t like hearing that you don’t like the subject (that they may have spent years studying) or that you don’t think their class (that they spend hours and hours preparing for) is useful.
Teachers, for the most part, really like their students and like them even more when they know something about them. Don’t feel like you have to impress them with your grasp of your intricate knowledge of the Civil War. You also don’t have to speak and act formally as if you’re meeting the president. Manners are always appreciated, but you’ll get more out of it if you feel comfortable and can be yourself.
Show appreciation for the extra one-on-one time. A “thank you” when you leave, a handshake of appreciation, or a brief email expressing your gratitude are, unfortunately, rare. But if a teacher feels you valued their time, they’re going to be more than happy to help you again soon.