How to Build a Good Relationship with Your Instructor … and Why You Should Bother

November 15th, 2011 by rebeccac

student-instructor-relationship-ts78036503Building relationships is an important facet of everything you do in life. In the educational world, it is even more important that you are on the same page as your instructors. Connecting and fostering a good relationship with them can be a key factor in making the process of going back to school much easier. The learning experience is often a more positive one, and you can get more out of it.

After all, your instructors don’t just stand up at the front of the class – they’re the ones with the knowledge you need, who hold the keys to your grades and your degree and your future. If you want to stand out, make an impression, and really get the most out of your school (and your money), you can’t be a wallflower. Stepping up will pay off in the end, so here are some tips on how to build that instructor-student connection.

Keep contact info close by
If you are a non-traditional student, you understand how hard it can be to make time for your studies. You have other classes perhaps, a job, a family and other obligations that need to be taken care of. You might not be able to meet between the instructor’s office hours of 9-5 or face-to-face before class. Keeping their phone numbers or email addresses close at hand can make it much easier to contact the professor outside of business hours when you have a question or need to talk.

Don’t be afraid to set up meetings with them that work with both of your schedules, too. Sometimes there is no substitute for a little face time for discussing material

Use your experience
Nothing is more awkward for an instructor than trying to engage students in a discussion and hearing crickets instead, so do them a favor an speak up. As an adult learner, you probably have more experience than fresh-from-high-school classmates, and that gives you a unique perspective. If you have story that relates to the class discussion, don’t be afraid to contribute. Not only will the professor usually appreciate real world experience being brought into the classroom, but chances are that your professor can relate to what you are saying.

If you don’t have a direct experience but you do have an informed opinion, there’s nothing wrong with sharing that either. Jumping in and contributing shows you’re interested, involved and want to be there.

Work hard in class
Instructors who are accustomed to working with non-traditional students may be more understanding of things like jobs or kids or responsibilities cropping up that may impede schoolwork, but don’t rest on these excuses. If you come to class and work hard, do well on tests and other assignments, and show that you take the class seriously, you can make a real impression. Earning the respect of your professor is the easiest way to make your classroom experience a better one and is a great way to set yourself up for future success. After all, grades are short-term, but reference letters are forever.

What if I’m online?
It’s a good question to consider, seeing as how every postsecondary school, institute, college or university is looking to add online options to its course offerings. Odds are you’re going to take at least one online class, so how do you connect with your instructor then?

The same basic rules apply: Don’t be shy. Reach out. Get involved. The setting just becomes much more virtual. The possibility of face-to-face time fades, and email shoots up in importance. When it comes to online discussions, don’t just do the bare minimum to make class participation points. Get in to threads and really put your input out there. Go above and beyond to show that you’re not just in this class for the credits.

Student-instructor connections are vital to your educational experience. It might feel like a step too far to pile something else onto your already-full plate, but taking a little bit of time to build that relationship can really pay off down the road.

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