Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. We might know we are in over our heads, feel as though we’re confused or lost, be screaming inside, yet something still deters us from reaching out. It is the same with relationships as it is with education. Maybe it’s pride or fear that gets in the way. We don’t want to sound weak or, perhaps, we don’t know where to go.
I was a teacher at Boise State University for a few years, and I taught freshman English. This is one of the most confusing times for students. English itself is an anomaly and being a freshman in college is an unparalleled experience. It is the first time any of them had been on their own, usually, and they were in a vast and unchartered landscape. But they felt pressured to be self-starters and willing to take chances; it’s why people go to college.
So, what I am about tell you is one of the best-kept secrets in college. Your professors want to help you. Because your success is our success, and, to be honest, it looks really bad on us if you fail, and we didn’t get into this job to watch people fail. Teachers are, by nature, helpful; it’s how we ended up here. Teaching is a thankless line of work; we derive great joy from watching you do well. It’s our gold star at the end of the semester.
Another secret: no one asks for help. You might think we’re super busy, and yes, we are, but we aren’t too busy to help. Most universities require teachers hold office hours every week, which means we are just sitting there, usually reading or playing on our phones, and waiting for students like you to come in. Chances are they’d be delighted to have you darken their doorway every now and then. A helpful tip: If office hours don’t line up with your schedule, then make an appointment and hash things out over coffee.
Part of the trick to all of this is not waiting until the final hour. During the last two weeks of the semester, I had so many students who would stay after class, feverishly ask me for extra credit, or complain that they were confused. But it was too late. You have to ask for help at the first sign of trouble and confusion, hell, even the second or third sign. Just don’t wait until the 15th.
Asking for help can be as simple as staying after class for five minutes to go over some notes, asking your teacher to read an early draft of the paper, or raising your hand during class. Chances are if you have a question, at least ten other people in the room have the same question but are too afraid or lazy to ask. If that makes you nervous, then send an email and communicate that way. There are no stupid questions. Teachers say this all the time, but it’s true.
You have to ask because we aren’t mind readers, and unlike in high school, your professors won’t chase you down when your assignments start to slip. Just because no one is calling you out doesn’t mean it goes unnoticed. We understand you are human; we are humans too. We get that you have families and social lives and break ups and homesickness. But unless we know what is going on, we can’t help you. Showing up to ask for help attaches a face to the name on the roster, and I guarantee your teacher will be more understanding if you establish a real rapport with them.
Ask, ask, ask for help. If something is confusing, it’s probably partially on us because we were hungover when we made the lesson plan or our significant other walked out the night before or our baby wouldn’t sleep. We have real lives, too. Not only are we getting paid to be there for you, but we want you to succeed. We want, in our heart of hearts, to watch that light turn on in your head, to make you fall in love with the material, to teach you something you never knew before. It’s the whole reason we became teachers to begin with.
Reached out to your prof but still looking for a study buddy? Find one on the Hey! VINA app.
(Featured image via stylemepretty.com)