Keeping it Professional

has a lot to do with maintaining a learning-focused attitude in the classroom. Covered in this section are considerations of professional tone and distance when it comes to dealing with students regularly.

Professional tone

requires that you remember the purpose of your learning space is to be inclusive, not exclusive. You don't want to make any students feel not welcome in the space, and as a result, you should make sure to consider the following:

  • Be friendly first and avoid assuming the student is wrong or is being purposefully problematic to begin with.
  • Keeping things polite can be difficult especially if the student is not being polite themselves. This being said, always strive to be polite in your responses.
  • Stay on topic. If the student came to talk about their grades, focus on their grades and avoid discussing other unrelated topics until you have finished discussing their grades.
  • Never be hateful even if you feel very passionately about a topic, avoid swearing or using hateful language, as it more often dissuades students from interest in the topic.

Body language

is a very quick cue to how someone is feeling, even if their words are saying otherwise. It is also difficult to always keep tabs on your own body language, especially when dealing with being nervous or frustrated in the classroom. While illustrating body langauge considerations in text are not very effectively (understandably so) it is a good idea to keep in mind that you should try your best to check your body language — and what it might be saying — as often as possible when dealing with students.

If you want some further pointers on body language, it may be worthwhile discussing it with your instructor.

Keeping a professional distance

is important to help maintain you as an authority in the classroom, as well as have students respect your time outside of teaching hours.

Within the classroom, be wary of students who ask a lot of personal questions. It is ok to discuss some of your personal life with students, but remember that your goal is not to be their friends, but their instructor. Gage what details may be relevant to establishing a common ground or understanding, and which are unnecessarily personal.

Things happen in your personal life that may make their way into the classroom. Try to do your best to avoid bringing these issues in, and if you believe they will effect your teaching ability, bring it up with the course instructor.

Outside the classroom and online students can often expect you to be much more responsive than reasonable. Making sure you establish timelines for expected email replies (as discussed in In the First Lab) is important as well as give students a clear guide to materials required when emailing you.

If an issue emailed about is too complex to discuss via email — items such as critique or grade concerns are most frequently too extensive — it is best to refer students to your office hours or an arranged meeting time.

When it gets difficult

to keep things professional it is often a good idea to take a break if possible. Ask the student to send you an email cc'ing the instructor, and, or, arranging another dedicated meeting time might be best to help you level your head to best approach the issue at hand.

Next up:

Providing Critique