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Making a positive impression on teachers

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As a student, it's important for you to make a positive impression on teachers. This doesn't necessarily mean being ingratiating or flattering to teachers. In most cases, the teachers whose opinion of you matters most are unlikely to be the ones who are easily influenced by flattery. This page describes some aspects of what teachers like and how to make a positive impression on them.

Requesting accommodations

  • Avoid an attitude of entitlement to accommodations.
  • Make accommodation requests as early as possible and explain your reasons clearly.
  • Do not lie or exaggerate your situation. Admit if you messed things up rather than invent a story of a disaster or emergency to justify your accommodation request.
  • If you have genuine needs (for instance, a physical disability, or a learning disability, such as dyslexia) and need an accommodation for it, you should request your teacher. But you should let the instructor know in advance and explain your situation clearly.
  • If instructors refuse an accommodation that you are not entitled to as a matter of policy at your institution, accept that graciously and avoid further protracted arguments with the instructor.

Requesting personalized assistance

These suggestions apply in the college setting. Many of them don't quite apply for the school setting,.

  • Do not expect the instructor to teach you material that was covered in class from scratch. Use the text, instructor-provided notes, or notes taken by you (or a fellow student) in class first, and simply ask the instructor for assistance with the difficult parts of the notes.
  • Be well-prepared with your questions for office hours. Put a clear prior effort and indicate exactly why and where you are confused.
  • If the instructor encourages it, use email or time immediately after the lecture to clarify your doubts with the instructor.
  • Use the instructor's office hours (walk-in or by appointment, or online office hours if the instructor offers them). If you anticipate a lengthy interaction, check with the instructor in advance.
  • As always, avoid an attitude of entitlement to unlimited assistance. Be adequately deferential, while at the same time not being shy to approach the instructor or ask for help.

Submissions and deadlines

  • Read the instructor's policy on deadlines and submissions. Some instructors don't allow you to submit late at all. If that is the case, don't ask the instructor at all. If you're not able to complete an assignment, inform the instructor that you weren't able to complete it, and are submitting a partial one, but you'll review the remaining questions without expectation of having them graded. If you have extenuating circumstances, let the instructor know. If the instructor finds your circumstances sufficient to warrant an extension, he/she will offer it.
  • In cases where the instructor allows late submissions, make sure you inform the instructor in advance of the lateness of submission. Use the most considerate method possible for submitting the assignment. For instance, if a print copy is expected, try to arrange for a print copy to be delivered to the instructor. If you're unable to send the homework in the required format, send it in a provisional format (such as a scanned copy) and offer to have it submitted in the appropriate format later if needed.

Using class time

  • In general, class participation is good, and it's good to have your doubts clarified when you're in class. In some cases, a doubt you have may be connected with an error made by the instructor, so voicing it can help the instructor and your fellow students. Doubts expressed by you may be shared by fellow students, so clearing them up in class time may serve them as well.
  • Instructors rarely mind students asking questions when they have doubts, even if the questions are stupid. What irritates instructors is monopolization of class time (to the exclusion of other students and cutting on the instructor's classroom plans) and persistence with a question after the instructor has resolved it, particularly if that persistence is not well-grounded. The points below address that.
  • Determine the convention for class interaction based on the instructor's explicit and implicit policy. Some instructors allow you to simply speak up at any time with questions. Other instructors expect you to raise your hand if you have a question. Similarly, some instructors are okay with anybody shouting out an answer directed at the students, while others expect people to raise their hands if they want to volunteer an answer, and yet other who cold call their students may not want people to volunteer answers at all. If the instructor doesn't make the convention explicit, and it's hard to infer, ask the instructor and/or your fellow students. To the extent possible, stick with the class convention (there may be exceptions).
  • Try to determine which of your questions are appropriate for class time and which ones are best asked of the instructor privately. It's okay to err a bit about that occasionally. You can check with the instructor later if a question you asked in class would have been better suited for private interaction, or if a question you asked privately might have been more appropriate to raise in class.
  • Avoid protracted one-on-one debate and discussion with the instructor during class on a question that only interests you. If something the instructor says does not make complete sense to you, or you disagree, you could consider deferring further discussion to after class. You could announce this deferral decision or just let the instructor move on.

Tidiness and punctuality

  • Be on time for classes and attend classes to the extent possible. If you have a conflict that causes you to be late to class (such as a class just before it) let the instructor know.
  • If you think the lectures aren't worth attending, this might mean forgoing the opportunity to make a positive impression on the instructor. Nonetheless, some instructors may not mind you missing class as long as your performance on tests and homeworks is exemplary. Missing class makes requesting assistance later to overcome poor performance more painful.
  • Submit your homeworks on time, in the indicated format, and in a neat handwriting (or typed and printed if you prefer that). Even if the homeworks are not be graded by your instructor, the impressions of your grader might feed into the impressions of your instructor, and the instructor might occasionally review the homework submissions.