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Top 10 ways to show appreciation and give thanks to your professors

Making the jump away from virtual instruction has been a new challenge for professors and students alike. Here’s how us students can take the initiative and show professors that they matter and are an integral part of the University community.

<p>Zachary Anderson is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Zachary Anderson is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily.

1. Say thank you

Although it seems obvious, it can go without saying that a “thank you” can really brighten your instructor’s day. Instructors are truly some of the most dedicated to their fields, and they can pour their passion into their lectures. Our faculty keeps the University in tip-top shape and ensures our success. Showing gratitude to instructors for their hard work can make a difference, and all it takes is a simple “thanks.”

2. Go to office hours

Office hours is a useful tool for instructors and students alike, and office hours can be used for guidance, to build professional relationships and more. Many instructors have open office hours on Zoom — which can be useful but also increase the effects of Zoom fatigue that we all inevitably experienced with online classes in previous semesters. Popping into office hours for a class — even if you don’t need any help — can really brighten your instructor's day. In my understanding, many instructors just sit in front of their computers with Zoom open waiting for a student to pop in with questions, so join a call and talk about your favorite topic in the class or ask how their day is going.

3. Participate in classes when given the opportunity

Class participation used to be easy, but  — with the previous experience of virtual classes — many students are still used to being a little black tile with their name on a screen. With in-person classes, your instructor can actually see who is in the room. When people don’t participate in the lecture, it can be awkward for the instructor to wait for a brave volunteer. So it’s likely refreshing to instructors when students participate  — it makes the class run more smoothly and can reinforce the instructor’s plan to deliver a crafted lecture to their students.

4. Ask your instructor how their day is

Do you ever arrive early to a class and you and your instructor are sitting silently in opposite corners of the room? Instead of basking in the awkwardness of silence, ask your instructor how their day is going. Although students may find it hard to believe, instructors have very interesting lives outside of academia. They have research to complete and families to take care of, and showing interest in these things can strengthen relationships between students and instructors and make a more conducive learning environment. We are social creatures, and it only takes a single question to bring out the best in people.

5. Be open and honest with your instructors

This can be hard for many students to do, and I know that we sometimes believe that a little white lie could land us an extension on a paper that we haven’t started as a result of a recent Netflix binge. Although lying is something that could be helpful in a pinch, is it really worth creating a false situation to confer to your instructors? In truth, being more open and honest with instructors can help them gauge how you operate as a student, and this could afford them the opportunity to build trust with their students and understand how they are approaching the class. What I am saying is that we could be a great resource to our instructors, and there is no shame in using honesty to make a class more suitable for everyone.

6. Take your instructor for coffee or lunch

Taking your instructor to lunch allows for more casual conversation, and can actually help build professional relationships between you and your instructors. It also serves as a new experience for both you and your instructor to break up your schedules! Did you know that the U.Va. College Council has a Take Your Professor to Lunch program? Unfortunately, the program is not operating due to COVID-19 concerns, but the College Council is looking for ways to resume the program in the near future. 

7. Visit instructors that you had in previous semesters

One thing that I love to do as a student is to check in with some of my previous instructors. I feel like it is a great way to maintain professional relationships and also be a familiar face to instructors who are engulfed in a sea of new names to learn and faces to remember — faces would be quite tough as it is. Ask your instructors how their classes are going, for it gives instructors an opportunity to reflect on their new experiences and speak to someone who has had a similar experience to their current students. I like to think that my previous instructors enjoy seeing me periodically, and I’m sure that there are other students who feel the same!

8. Do your work on time or ahead of schedule

If your instructor utilizes UVACollab for many of their assignments, try to complete assignments early. This can give instructors more time to grade their students’ work and also help them reduce the stress of grading many assignments at once. I am not suggesting that we rush our work, but — if instructors make it available to turn in work early — it is certainly helpful to be ahead of schedule. Of course, this depends on the instructor. If your instructor specifies that something should be submitted on a specific day, make sure that it is ready for submission!

9. Fill out the course feedback forms

Many instructors offer extra credit or participation points for completing this survey, and with good reason. These surveys can help instructors better understand how to meet students’ needs in the future and how to lecture in a way that can be more enjoyable for them and for us students. Honesty is super important on these forms, and I have had many instructors who have mentioned how useful the surveys are if students elaborate on their comments, concerns and complaints for a particular class offering. Show your instructors that you care and answer honestly on these surveys!

10. Write a thank you letter for your instructor

Although hand-written thank you letters have become a piece of history thanks to emails and Zoom calls, they still show extra appreciation than a quickly typed-up message sent through the airwaves. Providing a tangible thank-you letter could really make your instructor’s day, and it also serves as an immortalized piece of gratitude for your instructor to reflect on. I believe that hand-written letters are severely underutilized, and they are a great way to show appreciation in a way that invokes sentimentality and gratitude.