Hey, It’s Cool To Ask For Help

The other day I listened to a voicemail from a student the day before April term ended who said she had a few questions about the final assignments and asked if I’d call her back ASAP. Of course, I did, and after exchanging pleasantries the first thing she said to me was that she was sorry, that she had tried really hard not to call and bother me, but was confused by some of the directions for the final assignment and had to swallow her pride to call.

Wait, what?

I was so surprised. After all, I am a teacher and it’s my job to help my students learn. I get paid for it! In my mind, there’s no reason whatsoever that a student should worry about “bothering” me with questions. It’s no bother! In every email I send, on every paper I comment on, I end by saying “let me know if you have any questions.” And yet, it’s so so rare that anyone actually asks me questions.

It’s not just me. I work with a whole group of other English teachers and so few of our students talk to us during any given month. I usually get one, maybe two, students who take the time to chat with me on instant messenger or shoot me an email with some questions. The students who do talk to me are usually high achievers who don’t so much have questions about the assignments as they just like creating a rapport between themselves and their teachers. Of course, that’s not always the case and I do sometimes hear from students who really need help, but it’s so much more rare than I think it should be, especially when I hear a student say she had to swallow her pride to ask me a question.

Hey, it’s cool to ask for help. Totally cool.

There’s absolutely no reason for a student to fumble blindly through a class when a few questions could clear up a lot of confusion. You are not bothering us. To be perfectly honest, the only thing that “bothers” me is when someone waits until after the class has ended to contact me with questions (or accusations) about why certain grades are what they are and if there’s anything that can be done to make up missed assignments or assignments that didn’t result in the desired grade. No. Take action when something happens–if you miss an assignment, contact your instructor immediately with an explanation and ask if you can turn the work in for late credit. If you didn’t get the grade you wanted, click on your grade to read your teacher’s comments, and if the comments don’t make sense to you, contact him or her with clarifying questions. If you’re just not getting the directions for an assignment, or don’t understand APA formatting, or can’t seem to master a certain methodology, just call, email, or IM your teacher and ask a question. It’s truly as easy as that. I swear, I’m never like “Oh great, JOE called me about the Proposal assignment and has a bunch of questions. There goes my day! I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed. This is the worst day of my life. I quit. At life.” I’m actually more like, “Oh cool, Joe called me to ask questions. I get to touch base with a student today. I hope I can help him out.” Like I said before, that is my job.

I guess there are probably teachers out there who get annoyed by students who have questions and “bother” them, but those people probably aren’t very good teachers. Hey, that happens. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions if you have them. Trust me, showing that you’re trying is better than trying to coast along only to be disappointed in the end, especially at Full Sail where things happen so fast. The thing is, no teacher should expect you to master a subject in four weeks without asking a few questions. It actually kind of concerns me when no one asks any questions. I have had months where not one student has spoken to me all month, and it’s pretty depressing.

(side note: don’t ever use “y” or “u” unless it’s for a meme)

Next time you’re confused by something suck it up and contact your instructor. You can also contact the Writing Center or get your own tutor if you find that you really need extra help with a subject. There’s no shame in asking for help. I promise.


About Jaclyn Sullivan

I'm a full time Instructional Designer and a sometimes adjunct professor of English Composition. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and I'm a published fiction and non-fiction writer. Check me out on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaclynmsullivan I'm a big fan of post-modern literature and swear by the lessons of Kurt Vonnegut. Some of my favorite writers include Lorrie Moore, Antonya Nelson, Grace Paley, Flannery O'Connor, Louise Erdrich, and Raymond Carver. I like Tom Waits, Andrew Bird, actual birds, pictures of cats, actual cats, animals in general, polka dots, exercise, iced coffee, reading, writing, tv-viewing, the Internet, and food. I dislike rain on days when my hair looks good, sweating, t-rex arms, public bathrooms, books being made into awful movies, and when The Walking Dead is on hiatus.
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4 Responses to Hey, It’s Cool To Ask For Help

  1. Pingback: You Don’t Actually Hate Writing | Full Sail University Creative Writing for Film and Digital Cinematography

  2. Pingback: Signs of a Super Online Student | Full Sail University Creative Writing for Film and Digital Cinematography

  3. Stephanie Butler says:

    Hi Jaclyn,

    I am Stephanie Butler and I want to thank you for your blog. I do have that feeling that maybe my question is a dumb one and should just keep looking at the training videos to see what I missed. I always look at it like, “if I were on campus I would be able to get to know my instructors”. It makes since what you say and I have to admit I am guilty of not asking questions and or even just chatting with my instructor regarding the class. Again thank you for your blog and I have learned to keep trying until you are able to get answers to my questions. It will only help me, the student in the long run and build a better working relationship with my instructor.

    Stephanie Butler

    • Stephanie, I’m so glad that the blog helped you! I was a pretty quiet student when I was in school, too, but now that I’ve been teaching for so long I realize how much more I could have gotten out of my classes if I had fostered better relationships with my teachers. It’s always good to make yourself stand out!



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