Counselor Corner: Approaching Teachers


Talking to teachers is something that students often dread for many different reasons: the awkwardness of the situation, the need to be cautious in what to say, and perhaps even the fear of being viewed as a teacher’s pet. As a result, talking to teachers is not common at SIS, other than at times when students approach teachers to question a grade on a test or assignment.

However, it is not something to be scared of or fear. Having good relationships with teachers not only as course instructors but also as life mentors is an important part of the high school experience. With the right approach and appropriateness, students and teachers at SIS have the potential to develop better relationships than those that currently exist.

“I think how students approach teachers in terms of word choice makes a huge impact,” said Christopher Thomson, high school counselor. “Going to a teacher to question the grading is the wrong angle students should be approaching their teachers with. Ultimately, approaching teachers should be a tool used to validate that they learned the material.”

Teachers’ rooms are usually only bustling with students the day before a large summative assessment, as students form long lines to ask teachers last-minute questions––regardless of relevance or importance. Yet counselors stress that going to visit teachers away from test periods can help the learning experience, and hence enhance test performance to a greater degree.

“I only see a majority of students in my room the day before, of, and after a summative assessment,” said Eugene Lee, chemistry and biology teacher. “They are clearly panicking, which causes them to question their own knowledge. Students should come regularly, whenever they feel confused about the material being learned. It will benefit them in the long run too.”

Another unique concern arises for juniors: how does one ask teachers for letters of recommendation? Asking for an evaluation of one’s self can certainly be a daunting task. The truth is, many students are unaware of when and how they should approach teachers for letters of recommendation. All the anxiety that is already associated with visiting teachers is amplified with the scope of importance of the issue that must be brought up: college applications.

“Spring of junior year is when students should begin asking teachers if they would be willing to write letters of recommendation,” Mr. Thomson said. “The most important element is choosing the right teachers to ask. It is best to ask in person, face to face, rather than through an email. Students should be addressing why they chose their specific teachers for recommendation letters, and whether or not the teacher of their choice will be able to write a ‘strong’ letter of recommendation for them.”

Counselors acknowledge that while asking for letters of recommendation may feel awkward, such are skills that students will have to continue to develop not only at college but also beyond. If students engage in increasingly regular, healthy interactions and relationship building between themselves and teachers, the SIS community will be a more pleasurable place for all.