How to Talk to a Teacher

LifehacksStudent Life
May 10, 2019

Teachers, in any education level, play an integral role in the student’s experience. They, are first and foremost, responsible for delivering all the material that you will need to learn. Beyond that, however, teachers with good qualities are also capable of being advisers, mentors, and coaches.

A student talking to teacher isn’t new; it’s essential. Being able to maintain a good relationship with your teachers is vital to your academic life. A teacher will provide you with help or extra support should the need arise, and a teacher who knows you personally and regards you with trust will most likely go through lengths for you. In the later parts of your life, teachers will be able to provide you with necessary networking to find scholarships, jobs, and other connections. It’s also your teachers who will be accomplishing those coveted letters of recommendation. 

You have to consider, of course, that it isn’t easy to connect with all your teachers. You will have disagreements with certain teachers - maybe because they assign too much homework  or they are unfair with giving out grades. Sometimes, you just won’t see eye to eye, and that’s normal; they are just people, after all. It is important, to exhaust some effort to getting along with them, whether they are your favorites or not. More than this relationship, throughout your years you will definitely be dealing with formal conversations with them. It could be a negotiation for a deadline postponing, or asking for extra credit to make up for bad grades. Perhaps it could be some questions about the unjust amount of requirements currently asked of you. Conversations like these are not easy to carry out, but you need to develop skills on self-advocacy, especially now as a student. Talking to a teacher can be intimidating, but this post serves as a guide on to how to talk to teachers, without being a nervous wreck:

How Students Should Talk to Teachers

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is their time. Remember to respect their time; your teacher is likely to be busy. Even if you know that your teacher only teaches a few subjects at your school, many teachers take second jobs, have families, and have other personal obligations outside the classroom. Just like you, your teacher has a life outside of being a teacher, which is why it’s important to be mindful of their time. Should you suddenly find yourself in need of a conversation that’s more than just a quick yes or no answers, make an appointment in advance. He or she knows that a teacher talking to students about any concern is part of their duties, so it’s likely that they will set aside some time for you. These are often given on the course syllabus given to you at the beginning of the school year. If this is the case for you, email your teacher, or stop by after class to ask for his or her availability.

If your teacher does not have schedules set for talks like this, it’s best to email or talk in order to arrange a convenient time that will work best for the both of you. As discussed, having  a talk to teachers can be downright terrifying, but as long as you respect their time, you won’t be crossing any lines.

How Students Should NOT Talk to Teachers

Do not cross personal boundaries - this cannot be emphasized enough. If you are wondering how not to talk to teachers, then knowing where the boundaries are drawn is the best start. You are used to seeing your teacher talking to teach, but when you get to know them a little bit better and start talking beyond academics, the line between you as a student and a mentor may begin to blur in your head. This can be a great thing, since you can finally be comfortable enough to just be yourself, and that your teacher is relatable and approachable. You need to tread carefully, though, and remember to respect boundaries.

The worst way to talk to teacher is talking to them the way you would with a friend: sometimes without respect. While this can be funny and understandable with your peers, this may not be the case with your teacher, especially due to the age differences. Never prod and ask about their personal lives unless they bring it up first. 

Remember to always put some professional distance between you and your teachers. 

Tips for How to Talk to Teachers

Having a talk to teachers questions your confidence, and that’s understandable. If you are still unsure how to talk to a teacher, consider the following tips:

  • Have a conversation with your teacher with a fellow classmate . Ask around to see if whether or not you share the same issues with your classmates. If you are, then it would be best to go to your teacher together.
  • Do plan ahead . In order to not forget anything, remember to write down what you want to say before the appointment. List any questions you may need clarifying, and if it would be about a particular task or test, make sure you have all the necessary documents for a smooth conversation.
  • Use positive words.  If you are having trouble with a specific task, don’t use negative words like “boring” or “I don’t like doing this .” Ask questions with respect. Let your teacher know you are here because you want do well, and that you wish to succeed. If there are parts which you don’t understand, be specific and explain so that they will know exactly how to help you.
  • Remember empathy . Your teachers have feelings, too, so approach the situation from your teacher’s perspective. Don’t ever start a conversation your teacher with an angry tone.
  • Listen . Like with the general rule imposed in classrooms, remember: “No talking when the teacher is talking.”. It is integral to listen to your teacher respectfully, as his or her words are the reason why you reached out in the first place. Listen to what they have to say.
  • Do not make assumptions. Don’t assume that your teacher doesn’t like you - you don’t know what goes on in their minds. Try to talk to them – you may be surprised. But if the reality is that they don’t like you at all, then accept that and move on. 
  • Learn from that experience. Should the conversation with your teacher not go well, take it as a learning opportunity. At least now, you will know how to approach better.
  • Don’t forget to say thank you.

Your Teacher Is Not a Mind Reader 

Talks with teachers can get heated, especially when dealing with certain issues and problems. Or, you may be thinking, “If she has a problem with me, then she has to talk to me” or “ I’m having trouble with her class. I need him to approach me first ”. It’s incredibly easy to forget that beyond your classroom, your teacher is just another normal person. They have a life outside of teaching, have families to come home to, and have errands like doing the laundry or hobbies like watching Netflix. How they may be in the classroom isn’t the case outside of it, and whatever troubles you are having, your teachers do not have the ability to read your mind.

If you wish to talk with them, try to approach your conversation in a friendly way . It comes as a surprise to some students that what they say about a teacher actually hurts them; they are persons, too, and personalizing them will make things much easier for you. If you are going through problems that affect you and your work, your teacher will have no idea about this until you tell them. Them not acknowledging this does not mean they are ignoring it. A teacher goes through classrooms with hundreds of students a day, and unless you talk to them directly, they won’t be able to know. They can’t engage with every single one of their students.

How to Talk to A Teacher About A Problem

Teachers talking to students is not a new sight, nor it can be considered a miracle. This is part of their job – they are trained professionals and are able to communicate with students about problems they are facing. Most teachers actually enter the field solely because they want to help students. Even if your teacher is strict, he or she cares about students than what is being let on. This is necessary to retain the professional distance. If you need any help, go up to them, be honest, and be surprised about their willingness to actually help.

Here is a video from Therapy and Learning Services, Inc., a group of psychologists, sharing tips on how to talk to teachers:

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