Falling behind in classes? How to ask your teacher for a study guide, tutor or mentor

Extra help in classFeel like you’re falling behind in class? Are you just not getting the subject matter? Is it difficult to juggle class and a part-time job? If so, the important thing to remember is that it’s easy to ask teachers for a little extra help. Visit your teacher during office hours, explain what you’re not understanding and ask for assistance. There are many kinds of programs that work: tutors, working with a mentor, peer mentoring, a study guide on a particular subject and even summer sessions if you know you’re getting a class in a subject you’re not comfortable with.

But if I ask for help, that means I’m dumb

100% FALSE! Everyone has trouble with a subject sometimes. Don’t think that your difficulty in grasping a concept is some weakness on your part. You simply need to spend more time on it or have someone explain it in more detail for you. Swallow your pride, hold up your head; there’s nothing wrong with approaching a teacher and saying you need some extra help.

“Relax—everyone has been there at one point or another during their educational lives. You just have to realize that the teacher is there to help you… Some people feel nervous talking to the teacher because they don’t want it to get back to their friends… [Teachers] definitely want to help you! They aren’t judging you” says author Tyler in his post “Finding the Courage to Talk One on One With Your Teacher,” December 2, 2012 on AccessEnglish.org.

If you’re afraid you might be falling behind, don’t wait. Get assistance now. The longer you wait, the further behind you’ll get, and it will be much more difficult to catch up later.

What kind of help to ask for

Ask for a tutor, mentor or study group. See if your school has a tutoring program. Study with your tutor or peer group on nights or weekends so the material is fresh in your mind, not just when there’s a test. You can also ask a teacher assistant (TA) for help. They may be more your own age and easier to talk to. And they may have gone through the same difficult material you have.

In class, ask the teacher to break the subject down into its fundamental components and make sure the class understands them before moving on. Go to the library for extra study material. Another option is to record the lectures (get the teacher’s permission first) so you can listen to them again later for clarity and for information you may have missed the first time around.

Try the Learning Center or Counseling Office

Go to an online tutoring lab if your school has one. Lincoln University in Pennsylvania had great success with its Learning Resource Center. “The tutoring laboratories provided students with a short mini lesson to review the material presented in the classroom and to provide an opportunity for practice at the end of the mini lesson in a brief activity and in the online tutoring program,” reported Patricia Fullmer, in her spring 2012 post “Assessment of Tutoring Laboratories in a Learning Assistance Center” in the Journal of College Reading and Learning.

Students at Colorado Northwestern Community College who need extra help go to the Counseling Office or the Learning Center to discuss academic issues, receive tutoring and get one-on-one assistance with reading, writing and math skills. For example, “Students have had to set up meeting times with [biology and nutrition instructor Sarah] Ward to discuss their grades and see how they could improve test scores and their overall grade. ‘We met during my office hours at the Learning Center, and went through the two exams (a student) had failed,’ says Ward.” The teacher would then refer students to the Learning Center’s coordinator “to determine whether a different study and exam-taking approach would improve her performance in the course,” reported Whitney Chumacero in “Help Me, I’m Failing!: Tips on How To Bounce Back From a Failing Grade,” Spartan Times, October 22, 2009.

Remember that it’s always easier to ask for help early on than to accept a poor grade at the end of the semester.

How have you received extra help when you felt you were falling behind?

Find more information on higher education and curriculum, testing and educational technology at Questia.com.

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