Chapter 1: Page 9

Premise #5: You’re Not in this Alone!

In fact, all of the best learning is collaborative in some way.

Check out these TWO SIMPLE BUT TRANSFORMATIVE TIPS for getting the most out of your college education collaboratively – through instructor connections and tutoring.

Our amazing colleagues Esther Chan and Karen Wiederholt share ways students can advocate for their own learning.

Esther Chan has been teaching English at SF State since 1985. Besides teaching in the English department, she mentors MATESOL students, assists the coordinator in the CMS Program, and collaborates with literacy specialists and teacher leaders to offer workshops on teaching reading and writing strategies in many of  California’s public high schools. Esther loves learning – especially from her students and her colleagues. One of her favorite parts of teaching is helping her students embrace their college experience, develop their self-confidence, and discover their interests.

Professor Chan’s Tip #1: Build positive relationships with your instructors — to get the most out of your learning experience…

Our dear colleague Esther Chan shares a message to students:

“Your college experience will no doubt involve the thrill and excitement of being in a new and different environment where you will be able to meet new people, explore potential fields of study, and exercise your freedom to make your own decisions.

Professors play a big part in your college experience and your academic journey. They are experts and researchers in their fields, but they are also your allies and supporters.

Your professors are your advisors, potential mentors, connections to internships, and references for graduate school or even future jobs. So it’s in your best interest to develop a healthy working relationship with your professors. Here are three simple tips for how you can do this: be present, honor your responsibilities as a student, and connect with your professor.

1. Be present.

Being present means more than just attending class; it means participating in and contributing to class. Let your peers and your professor know that you are ready to learn and to contribute to others’ learning. I have had the privilege of meeting many students who approach their classes with this kind of enthusiasm.

Carlos, who enrolled in my First-Year Writing course, was all about making connections; he made friends with his classmates and participated actively in class discussions, asking questions that reflected his interest and curiosity. At one point during the semester, after the class had read a short essay, entitled “Easy Job, Good Wages,” Carlos came to class, ready to share his personal experience responding to an email he had received with an invitation to accept what appeared to be profitable offer. His contribution sparked an interesting class discussion that enhanced everyone’s learning experience. Students like Carlos clearly think about what is happening in class, and they make strong impressions on their professors because their actions demonstrate enthusiasm whereas students who sit passively in class make an appearance and sadly, leave unnoticed.

2. Honor your responsibilities as a student.

Uphold your part of the teacher-student contract by preparing for your class, completing your assignments and submitting them by the due dates. Your professors are passionate about their subjects. They invest countless hours in thinking about and planning their lessons and crafting assignments. Although they may not expect you to be equally passionate about their subject, your preparedness, conscientiousness, and punctuality communicate respect for your professors’ time and effort, and these are qualities that instill trust– a essential ingredient for any healthy relationship.

Queenie left a deep impression on me, not because her work was stellar (although it was stellar), but because of how she managed to balance her 14-unit course load, a 30-hour work week and family obligations. Queenie could have asked for an extension on any of the assignments and have reasonable excuses for doing so, but she chose not to. To focus and reduce distractions, she made the campus library her study area, spending most of her

weekends at the library and never missing an assignment or submitted one late. Even when I offered her extra time to complete her assignments, she kindly refused, holding tightly to her work ethic and explaining that she wanted to be a positive role model for her four younger siblings.

3. Connect with your professors

Engage in conversation with them about the course material. If you apply tips one and two, tip three should follow naturally. The best way to make a positive impression is to show interest in or curiosity for what your professor is interested in. So ask questions when you need clarification, but also ask questions about the theories or concepts in the lectures and your textbooks to expand your understanding. Find opportunities to share your reflections and observations. Take advantage of your professors’ office hours two to three times during the semester to introduce yourself and communicate your interest in the subject, and if you must communicate through email, be sure to follow the conventions of email etiquette.

Here is an actual email that I received from a student that might make you chuckle:

From: XXXXX <> Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2017 10:30 AM

To: Esther W Chan Subject: Day off

Hi Esther. I wasn’t here o Tuesday because I went to Vegas on Friday night. I want to know what we did in class on Tuesday. Thank you hope you understand.

[no signature]

Needless to say, this email did not give me the impression that he wanted to connect. On the contrary, the student left me wondering why he hadn’t made preparations before his trip and asked a fellow classmate to take notes for him?

Your professors are busy and have much on their already very full plates. Although it may be reasonable to ask for help, expecting them to provide a recap of a lesson that you missed because you a chose to do something else is not the best way to connect with your professors.

Take note, also, that asking your professor to address questions that can be answered with a little care on your part may communicate laziness and lack of interest. In other words, asking, “What is the due date for this assignment?” when the specific date is clearly printed on the assignment sheet suggests that you did not take the time to read the details to the assignment before asking your question. On the other hand, asking your professor to help you better understand how a concept or a skill might be applied outside of the classroom reveals reflection and garners respect.

Developing healthy working relationships with your professors is good training for future professional relationships you will build. Your professors want to know you, and your actions allow them to do so. Both Carlos and Queenie requested letters of recommendation, and I was happy to write each a strong recommendation, referencing their unique personal qualities, interpersonal and analytical skills, and potential as graduate students. In fact, they kept in touch after graduation, and we have since become friends.”

-Esther Chan

Karen’s Tip #2: Advocate for your own learning by seeking tutoring support

Because she loves the students, Karen Wiederholt has been teaching at SF State for a long time. She is currently working at the Tutoring and Academic Support Center (TASC), teaching and supporting tutors, and helping students get tutoring appointments. On the weekends, she makes pots.

Quick Quiz

Tutoring is for everyone

At SF State, you’ll be happy to know that the answer is: everyone! All kinds of students use tutoring–freshman, transfer students, grad students; students who want someone to talk over an assignment with; students who want some feedback on a draft of their writing; students who need help planning all their reading. You get the picture. Plus, tutoring is free. Or, to be more accurate, you already paid for it in your tuition and fees. Tutoring is for everyone.

SF State has several options for tutoring. The largest most central option is the Tutoring and Academic Support Center, or TASC. TASC has lots of tutors in many areas–writing, reading, math, science, and study skills. Tutoring can be one-on-one, in small groups, or in a larger study session. If you’re part of a specific program, like EOP or METRO, you can get tutoring there, and at TASC, too.

TASC Basics

Tutoring Hours: Mon-Thurs 8:00am-8:00pm, Fri 8:00am-2:00pm

Virtual Reception Hours: Mon-Thurs 10:00am-4:00pm, Fri 10:00am-2:00pm

Virtual Reception Zoom Link:

TASC email:

TASC website:

Navigator log in:

Always check the TASC website for the most current information and links.

If you want to meet with a TASC tutor, you can schedule appointments as needed, either with the friendly folks at the TASC reception, by email request, or on your own using Navigator. 

Tutoring is free for all SF State students and available in most subjects. TASC offers several different kinds of appointments: drop in and scheduled, occasional or once a week with the same tutor. It’s your choice! If you are an undergraduate, you can make your own 30-min appointments through Navigator. If you’d like a 50-min appointment, or are a graduate student, please get in touch with the front desk.

Tutors at TASC are students like you

The tutors at TASC care about you, and about what and how you learn. They are trained to assist you in completing specific assignments while you strengthen your overall academic skills and make progress toward your goal of graduating.

Because it can be awkward to go into a new situation without knowing anyone, we’d like you to get to know more about the TASC tutors. Like you, they are all students at San Francisco State. Some of them are undergrads and some are graduate students. They are all fluent in English but some are non-native speakers. They come from different backgrounds and places, are studying different subjects, but they share a love of learning and a confidence that everyone can succeed at the university. 

Watch this video to meet them. You’ll get to hear their perspectives on a number of things, including how they connect with students, what they like best about tutoring, and how tutoring helps them.

The stigma is real

Pop quiz:

If you chose the second, you can probably skip this section because you already see tutoring as a positive activity. If you chose the first, keep reading! Let’s explore this together.

So why do some people–students, instructor, parents–still see tutoring as a negative? And how can you get over your own feelings of embarrassment, reluctance, or even fear, if you have them, and  start enjoying the benefits of tutoring?

Watch this conversation between two tutors about that very topic. 

Why should I go to tutoring?

Now that you know that tutoring is for everyone, that tutors are students like you, and that it’s worth overcoming the stigma in order to receive the benefits, think through your specific situation this semester by filling out the following chart. The first filled in line is an example. 

What are some things I could work on with a tutor?How could a tutor help me?What are some things that are getting in the way for me–time, mindset, responsibilities?How can I overcome those obstacles?
The writing assignments in my GWAR class!A tutor could help me get started writing when I’m procrastinating, which is often.I’m super busy, and I’m also a bit embarrassed to ask for help. I did well in my community college.Maybe a tutor can also help me manage my schedule 🙂I need to tell myself there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I want to keep doing well

What success looks like 

Read these “Student Success Stories” that may help you see more clearly how tutoring can support you in your goals at the university. Which success stories do you relate to the most?

Take a moment and  imagine yourself at the end of the semester, a semester in which you chose to go to tutoring regularly. What did you accomplish, how did you grow, what skills did you develop? Set a timer for 5 minutes and do a short free-write in your notebook or on the computer describing your future accomplishments, or the progress you made. If you want, give your success story a title, just like the tutors in the “Student Success Stories” did. 

We look forward to seeing you at TASC!

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