How to talk to your teacher

By Sam Graudins

Whether they’re your high school instructor or college professor, a teacher is a person like anyone else — but often a person you don’t know very well, which can make approaching them a little intimidating. Here are some tips on how to tell your teacher what’s on your mind, and potentially make a great connection in the process!

1. Organize your thoughts

Before approaching your teacher, know what you want to talk about and how you’re going to say it. Is it a grade you disagree with? A comment? A general attitude about the course? The more precise you are with your thoughts in your own mind, the clearer they will be to your instructor. If you’re unsure how to communicate your thoughts, feel free to bounce ideas off a friend — they may be able to offer insight into your situation that will help ground and validate your ideas.

2. Schedule an appointment with your teacher

Just as you need to prepare yourself for the conversation, your teacher will appreciate prior notice as well. Look up their office hours either on their syllabus or online, and send an email to schedule a meeting. If you feel comfortable, you can provide some basis for your conversation within the email. Or if it’s a sensitive issue, feel free to let them know that you feel more comfortable discussing it in person. Your teacher will respect your honesty.

3. Communicate effectively

So you’ve prepared, now present your case. Bring any materials you’ll be discussing with you: the test you weren’t happy with, the essay you thought you had done well on, etc., and make sure you have the first word. This is an appointment about you and your concerns, and you deserve to have your voice heard. Here are some tips for communicating effectively.

  1. Use “I” phrases, such as “I worked very hard on that paper, and when I saw the grade I received, I felt surprised.” This takes the pressure off your teacher, and makes the meeting feel less accusatory.
  2. Identify a negative behavior. This isn't about your teacher’s character, just one action you found unfavorable. Focus on the isolated incident and it will be much easier to discuss and remedy the situation.
  3. Use neutral language. Your problem may be with your teacher’s behavior, but if you frame it as a less personal problem, they'll be more open to talking about it. Otherwise, one of you would have to admit fault. And that’s stressful!
  4. Offer a solution. This doesn’t mean a general desire, like “I think things should get better,” it means suggest an alternative course of action. Don’t like your grade? Identify the grade you think you deserve. If your teacher said something in class that made you uncomfortable or that you disagree with, identify exactly what it was. The only way your teacher knows how to improve is to tell them, so tell them!

And that’s it, you did it! Three simple steps to a classroom resolution. By approaching your teacher with your concerns, you can turn a negative situation into a positive discourse between scholars ... or a better grade! Remember, when it comes to conflict, it’s all about perspective. Respect yours, and your teacher will too.

Now that you've learned how to share your thoughts with your teacher, share them with your fellow students by reviewing a college, or use our College Search to see what other students have to say about their schools and instructors.

Animations courtesy of Giphy.

About the author

Sam Graudins, Emerson College studentSam is a life blogger from Franklin, Massachusetts with a big heart and a bigger appetite for sweets. She loves Korean bakeries, Japanese animation, and providing you insight into her college experience. Sam is a second-year communication studies major at Emerson College with a minor in gender studies, and she’s over the moon about sharing tips on how to have a fully-custom college experience. “Standardization is a rejection of creativity. Do you and do it big!”