To make the most of your learning experience, and to get the best grades possible, it is good to form a positive relationship with each of your instructors. In some cases this is easy to do: you are dazzled by the instructor’s knowledge, make opportunities to ask questions, and find encouragement to share your views. A mentor helps you make contacts in your field of interest, and coaches you in your early efforts.
Other times it is not so easy to make friends with an instructor. If the class is large, you can have a lot of competition for the instructor’s attention. You may find the instructor’s knowledge does not address the questions that interest you, or you may notice that the instructor takes for granted some assumptions that seem highly questionable to you. Differences in ethnic or economic background can also make it more difficult to build rapport.
If a positive relationship does not come easily, you may feel as though you have to choose between “sucking up” or maintaining your integrity. In these cases you will be aware that you are doing more than half the work of creating any friendship. However, there are good reasons to persevere in this effort.
Building alliances with people you do not particularly like is a valuable life skill. Probably you will do your best to avoid instructors who do not appeal to you, and in general it is good to play to your strengths. However, it will broaden your horizons to get to know individuals whose point of view is quite different from yours. Think of it as a temporary visit to a very foreign country, where you need to be diplomatic to create cordial relations.
You cannot fake your way into a positive relationship. You still need to show up on time and well prepared, and think carefully before asking questions or making comments in class. In informal settings, offer information about yourself that might help the instructor find some common interests and remember who you are. Do not criticize, but do let the instructors know in which areas you find their information most helpful.
It helps to take a playful approach, so you do not feel as though your integrity is on the line. You can even write a personal journal keeping score on your efforts, and noting your real opinions. At times when no one seems interested in what you really think, it will help you identify what you care about and maintain your long-term motivation.
Getting to know your instructor can improve your grades on class participation and papers, by creating a positive expectation for your contributions. It can even improve your score on multiple choice exams, because you will better understand the instructor’s point of view. You can make a game out of predicting which answers the instructor will believe is “right.”
In any case, making friends is something you accomplish in small steps. You need not give it a lot of time, but you need your full attention to judge what to say and notice how it’s received. A steady, consistent effort will produce the best results.