Being a teacher’s pet pays off

Syllabus week: for most it’s a time for one last hurrah before the semester actually starts, but for others it’s a time to get ahead in their classes – and one of the easiest ways to do that is befriending your professors.

The idea of being a teacher’s pet may sound like social suicide, but having a strong relationship with your professors can help you not only during your time at WSU but also after graduation.

Ken Faunce, assistant professor at WSU and one of the first instructors for the freshman course Roots of Contemporary Issues, said students should avoid fading into the sea of faces.

“If they get to know me more and I know a little bit more about them inside and outside of class, I’m more than willing to help them for their future careers, grad school, whatever it is that they’re doing,” Faunce said. “Be willing to take that first step—we don’t bite.”

Having a professor that you’re close to means better letters of recommendation – and acceptance into better jobs, programs and internships.

Plus, it’s easier to get all the signatures you need for your Junior Writing Portfolio when you’re already accustomed to dropping by your professor’s office.

“Once you break that ice, then going and talking to the professor and going to their office when you need to isn’t intimidating at all,” Faunce said.

Starting off on the right foot with your professor can be the difference between an A- and a B+ if you play your cards right.

“If I never see a student at all, I don’t know them, they haven’t really done much in class, but at the end of the semester they show up at the last minute wanting help, I’m not as inclined to help them,” Faunce said. “They just haven’t done anything for themselves.”

Faunce said that coming to office hours, doing extra credit and even just chatting with your professor after class can help.

“Obviously, whenever a student needs help, I’m going to help them, even if I don’t know them,” Faunce said. “But if you see them trying, even subconsciously, you’re a little bit more willing to help them out.”

Faunce said students who are more comfortable with their professors are more likely to participate in class – thus, more likely to learn something.

According to a 2005 Journal of Higher Education study by Robert Weaver and Jiang Qi, students learn more when they actively participate in class.

Simply raising your hand can be difficult for many of us – there’s nothing worse than saying the wrong answer in front of everyone – but if you have a foundation of trust with your professor, answering a question may not be so daunting.

“Once students get to know you a bit, it’s okay for them to go out on a limb and take a chance on saying something even if they might be wrong,” Faunce said. “They’re more willing to ask questions or get help.”

When you know your professor will back you up and treat your ideas with respect even if you’re wrong, your whole attitude towards a class changes.

Don’t squander syllabus week. Take this time to read course materials, find a study-buddy and enjoy your classes before things get tough.

Remember – it’s better to be one week ahead then one week behind.

Alysen Boston is a senior communication major from Baltimore, Maryland. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of The Office of Student Media.