Excuses, excuses: professors are busy and unapproachable
Some students think professors don’t really care or are too busy for casual conversations. Let your student in on the secret … Professors want to meet them! And if you’re a doubting parent, realize that successful students make the effort to know their professors. If your student is busy making excuses instead of making connections, share this insight that comes directly from HBU professors.
Engage with the classroom community
With HBU’s small class size, your student can experience belonging in the classroom community and working with others to achieve success, and getting to know the professor is a huge part of that. “The most important thing I do is build relationships with my students. Because without a good relationship, my planned lessons will not be heard,” says Dr. Encarnacion Bermejo, Associate Professor of Spanish. “I see my classrooms as communities where all of us share knowledge and life experiences.”
Simply introduce yourself
“I loved the first day of class last week! Five students came up one by one and introduced themselves,” shares Samantha Bottoms, adjunct professor in Christianity and Director of Academics for Athletics. “I think one student started it, and the others followed. That usually doesn’t happen with freshmen on the first day, and I am so glad to start off the semester meeting them and seeing that they want to be engaged.”
Connecting with students early on is important to Bermejo too. “I try to show the students how much I value them,” she adds, “by taking time to learn the slang terms they use, their musical preferences and the movies they like.”
Send an email
“Some students are more comfortable with email communication, and that is okay, but there are still some basics to remember about email etiquette,” cautions Bottoms. “An email to a professor is different than sending a text to a friend. It should be addressed to the professor (double-check the name and title and use “Dr.” if you are not sure), should be written clearly and concisely, and closed with ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Thank you.’”
Stop by the office
Professors make time in their schedules to stay in their offices so students can find them easily the same time each week. These office hours are communicated in the first couple of weeks of class. “I always remind students to Go to office hours!,” says Bottoms. “Most professors post office hours, and they want students to show up! Adjunct professors who are not always on campus often prefer to schedule appointments, but we are also willing to meet and hopeful that students will seek us out.”
Prioritize professor input
Bottoms notices that many students who have questions prefer to ask inexperienced friends instead of a professor! “Encourage your student to go to the professor for specific questions, instead of relying on other students who are currently in the class or who have taken the class before,” suggests Bottoms. “General, subject-related questions, however, can often be handled by other students in the class or experienced tutors who have earned an A in the class already.” Course-specific tutoring and writing support is offered at no cost in the Academic Success Center.
Freshman students frequently struggle with the academic demands of college versus high school. When students take time to connect with professors, they feel more supported all the way around. The relationship benefits students in class and down the road. “Professors understand an occasional conflict, but attendance is a student’s first priority,” explains Bottoms. “The earlier in the semester the student gets to know the professor, the easier it is to discuss a range of potential issues.” Students seem to work harder when they know the professor, so Bermejo mentions that students benefit now from improved grades and classroom engagement and benefit later when they need letters of recommendation or want advice.
Visit the Department of Student Success
This article is a contribution from the Department of Student Success, providing your student resources through First Year Success, Academic Success Center, Advising, TRiO, and Gen1. Remind your student to Visit Early and Visit Often – 1st floor of the Moody Library building. For many students, showing up for class is the first half of success, and the second half is showing up in the Academic Success Center for academic support that includes course-specific tutoring, writing support, and academic coaching. First Year Success coaches connect students with a wide range of resources across campus to keep them on track with their goals. Students can experience fun, caring, helpful support through the TRiO and Gen1 communities. – written by Rachelle Dooley, Academic Success Center