10

I had a class last week and I was 10 minutes late. I missed part of the class, and I want to write an email to my professor to arrange a time to meet.

I prepared this email:

Dear .....

I’ve missed part of the previous session and this part is not clear for me. Could I meet up with you this week so you can explain it to me?

Thank you

Is it appropriate?

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    Yes, if this is the only time you have been late in this course. – GEdgar Jul 11 '18 at 17:08
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    Yes, it has a negative effect on the professor if she has to meet with you outside of class to re-teach the material you missed. – Dawn Jul 11 '18 at 17:59
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    Do you know a fellow student in the class whose notes you could borrow? The professor would probably be happier if you had done some preparation of that sort and only needed one or two things clarified than if you asked for a repetition of the whole part of the class that you missed. (This is even more important if you missed a larger part of the class.) – Andreas Blass Jul 11 '18 at 18:06
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    Does your professor have regular office hours? Some schools require this, and some faculty members will have them whether required or not. (If you have a syllabus or other description of the course it will probably list them.) – 1006a Jul 12 '18 at 17:06
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    The answer is no. I've had students who want to me to repeat an entire lecture for a multitude of reasons. My answer is almost always no, except if the student has a genuine case, e.g., been sick, or has demonstrated he/she has made some efforts to try to fill in any gaps in knowledge. In your case, try to fill in the missing bits by asking your friends, Googling, and then just double check your understanding with your professor. – Prof. Santa Claus Jul 13 '18 at 0:18
63

I would like to take a different perspective than Buffy:

You were late (maybe even disrupted the course when entering the room) and missed something. Now you want additional time from your teacher to catch up something which happened in the first 10 minutes - which will take ~5-15 minutes of the working time of your teacher. Multiply this by 100 students and 5 courses per week, and you will spot the problem ;-).

Therefore, I would suggest to try everything you can do to catch up on your own. Ask other students. Use books. If you invested >3h without success, you can still write this e-mail explaining what you already understood, where you struggled and at which point you need specific help.

This will show your professor you are really engaged and makes it easy to answer your question within seconds. Maybe (s)he will ask you "just to talk a few minutes after the next lecture" which is also very time effective.

The behavior also depends a bit on your local student-teacher-relationship. In my course, I would not mind if you just approach me after class, you will receive a little (friendly but sarcastic) remark about being late, and get an answer (and I'm happy that someone is trying to learn something).

  • I agree with this and I tell my students that I don’t go backwards through the material.... – Solar Mike Jul 11 '18 at 18:17
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    While I agree that disruption is bad, and that working it out yourself is good, please don't fear to ask. Asking questions is the heart of academia. And no one is perfect (not always, anyway). – Buffy Jul 11 '18 at 18:45
49

Perfect question for office hours! Go and wait for your turn to ask.

  • 2
    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review – Scientist Jul 12 '18 at 0:53
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    IMHO, this is the perfect answer to the underlying question. I agree that the best course of action would be to the office hours, which, AFAIK are exactly for that, than to write an e-mail that could get lost... – Fábio Dias Jul 12 '18 at 3:02
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    I'd like to point out that in some places, office hours don't exist. – user9646 Jul 12 '18 at 6:34
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    @Scientist "How to ask professor to explain something again?" "Perfect question for office hours! Go and wait for your turn to ask." It even sounds almost like a natural conversation, I can't imagine how this could be an answer to the question more than it is. – JiK Jul 12 '18 at 11:30
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    Some people dislike short answers for no good reason. There's no need to "back this up with sources" or to fill the answer with pointless explanations. Some people even think that they should write short answers in the comment section instead, which is even worse. – pipe Jul 12 '18 at 12:11
8

Yes, it is appropriate, though you will want to apologize for being late. Most professors, good ones anyway, value questions and the students who ask them. If the prof in question holds regular office hours that would be the most appropriate time to ask.

I don't think there is any "special" way to ask. What you suggest seems fine to me.

You can also try to get up to speed on the topic before you meet, using text books and the like. Or discussions with fellow students.

I was once thought to be very smart because I asked a lot of questions. On the other hand, my mother thought I was a "pain" because I asked a lot of questions. But she wasn't a professor.

3

No, as a general rule, such mail is not appropriate. I would not be happy to receive such email. There are reasons courses are taught in classes of multiple (many) students, and that is, the professor's time is much more valuable than students'.

There may be exceptions to the above rule. For example, if you have been late to some widely known reason that affected many people (e.g. snowstorm, public transport breakdown, etc.), then the professor may be more generous (but I would not be surprised if he asks for multiple students that missed the class to arrange a single meeting).

On the other hand, if a) people are habitually late to this professor's class, or b) you were late multiple times, don't even think about this, because you may get pretty bad reaction. Do the math, if there are 100 people in the class and only 5% are late and want extra time with professor, it can easily add up to a burden that is non-negligible.

  • 2
    I don't think it is because the professor's time is 'more valuable' than the students'. Does this mean that the time of students taught in larger classes is less valuable than those taught in smaller ones? Or that the time of students taught one-to-one is as valuable as professors', even though the time of all other students is less valuable? I think you're right about the inappropriateness, but wrong about the reason. The point is there are 100 students, but only 1 professor. It's inappropriate precisely because the professor's time is not less valuable than the students'. – cfr Jul 13 '18 at 0:36
  • Even if there was only 1 student, the same would be true because the 10 minutes the student was late were the 10 minutes during which it was agreed the professor would teach the student that material. If you turn up 10 minutes late to a one-to-one tutorial, you lose 10 minutes tuition. You can't expect the instructor to arrange an extra 10 minute session to compensate next week. – cfr Jul 13 '18 at 0:38

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