When a problem occurs we could all potentially respond in a manner that is not positive. Below is a list of actual comments I have heard from students in the last 16 years of my work as a university professor.
- It is too bad you grade so hard and cost me an A.
- You have no compassion and do not understand students.
- Be patient; my computer skills are a rusty.
- I worked really hard on this paper! Why did you give me a C?
- I won’t be in class on Thursday; will I miss anything?
- I stopped by your office three times and you were never there!
Do you think these comments are helpful as a solution to a negative issue? How would you reword these statements in order to be more professional in nature? Does your approach to a problem lend itself to a solution, or negativity on both sides?
Let’s rethink some of these comments and reword them into a more positive approach:
- I thought I knew the material before the test. Could you help me with some pointers for preparation for the next exam? Take as much responsibility for a problem as possible, but don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when you have exhausted your resources. Professors are there to help!
- I missed my assignment due to personal issues. Could I discuss my situation with you and brainstorm some ideas for successful completion of the class? Unfortunately, most students have personal issues that impede performance at some point. You will also have personal issues that get in the way of your job later in life. Nobody is immune! However, directly admitting you did not perform up to par and devising a plan for the future can be very helpful.
- I am struggling with the technology required for this course. Are there any resources on campus that would be helpful to me? Ultimately it is your responsibility to navigate any technology required in the academic setting. I do not take responsibility for driving my students to face-to-face classes and I do not take responsibility for helping them learn to use a computer. On the other hand, new operating systems are sometimes tough to navigate, so most universities have professionals specifically trained to assist with computer issues. Your professors are there to teach content, not to make sure that you are able to use campus resources. Take the initiative and use all of the resources available to learn to manage the technical aspects of your coursework!
- I worked hard on this paper, do you have any pointers to help me better prepare for the next assignment? Hard work does not always equal an A. The grade of an A indicates an exemplary final product. Some people have to work very hard to a C while others can quickly complete an A paper. The time spent on the activity can definitely be a contributing factor in a good grade, but in college the final product is the key. It is better to focus on how you can work SMARTER, not HARDER.
- I will not be in class on Thursday. I will get the assignments from another student and let you know if I have any questions about the content.
- Could I make an appointment to see you during your office hours? I am always amazed when students assume I will be in my office when I do not have office hours. I never assume I can find them in our classroom at times other than when class is scheduled. Most people are not at work outside of scheduled work hours; avoid making that assumption of your professors.
Most professors are very willing to be helpful; however, they need to see that you are willing to do your part to fix a situation. Make sure to take responsibility for any problems that are of your making. Avoid expecting your professor to fix everything for you; come prepared to problem-solve.
Professors can serve as references for you later when you are looking for a job, so it is important to maintain positive relationships. Additionally, these same problem-solving and communication skills are important for you to have in your career. Although some of these suggestions may seem minor, they can take you a long way!