Your Professor Beyond the Classroom

Within the classroom, professors and students often interact well enough. They both understand the educational context that their roles depend upon. The professor presents the material and challenges his or her students, while the students respond to the professor, trying to solve problems and reach their learning objectives. Classroom etiquette, then, is usually easy to understand and follow.

It’s once you leave the classroom that it can be a little hard to know how to treat your professor. Around campus, for example, your professor might not recognize you easily, especially if you tend to be quiet in class. Don’t be offended if your professor can’t remember your name. Professors usually have three or four sections full of many students to keep in mind, so they won’t always know specifics, even if they might recognize you. So, it’s always nice to greet your professor with your name that you’re in section such-and-such. Professors will appreciate this little reminder, and it will help them remember you better at the next class.

If you need to speak to your professor outside of the classroom, definitely follow his or her office hours times as listed on the class syllabus. Your professor has set these up for a reason: it’s the time in his or her schedule that works best to be at the office. That said, it’s also good to confirm your appointment time. Professors are usually required to keep some office hours, but if no one shows up, they might leave early. Remember that they’re there to help you, but it would be nice to give them a notice in advance of your meeting.

We recommend not contacting your professors by phone or at their personal email addresses. Instead, you should always communicate with your professors in the manner that they list on the syllabus, as this will help them filter their correspondences and keep everything in order. Just like you need a break from studying, so do professors need a break from teaching. Be understanding of your professors’ needs. If you follow their guidelines, but you still can’t contact them, then you should get in touch with their department. Do not try to find other ways to contact them.

Finally, you should strive to treat your professors with respect at all times. Even though they may at times seem unlike you, they actually have many of the same joys and concerns. They too have bad days, get tired, can’t find parking spots, and run late. If you can be understanding of their idiosyncrasies, then you can rest assured that you will receive the same in return.

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