Meeting With Your Teacher


by Rick Nau

First, a little perspective. The average teacher has to keep track of 60 to 120 students. This means that a teacher’s day goes by so fast that it often seems like a blur. It’s a little like the famous I Love Lucy episode where she works on the assembly line in a chocolate factory. As the conveyor belt goes faster and faster, she gets farther and farther behind. Pretty soon lots of chocolates never make it into the boxes, but into Lucy’s mouth, hat, dress and onto the floor. This means that you’ve got to go the extra mile in helping your teacher help you. Being organized and ready with the right questions is absolutely essential.

Here are some suggestions that will help you get the most out of these meetings:

  • Schedule a meeting. Tell the teacher you want to go over a problem or two that you’re struggling with. It’s best not to do this on the day of a quiz or test.
  • Before the meeting look for 2 problems that you missed on your homework. I’ll talk about this in more detail in another post.
  • Show up for your appointment on time. Bring your book, paper, pencil and the 2 problems you selected.
  • Ask the teacher to show you IN WRITING how to do the 1st problem that you brought along. Have the teacher do this on your own sheet of paper, not on the whiteboard or blackboard.
  • Be sure that the solution to the problem shows every step.

HERE’S THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Ask the teacher to give you a similar problem to do. You’ve got to see whether you can solo on the problem; i.e., do it without any help. If you can’t, have the teacher give you another to try that's just like it. Don’t stop until you can get the problem correct without any help whatsoever.

If the teacher has time, do the 2nd problem you brought along in the same way that you did the first.

Thank your teacher for helping you and leave. The whole meeting shouldn't last for more than 5 or 10 minutes.

Meet with your teacher on a regular basis. Don’t let problems go by that you can't do. If you can’t do them, then you’re guaranteed to miss them on the exam.

If you do the above, you’ll find that your teacher will become more and more like a personal coach. Any fear that you have about being able to do math or science will begin to disappear. Soon you'll realize that ordinary mortals can do the problems that you once thought to be impossible.

Also, remember that teachers dedicate their lives to teaching. They want their students to learn from them. If they know that they've succeeded, then they’re happy. Your success means their success.

Here are a few things not to do during your meeting:

Don’t go over old material that won't be on the next test or quiz. This includes correcting old tests and quizzes. Save this for the final exam or midterm. 

Be sure to have the teacher SHOW you how to do each problem (IN WRITING), not tell you how to do it. (I know that I've said this before, but I can emphasize it enough.)

Don’t leave the meeting before you are able to do a problem without help. (I know, I've also said this before.)
Whatever happens, don't give up. If the teacher is busy (this is normal), go out of your way to help the teacher find a time, even if this means sacrificing a few minutes of your lunch period or staying a few minutes after school. Remember, our success often depends on being able to do well the things we don't especially like to do. 

mathematics, scienceRick Nau