Friend or Foe? How to Get Along With Your Professor

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With the fall semester reaching its halfway mark, students are scrambling across campuses to cram for midterms. Are there any classes you wish you had dropped before the deadline? Are your liberal arts classes miserable because you failed to check Rate My Professor before registration? Don’t fret—we’ve got you covered for spring with some inside scoop. To assure smooth sailing, professors revealed ways your name will jump out from the hundreds of names and university ID’s on their roll calls.

START WITH SAYING “HELLO”

Florida State University TA CJ Hauser said the simplest of introductions can do wonders. “Introducing yourself, period, is a lovely thing to do. Coming up to the professor after the first class, and maybe sharing a reason why you’re enrolled or looking forward to the course shows you’re a tuned in kind of person we’ll be excited to work with.” If the syllabus is available before the semester begins, review it and ask assignment-specific questions the day after your first class. This will not only show your interest, but your preparedness. A professor will notice a student who is ready to collaborate early on.

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

English professor Vincent Golphin, who has taught in institutions in New York and China, said keeping the lines of communication open is critical. Golphin said a student’s work ethic—beyond the first day’s meeting—is what speaks volumes. “I am most impressed and surprised when a student shows up on time, prepared, asks questions and responds to comments for improvement on their assignments.”

THE CLASSROOM IS SACRED, RESPECT IT

It’s not that students don’t want to learn, sometimes it’s the way they try to interact in class that’s misinterpreted. Professor Subhas Rampersaud, who teaches yoga and political science at Valencia College, said disrespecting the opinions of others hinders diversity in a classroom. Hauser agreed. “It’s important too for the wonderful extroverts of the classroom to be understanding when the professor ignores their hand up sometimes after they’ve already said a thing or two,” Hauser said. “It’s that in those extra beats some introverts might muster up the gumption to raise their hands.”

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

While Golphin said he is open to the occasional after-class coffee with his students, he warned students that crossing the teacher/student boundary isn’t wise. “The less they get it twisted, the better the learning experience might be for both. That does not mean that they cannot have pleasant talks, or shared interests, yet they are only tied by the task for the term.” Though that doesn’t mean you should forget about that professor the second you get your final grade. Golphin said that some relationships that began as mentorships have resulted in acquaintanceships of over 40 years. Translation? You should go in expecting to excel in a learning-exclusive environment, but the way you engage with the instructor could lead to a lifelong relationship.

Rampersaud on the other hand said the basis of an interaction with a student doesn’t have to be limited by their mutual interest in education. He said his participation in extracurricular activities with students develops a deeper bond that can sometimes be hindered by a class setting. “I am engaged in out of classroom activities with students because I believe that learning and education extend outside of four walls and must engage the whole person.” He recounted visiting with his students after class for social events, and even mentioned having traveled to conferences with some.

Reap the BENEFITS

It’s no secret that networking is vital for any career to flourish. TA’s and professors are crucial as they educate us in our field and offer us firsthand advice based on their successes and failures in the real world. “As a student you’ll find lots of friends on campus…but having someone willing to be friendly in a mentoring capacity is actually a rarer find, so don’t be so keen to push the boundaries of that bond. That being said, one of my best friends today is my high school English teacher…after I graduated I met up with her as a mentor and, eventually, as I grew up it evolved into a friendship,” said Hauser.

Keep an open mind, and you’ll be astonished at where it can take you. A letter of recommendation from a former professor is an outstanding way to set yourself apart from your graduating class, but having a lifelong mentor is priceless.

Gabriela is a nocturnal, spiritual, eccentric 21-year-old on a mission to meet people who share her passion for life. She is a junior at Florida State University (Nole Nation, baby!) and a Creative Writing major. Next year, her dream of living in France will come true and hopefully the culture-shock she will experience will make for a fantastic screenplay one day.

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