Book review: Say This, NOT That to Your Professor

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

Want to learn how to communicate with your professors? This book may help. - Photo by Devan C. Tasa

Want to learn how to communicate with your professors? This book may help. – Photo by Devan C. Tasa

The secret to communicating with your professors: talk to them in a professional manner and come proposing solutions to your current problems.

That’s the best way to summarize author Ellen Bremen’s advice in her book Say This, NOT That to Your Professor. Bremen, who teaches communications at Highline Community College located in Washington state, decided to write the book after witnessing many of her students communicating their problems to her poorly.

The book is divided into 36 chapters each of which tackles a common issue that a student might talk to their professor about, like grades, late assignments and finding out what happened in a missed class. Each chapter begins with a real-life example, then discusses a professor’s view of the issue and ends with suggestions on what a student can say to deal with that issue.

The professor’s view of an issue, while it can be guessed at using common sense, might be something that doesn’t cross a student’s mind.

For example, a student might ask if they missed anything important in class. The professor might think in response that they didn’t spend hours of preparation time to present any unimportant information. The suggested solution, by the way, is to look at the course schedule and see what was talked about that day, then talk to the professor if there are questions.

The main problem with the book is that it begins with some issues that students would (hopefully) find unrelatable. The first chapter begins with a discussion about students that have their parents talk to their professors if they have a problem – with the suggestion that once in university, students should grow up and deal with their own problems. The second talks about students that act like high school class clowns.

In its last third, however, the book contains information about dealing with your professor that everybody would find useful. Subjects include asking a professor for timely feedback to your work that makes sense, asking for changes to a professor’s teaching style, using evaluations to their fullest potential and how to go above the professor’s head if all attempts at communication have failed.

Say This, NOT That to Your Professor would be great for a student entering their first-year of university, but it should be used as a reference guide rather than be read cover-to-cover. Not every student is going to be facing the same problems in school, so the most effective way to use the book would be to read the chapters that apply to their situation.