When you enter the world of university, professors may appear simply as distant spectres that you will never be able to interact with. The truth is that is really not the case. For those fresh out of high school and in the kaleidoscope of U of T, here’s a guide to building positive and enriching relationships with your professors. 

Positive engagement

While sitting silently in the lecture hall in front of your professor surrounded by hundreds of other students, going unnoticed may seem like the easy way out. But what’s the harm in saying ‘hi’? Here is the first step: after a lecture, walk right up to your professor, extend a hand, introduce yourself, and perhaps even share what you’re looking forward to in the class. While you may be one face out of the hundreds in your class, it doesn’t hurt to say ‘hello’ and smile. It may take a couple more greetings for your professor to associate a name to your face, but taking that first step by introducing yourself is definitely a solid start.

Emails — keep!n’ !t f0Rm@L

Here’s the thing. Yes, your professor will definitely be the top priority of your mailing list. No, this does not mean that they should become your newest pen pal. When you’re writing emails to your professors throughout the years, the key to positive communication is keeping it professional. Start with a ‘good morning’ instead of a ‘hey what’s up,’ and sign-off with ‘sincerely, instead of a peace-out emoji. Trust me, your professor on the receiving end appreciates your choice of words. 

With even a glance at a blank subject line or a poorly written greeting, your professor may simply choose not to acknowledge your email. The timing of your message may also add to the pile of make-it-or-break-it emails. If you find yourself confused at the end of a feverish study session at 2:00 am, don’t send your professor a series of separate emails with different questions. Write your questions down, sleep on it, and send an email in the morning. Not only does poised, timely, and organized email writing make your relationship with your professor healthy and professional, but it presents you as a polite and respectful student. 

Ask your questions 

Raising your hand in a class full of students may seem like the scariest thing in the world at first. You may think to yourself, ‘No one else is raising their hand, so I don’t need to.’ If you think that everyone else in the class understands exactly what the professor just said and is 100 per cent getting it, think again. When you ask a question, you may be receiving the answer that hundreds of other students around you have been pondering as well. So, the next time your professor stops in the middle of a point and asks, ‘Any questions?’ Know that they genuinely mean that. 

Office hours, office hours, office hours

It’s written down on the syllabus sheet and it is probably brought up in class as well. Office hours are a chance for one-on-one time with your professor. Remember that cluster of questions that was keeping you up at 2:00 am? Well, here is your chance to ask for clarification on course content that you don’t understand while simultaneously building a healthy rapport with your professor. Your professor’s office hours are there for you, so why not take them up on this offer and drop in for a chat?

Everyone is human 

It all comes back to this. At the end of the day, your professor is just as human as you, so treat them like you would like to be treated: with respect and kindness. This way, you are not only creating a positive and comfortable experience for yourself in class, but also for your professor. 

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