Great Expectations

The semester is officially going and it’s coming in like a lion! This semester I am teaching College Success, Developmental Reading III, and Writing, Reading, and Reasoning. In all I have 150 students with whom I work. Most professors have this many students so it’s important that students know how to communicate effectively with your professors.

Do unto others: Creating a working relationship with instructors

Office Visit: Take time to go by your professor’s office at the beginning of the semester. You are your own advocate and public relations manager! With so many new names and faces for the professor to remember, you offer the opportunity for your name and face to be remembered. This comes in handy when you have a question or personal conflict that alters your performance in the class. In other words, working with the professor during the early stages of the course means that you will establish a positive report for the entire semester.

Email protocol: (Check out the link to To: Subject: Why It’s All About Me)

When emailing a professor be sure to address them with a respectful tone. This means that you address them as a professor rather than “Hey” or simply beginning with a question or comment. Do ask for assistance and clarification from your instructor. Do include all the essential information in your email such as:

  • your name (as it is written on the course role)
  • contact information
  • the course and section you are in
  • a clearly stated question with proper rules of grammar and punctuation applied.

Does this sound like too much effort? Well, the effort does pay off! As a professor, I cannot even pretend to know every student by name and email address, so you need to clearly communicate. In so doing, you will get a more effective answer, have fewer email exchanges, and communicate that you are a competent student who cares about your work. Of course, not doing this communicates the opposite… that you are sliding by hoping to do the minimum work.

One final word about emails… If you miss class, DO NOT email a message asking IF you missed anything. YOU MISS VITAL INFORMATION WHEN YOU MISS CLASS… ALWAYS!  Simply letting your professor know you had car trouble is adequate. In order to get the “missed” information YOU need to contact a fellow student in the class and get their notes. Then, you may stop by the professor’s office during office hours and ask any questions you have AFTER reading the notes.

Phone messages: Professors telephones are land lines and do not have the ability to store your phone number… When leaving a message ALWAYS leave:

  • your name
  • course and section
  • call back number
  • the best time to reach you.

In Class: Questions in class are great for clarifying the assignments or course materials. Most professors allow time at the beginning and/or ending of class for questions.

Before you ask a question in class, review all of the course materials to make sure it is not already written for you. Asking a question that is addressed in the course materials communicates to your professor that you did not read the assignment, directions, or syllabus. As a result, you do not look like a student who genuinely cares about the work or the professors time.

Also, before you ask a question, determine if this question is specific to your situation rather than the entire class as a group. If the question pertains tot he group, ask the question. If the question does not address the needs of the group, ask the question during the professor’s office hours. This builds good will among your classmates since you are not wasting class time to focus on you. Your professor will appreciate this as well.


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11 Responses to Great Expectations

  1. S.Schafer says:

    Professor Sawyer,

    I guess I haven’t thought of class questions as an inconvenience to others before. None of my teachers so far have objected to class questions, no matter how off-topic or strange they may be. Generally, I don’t visit professors in their offices because I know how dreadfully busy they are and I don’t want to be an inconvenience. One teacher claimed to have to fall over stacks of boxes and books in his tiny office while scrabbling to open the locked door for students, and he wasn’t the only one with that issue either. To me, no question seemed important enough to make people have to do that.
    Now that I think about it, though, I can see how some off-topic questions or comments could be used to soak up time by students who don’t want to be in class. With so much class information being incorporated into easily accessible online platforms, maybe more questions can be answered there, and professors won’t have to wreck their offices as much.

  2. Alex Schafer says:

    Hello professor,

    You’re right about spending the time to meet the instructors. However, I’ve only been inside one instructor’s office at the college in my two years there, and it was because she sent me a personal invitation. She read my writings and told me she saw I had potential, and wanted to let me know she would offer advice to help me find my way in the future. I got to know her and vice versa, and saw her office and her accolades, but generally, unless I have a significant reason to stop in, it seems an unwelcome intrusion. Perhaps that is a personal foible, but it’s one I can’t overcome, even for my favorite teachers. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible so as not to waste time, since my schedule can hardly compare.

  3. Lisa Ray says:

    This is great information to help understand the classroom expectations.

  4. Ana Flavia Camilotti says:

    All the information has been really helpful. I even gave my sister some tips.

  5. alexis gross says:

    Professor Sawyer,

    Thank you for the helpful blog that you wrote. I have never been to college or ever been to a public school and a place everyone’s opinions are heard. I also feel as if I am intruding someone’s space if I just walk in and talk to one of my professor’s, unless I have a legit question. Other than that, thank you for the other points that you have given to all of us. I will take in consideration of the other professor’s.

    • pamsawyer says:

      Alexis: Professor’s do not see your visit as an intrusion. We have office hours for our students to come by and ask questions, introduce themselves, or just check in. Give it a try and see what happens…

  6. Hasti Hesami says:

    I really like to meet you in your office and ask some questions about class sometimes. Thank you for the helpful information.

    • pamsawyer says:

      My office hours for the spring semester are: MW–10-10:30 AM, 12-12:30 AM
      TR–11:30 AM – 12:30 PM, 2:30-3:30 PM

      “Collin County Community College District is a student and community-centered institution committed to developing skills, strengthening character, and challenging the intellect.”

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  8. Hope Hays says:

    This is great information for all my classes. I’m so glad you showed me the correct way to Email a professor. We are so high tech these days we forget the correct way to communicate with each other in a respectable way.