GETTING HELP FROM

PROFESSORS

Why we sometimes seem like

jerks

Yes, it is the job of a professor to help students. So why are they so cranky when you ask them for help? The short answer is bitterness. But seriously…. Most professors are approachable and willing to help. But every now and then, you might unknowingly frustrate or exasperate them because your academic experiences are different than theirs when they were your age. An example: One of the great stressors of academic life is writing a term paper or essay. Conducting research for papers is often frustrating. It requires a lot of reading, persistence, creativity, organization, and no small amount of luck. And that doesn’t include the process of trying to figure out what you want to write about. However, you won’t get much sympathy from us because, even for relatively young professors, literature searches and research used to be much more difficult. Back in my day, there was no Google, no Wikipedia, no on-line library search engines, no .pdf documents. We had to photocopy all book chapters and journal articles to use the material outside of the library. We even had to investigate large volumes of encyclopaedic directories just to find the specific journal an article was in.  Back in my day, we had this revolutionary technology called a CD-ROM. Our university just got PsycLIT, a searchable database on one  CD-ROM…for the entire university…that you could only use 2 hours at a time before returning it so the next person on the waiting list could use it…making sure to put your own name on the waiting list again for the umpteenth time. I could go on, but you get my point and I’m sounding like a cranky old man.   This is how your professor grew up; the professor you are now telling about your frustration trying to find journal articles after a day of internet searches. Whippersnapper.

Suggestions

There is never an excuse for a professor to be rude to a student, but that doesn’t mean you should tempt fate. In no particular order: Try first. Take initiative and find answers for yourself before going to your professor. Even if you are unsuccessful, you’d be surprised how much clearer a professor’s advice becomes after you’ve made some initial attempts at problem solving. Even if it makes you feel stupid, ask for clarification if you don’t fully understand. Be genuine. Don’t try to act cool. Don’t act like the professor’s colleague, even if you’re older. It doesn’t garner you respect; that only works on TV. Turn off your cell phone’s ringtone and don’t ever look at your cell phone when you’re meeting with a professor (or anyone else in your life, for that matter). It conveys disrespect, disinterest, and gives us all flashbacks of high-school alienation. Prepare a list of specific questions you want to ask. Trying to wing the meeting guarantees that you’ll forget to ask something. Take notes but don’t copy what the professor says verbatim. It’s more important to listen and understand. Make it obvious that you go to lectures and read the textbook. Read and re-read the course outline before the meeting. Trust me. You’ll thank me later. Never complain about too much work or too much reading. (Back in my day…). If you demonstrate you want to learn and are putting in the effort, you’ll be surprised how much time a professor will give you.
Greg A. Chung-Yan, PhD Industrial-Organizational Psychology

GETTING HELP

FROM

PROFESSORS

Why we sometimes

seem like jerks

Yes, it is the job of a professor to help students. So why are they so cranky when you ask them for help? The short answer is bitterness. But seriously…. Most professors are approachable and willing to help. But every now and then, you might unknowingly frustrate or exasperate them because your academic experiences are different than theirs when they were your age. An example: One of the great stressors of academic life is writing a term paper or essay. Conducting research for papers is often frustrating. It requires a lot of reading, persistence, creativity, organization, and no small amount of luck. And that doesn’t include the process of trying to figure out what you want to write about. However, you won’t get much sympathy from us because, even for relatively young professors, literature searches and research used to be much more difficult. Back in my day, there was no Google, no Wikipedia, no on-line library search engines, no .pdf documents. We had to photocopy all book chapters and journal articles to use the material outside of the library. We even had to investigate large volumes of encyclopaedic directories just to find the specific journal an article was in.  Back in my day, we had this revolutionary technology called a CD-ROM. Our university just got PsycLIT, a searchable database on one CD- ROM…for the entire university…that you could only use 2 hours at a time before returning it so the next person on the waiting list could use it…making sure to put your own name on the waiting list again for the umpteenth time. I could go on, but you get my point and I’m sounding like a cranky old man.   This is how your professor grew up; the professor you are now telling about your frustration trying to find journal articles after a day of internet searches. Whippersnapper.

Suggestions

There is never an excuse for a professor to be rude to a student, but that doesn’t mean you should tempt fate. In no particular order: Try first. Take initiative and find answers for yourself before going to your professor. Even if you are unsuccessful, you’d be surprised how much clearer a professor’s advice becomes after you’ve made some initial attempts at problem solving. Even if it makes you feel stupid, ask for clarification if you don’t fully understand. Be genuine. Don’t try to act cool. Don’t act like the professor’s colleague, even if you’re older. It doesn’t garner you respect; that only works on TV. Turn off your cell phone’s ringtone and don’t ever look at your cell phone when you’re meeting with a professor (or anyone else in your life, for that matter). It conveys disrespect, disinterest, and gives us all flashbacks of high- school alienation. Prepare a list of specific questions you want to ask. Trying to wing the meeting guarantees that you’ll forget to ask something. Take notes but don’t copy what the professor says verbatim. It’s more important to listen and understand. Make it obvious that you go to lectures and read the textbook. Read and re-read the course outline before the meeting. Trust me. You’ll thank me later. Never complain about too much work or too much reading. (Back in my day…). If you demonstrate you want to learn and are putting in the effort, you’ll be surprised how much time a professor will give you.
Greg A. Chung-Yan Industrial/ Organizational Psychology