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How to Get on Your Teacher’s Good Side…and Stay There

Teacher’s pets have historically gotten a bad rap. Sure, in elementary school, it wasn’t cool to stay in during recess to share your cookies with Ms. Peterson. In college, it’s important to forge those intrapersonal relationships with professors. In case you don’t think clapping erasers after class or shining apples are still appropriate ways of sucking up, here are some tips for getting on a professor’s good side.
 
Meet with them one on one. I know it’s so cliché, and even your college tour guide told you this one, but not enough people take advantage of office hours. Depending on the professor and the type of class, the help you get from these one-on-one sessions can range anywhere from just putting a face to a name in a grade book or getting all the answers for the problem set due next week. If you can’t make their office hours, schedule an appointment. I have never encountered a professor who has been less than enthusiastic about helping a student when reached out to. 
 
Give advanced notice. And I mean on everything. Going to miss class? Shoot an email! Having trouble on an assignment? Shoot an email! Want an extension (and have a valid reason)? Shoot an email! Need to come late or leave early? SHOOT AN EMAIL! Seriously. I recommend about 2 days notice on missing a class and around three for an extension. Giving too much notice is silly. While you might be trying to prove how responsible you are by giving notice on your first day that you will be leaving early for Thanksgiving break, your professors have a lot of students and busy schedules too so they can’t be held responsible for remembering such minute details. 
 
Professors are people too. Be realistic in your expectations. Most of our professors are from an older generation and are not as tech-savvy as we are. They check email maybe once a day. So if you save an assignment for the night before, don’t expect your professor to be up at 4 am and support you in your all-nighter and answer all your last-minute questions.
 
Demonstrate your passion. Your professor specializes in whatever field they were hired by WashU to teach to all of us, so yeah, they are definitely total obsessed geeks over whatever that subject matter is. Try not to let on that you are anything less than excited to be in their class (I once had a kid in my Spanish class announce mid semester that Spanish was his least favorite class – my professor was offended and the student dropped the class the following week). If you are planning to major in their field, let your professor know. They could be a great resource going forward in your academic career. 
 
It’s OK to struggle. Maybe you really do hate their class. Well that’s ok too, but approach your professor in a way that shows you are eager to learn. If you are taking the class as a requirement, it’s even more important to see your teacher one-on-one. They will see that you are putting in effort, and might give you the benefit of the doubt where they have a little wiggle room. 
 
Be professional. It is possible to access your professors any number of ways. Email is the most popular, but many teachers have started giving out their cell phone and even home numbers, and of course, most of them are even on Facebook now. No matter what mode of communication you choose, always be respectful and professional with them. Be careful never to cross any lines, because you do not want to make the classroom and uncomfortable place when these personal boundaries are breached. If you ever wonder whether something is ok, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 
 
Some teachers are harder to form relationships with than others, but when you find a teacher you really click with, make sure to keep up that relationship throughout your years here.
 

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