How to ask a teacher for help

Students first need to recognize that they need help, and then they need to know that they’ll be supported when they ask for it.

How to ask a teacher for help

Why do students struggle to ask teachers for extra help? Why do they sit in silence or confusion when raising their hand could bring help? Failure to ask for help can affect students’ academic performance, self-esteem, and potentially their access to learning in the future. There are several reasons why students struggle to ask for help, but the good news is that there are many strategies that can help them become stronger self-advocates for their learning.

Students must first recognize that they’re struggling. This requires honesty and self-awareness—some students don’t think they need help even when formal or informal assessments indicate otherwise.

Once students acknowledge that they’re struggling, they may feel shame or embarrassment. Many students have told me, “I want to be independent and try it on my own. I don’t need help.” They fear that asking for help signals weakness or failure in their character, though adults could tell them that asking for help is instead a sign of maturity and strength.

Teachers can help students understand how they learn best and empower them to be advocates for their own learning by teaching them how to ask for help.

5 Strategies for Improving Students’ Self-Advocacy Skills

1. Strengthen students’ metacognition: One strategy to help students acknowledge that they need help is to strengthen their self-reflection and metacognitive skills. Teachers and parents often act as external monitors of student progress, but they can begin to shift the responsibility of self-monitoring to children as early as elementary school.

Teachers can encourage and guide students with explicit metacognitive teaching to think about their learning. After a test, for example, have students answer questions about how they studied, how much time they spent studying, their test grade, and what they’ll do differently for the next test.

Asking open-ended questions about their learning helps students learn to gauge their progress and identify areas where they’re strong and ones where they need support. Teachers can incorporate metacognitive prompts such as:

  • This project required a lot of hard work. How did you prepare for it?
  • How do you think you’re doing in this class? How do you know? How does this compare with graded work you’ve received so far?
  • Can you identify one strategy you’ve been using that has helped you to be successful? Can you identify one strategy you want to try using more often?

2. Help students understand that teachers want to help: Asking students of any age why an adult would choose teaching as a career can be an eye-opening—and often humorous—activity.

Have students pause and reflect in small groups about why they think Teacher X became a teacher. This is extra fun if Teacher X can visit your classroom to hear the brainstormed ideas. Guide students to the final answer: “Teachers become teachers because they like to help.”

I’ve used this exercise at the beginning of a year for relationship-building and to show students that I care about them and want to help them. This allows me to talk to my students in a lighthearted way about asking for help.

3. Brainstorm conversation starters: Students who are introverted or shy may feel overwhelmed or anxious about initiating a conversation with their teacher. Practicing or role-playing this kind of conversation can help shy students build confidence. Teachers can also suggest that students use just two words to signal that they need help: “I’m struggling.”

Evidence shows that having students brainstorm increases their mental flexibility and creative problem-solving. After they think of ways to initiate a conversation, have them role-play talking with a teacher. This can be done as a small group activity in the classroom or one-on-one with a trusted teacher, social worker, parent, etc.

Students can approach teachers with conversation starters like:

  • I’m struggling with _____. Can we talk about it later?
  • I’m working hard, but I’m still not understanding _____. Can you help me?
  • I’m not sure what I need. Can you please talk with me?
  • Can you give me advice about _____?

4. Create a secure environment: Students need to feel safe in order to be vulnerable and honest enough to ask for help. Would you speak up and admit you needed help if you thought your peers would laugh at you?

Teachers should encourage a climate of curiosity, risk taking, and openness. You can use team-building activities to increase the sense of community in the classroom, create posters that reiterate your classroom rules and values, or hang inspiring quotes on the walls.

Another great strategy is for teachers to model self-talk when doing something that requires risk taking. When I make mistakes as a teacher, I use them as opportunities to talk about imperfection and how to be resilient. Students enjoy catching their teacher making mistakes, and I love it when they catch me too because I get to remind them that everyone is imperfect.

5. Help students see themselves as capable of success: In order to ask for help, students need to believe in their own capacity to be successful. If students feel defeated or helpless, they’ll be less likely to seek assistance.

Create opportunities and activities in your classroom for students to identify and highlight their strengths. One activity for elementary classrooms is creating an “I Am” bulletin board: Ask each student to create five or 10 “I Am” statements: “I am strong,” “I am good at basketball.” Next, have students find images online or in magazines that illustrate their statements and create a collage of words and pictures.

For secondary classrooms, I recommend an “Expertise” bulletin board: Students (and teachers) can identify two or three expert-level skills they have—“I’m an expert at spelling,” “I’m an expert at geography—I can name all the state capitals.” Display these on a classroom bulletin board, and when students need help they can check the board to find a classmate—or teacher—who can help.

Last spring, the shift to a virtual learning environment represented a sudden, emergency shift for schools, students, and parents alike. Everyone was adjusting in numerous ways.

Looking towards the start of the new school year, Educational Connections is dedicated to helping make this transition as smooth and effective as possible. Parents have a LOT of questions.

One common concern we have heard a lot is that kids are finding it much harder to reach out to their teachers for help when they are behind a computer across town, instead of behind a desk in the same room. What are some ways or tactics kids can use to get extra help, clarification on assignment, or speak up when they’re struggling? What can parents do to help?

In the physical classroom, kids can give subtle physical signals for help, hang out after class, or go find a teacher at lunch. In the virtual environment, it’s not that easy.

Here are some ways to ask for help within the virtual learning environment:

  • Be sure to speak up when the teacher asks, “Are there any questions?”
  • Use the “raise hand” feature within the online learning platform during class
  • Put questions in the chat, using the “send privately” option if that feels more comfortable
  • Email the teacher directly after class while the question is fresh in your mind
  • Ask questions on the teacher assignment page
  • Schedule time virtually with teacher one to one during the teacher planning time
  • Ask for a recording of the class or/or a copy of the teacher’s notes

If the child is very reserved, nervous or shy, you can help them write an email saying something like, “I’m having trouble understanding how to do [are of difficulty or confusion]. Can you please help me with this?” The approach works well because the student is likely to get a positive response. And when they do, they’re more likely to ask for assistance again.

Alternatively, if the student is young or especially timid, you can send an email saying, “I’ve noticed that my child needs help, but is very nervous about asking a question in front of the other kids. Do you have any suggestions?” This allows you to be helpful without taking over or being confrontational in any way.

Most importantly, please know that teachers want and expect kids to ask for help. We do as well. Please click on the button below to talk about your specific concerns, and schedule your free consultation with one of our learning experts.

We all need help in school at some point — including me! Some of us will need help understanding the material, others will need help studying, and others might need help staying organized. We all have our strengths, and we all have our weakness. The important part is to know what those are, and to know how to ask for help in school before we have no idea what’s going on in class.

Before you can actually ask for help, you should identify what you need help in — of course. And sure, to a degree I mean do you need help in math or English or history? But honestly, figuring that out isn’t the hard part, because chances are high that you already know if a particular subject is hard for you.

So I’m talking about a deeper layer here. So why is math hard? What skill are you missing? And then why? Why is English class hard for you? Is it the reading or the writing, and then why?

Take on the inquiry skills of a toddler here when you’re trying to get to the bottom of your school struggles: keep asking why until you hit the core. This process takes some soul-searching and some introspection. And sometimes it can make you uncomfortable as you get closer to the real source of your struggle. (Let’s face it — it sucks to realize that we might not be awesome at something.) But face that discomfort and be open to what’s on the other side of it.

Only when you identify the nugget of your weakness can you ask for and get the exact help you need.

Before I get to the tips, I have to stress the importance of trying to help yourself first, before asking someone else. I know that might sound lame and counter-intuitive because you’re thinking Uhhh….I’m the one who needs the help! But don’t underestimate yourself. If you do what I suggested a few paragraphs up (keep asking whyyyyyyyy something is hard for you until you figure out what skill you’re missing), then you might just realize exactly what you have to do. You can find a YouTube video that explains those math concepts in a different way. Re-read your notes and textbook for clarification. Google articles and other resources that take a different approach that might better suit your learning style. Your teacher isn’t the only source of information …. see what else is out there!

Now, if you truly try to solve the issue on your own, but keep hitting dead ends, then it’s definitely time to ask your teacher.

So here are 4 steps for how to ask for help in school

1. Have a clearly defined need. Instead of telling your English teacher, “I need help on this paper,” narrow down what you really need. Do you need help defining your thesis? Do you need help identifying source materials? Do you need help with connecting your ideas from paragraph to paragraph? The more specific you are with your needs, the more your teacher will be able to help you. Before you even set a time to meet with your teacher, you should have isolated your issue and written down your specific question on a piece of paper. Take your time here. Sit and think what do I really need help with?

2. Give your teacher advance notice before meeting. If you suddenly become confused by something in class, most definitely shoot up your hand and ask a question. But if your struggle is deeper than that or if you’re confused about something bigger, set up a legit meeting with your teacher to discuss your issue. During this meeting, tell your teacher exactly what you think your issue is (step 1). The more advance notice you give your teacher about setting up a meeting, the better prepared they will be to help you. If they know exactly what you are asking for, then they can take some time before meeting with you to come up with a plan.

How to ask a teacher for help

Raise your hand the SECOND that you think something is confusing. Don’t wait until you have no idea what’s happening.

3. Be open to the help you get. It is literally your teachers’ jobs to help you. Teachers don’t want you to fail, and they certainly don’t want you to suffer through class. But different teachers have different philosophies about helping their students, and this may vary depending on who you are and how you ask for help. Some teachers will give you exactly what you need, on the spot, while others will offer you guidance as they encourage you to work through the issue on your own. Your chances are higher of getting the level of help you need if you a) have asked a specific question, and b) can show that you’ve made an attempt to help yourself first. Regardless of how your teacher is offering to help you, be open. Certainly speak up during the conversation if you think they’ve misunderstood your issue, but chances are that they see the larger picture and really are giving you what you need.

4. Practice. Ask for help a lot. The more you practice asking for help, the easier it becomes. Some students have no problem raising their hands in class and asking for clarification the moment the material gets difficult. Awesome! But other students wait so long to ask for help that they fall way behind. Not awesome! Speak up! Teachers are not mind readers and they won’t always know when they’ve lost you (except if you’re face-down on your desk). So here’s what you do: constantly check in with yourself during class and when you’re doing your homework. Try to notice the very second that you start to struggle. Raise your hand immediately or write down your question to ask the next day. The sooner you recognize that you’re confused, the sooner you can ask for help, and the sooner you can get it.

Knowing how to ask for help in school — also called self-advocacy — is a ridiculously important skill that will serve you way beyond the classroom. Start now. You’ll thank yourself in 10 years.

During the class as the teacher is teaching, many a times students miss a part or don’t understand something. In such cases, it is very strongly advised that students must ask their questions and clear all the queries or they will not be able to learn properly which will be harmful during the exams and affect their overall knowledge as well.

How to ask a teacher for help

All students feel that, by asking something which is bothering them, whether their doubts or even some interesting things, they will appear stupid/unintelligent in front of others and, they stop themselves from asking their doubts in the classroom. The teachers too, during the class, ask students about their doubts related to the subject being taught in the class but students do not raise their doubts for some or the other reason. Almost every other student go through such situations, even professionals face such situations. Although, students should never let their doubts bother them when they can get an answer just by asking their teachers. Knowledge will be complete only if all your doubts are cleared.

You should always clarify your problems and queries from your teacher, as they too are ready to help students as and when required. Never let thoughts of feeling stupid or embarrassment hinder your knowledge.

Here we are discussing how students can reach out to their teachers for clarifying their troubles and doubts:

Ways to raise your doubts and ask for help from your teachers –

1. The first rule for clearing your doubts is – not to feel shy. Just approach your teacher whenever you face any problem in any subject and put forward your query. Don’t overthink about it.

2. Sometimes, students simply ignore their queries due to their carefree approach and hence, do not raise their doubts to teachers. This impacts their studies too as they do not learn properly and consequently their performance suffers in the subjects.
Schools arrange the extra classes for weak students or for extra help of students. Students must take this opportunity to clarify their problems about the subjects.

3. If you have worked on an assignment and want it to be checked for some specific part, then you must ask your teachers as early as possible as delaying the problem will lead to delaying the project/assignment and your teacher may not help you at the last moment.

4. If you have doubts about facts, figures, or calculations then you must make a record of them, or mark them in your workbook and then approach your teacher. This will be more organised and solved quickly.

5. If you have missed a particular lesson when you were absent from school/class then you can ask your classmates for the notes and for more clarity, discuss with the concerned teachers.

6. Not everything printed in a book or taught by the teacher may be correct, if students find such instances then they should very politely put forward their point without making the teacher appear as mistaken/offended.

7. If you try to solve the problems before going to the teacher then it reflects your sincerity and effort. Teachers appreciate students who make efforts. Even after this, your problem is not solved then you can approach your teacher and explain your problems with the subject.

8. Make notes before and after discussing your problems with the teachers. This will be helpful in keeping a record and you don’t need to ask the same problem again and again.

9. If you and your classmates face same problems in the subject, then you can ask your teacher to schedule an extra class for you all, so that you can clear your doubts separately.

Conclusion: Never let the feelings about foolishness, stupidity or embarrassment stop you from asking and learning. Asking/clearing doubts are the first step towards knowledge. Always remember you are helping yourself by asking the teacher. Also, sometimes it happens that the doubt/problem you are facing is being faced by other students too and they too are feeling shy in asking their doubts, so if you take the first step by asking your teacher, it’ll encourage students to raise doubts too. This way the class will be more engaging and doubts of other students will also help you clear your own facts and make your knowledge more strong.

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There are many different ways to approach someone for assistance, and each way has its own advantages. One common way to reach out for help is through email. If you choose this method, it’s important to understand how to write an effective message. In this article, we explain why it’s beneficial to ask for help by email and how to ask for help by email, and we provide several examples of emails asking for help.

Why is asking for help by email beneficial?

Asking for help by email can help you organize your thoughts before reaching out to someone, and it shows the person you are asking that you respect their time. Emails are often less time-sensitive than a phone call and less invasive than visiting someone in person. Using email to ask for help can give your colleague, supervisor or contact time to evaluate and research your question.

Asking for help using email can also help you narrow down your question and edit your approach. When you take the time to write out an email, you might process the situation differently than you would if you asked the question aloud without giving it as much thought. The specific and direct language you can use in an email can also help you eliminate unnecessary details.

How to ask for help via email

Follow these steps to ask for help using email:

1. Use a clear, direct subject line

Use the subject line to clearly express what your email is concerning, especially if you don’t know the recipient well. The subject line can act as an introduction to your email. The person you are asking for help may be more interested in the body of your email when they are interested in or curious about the subject.

2. Greet your reader

Including a greeting can help the email seem more personal and set the tone for the rest of the content. The greeting you choose can give your reader an idea of how formal or informal your email will be. Be sure to spell their name correctly and use the appropriate honorifics (for example, using “Dr.” instead of “Mrs.” if the recipient has a Ph.D. or medical degree).

3. Establish your credibility

You should introduce yourself and show the value of your communication in the first sentence, especially if you haven’t had previous contact with the recipient. Give your credentials and explain how you came in contact with the individual. If you are more familiar with them, you can start by giving context for your problem or question.

4. Put the question in the first or second sentence

Ask your question early in the email so that the recipient can find it easily. Many people skim their emails, so placing the question or request early in the email helps ensure that they will see it. Positioning the question at the top of the email also helps them determine whether they can help without spending too much time sorting through information.

5. Use a call to action to clarify the next steps

People are often more likely to help you when they know how to proceed. If you are looking for answers to a question, you can specify where you looked or why your research didn’t turn up the answers you were looking for. If you are asking for another kind of help, such as asking the recipient to complete a task, you should provide clear instructions and goals.

6. Make your email easy to read

Many people check their emails between tasks, so you want to make your email easy to skim. If you have a lot of information to include, you can use bullet points and bolded text to help your reader easily recognize the most important points.

7. Give your reader a deadline

To give your reader a better understanding of what you need and when make sure to tell them your timeline. When you give the recipient a time frame for when you need their help, it allows them to determine whether they can give your request the attention it deserves. Knowing when they need to answer can also help alleviate stress and help them build your request into their schedule.

8. Close the email politely and thoughtfully

When you close your email, you should thank the recipient for their time and assistance. They may be more inclined to respond if it’s clear that you respect their other obligations and expertise. Thoughtful closing sentences can also build goodwill and friendship.

9. Edit before you send

Editing your email before you send it can help you determine if you are using the correct tone and if you made any grammatical mistakes. You may also find that you should adjust the amount of detail you provide.

Asking for help email examples

Here are some examples of emails asking for help:

Email asking for help from colleagues or supervisors

Subject: Stable Feeds Contact Information
Hello, Julia!
I’m Stefan, the new account manager. Could you send me the contact information for Stable Feeds’ inventory manager? I’m trying to reach out to Stable Feeds for their monthly order, but I can’t find their information in the database. You can send it here or over text.
I’ll be in the office until 5:30 pm today, and I’ll be back at 9 am tomorrow. I would like to try reaching out to them before lunchtime tomorrow, if possible.
Thank you for your help!
Stefan Herrera

Email asking for help filling a volunteer position

Subject: Volunteer Position at FurNation Animal Rescue
Dear Dr. Smith,
My name is Evelyn Dane, and I am the Chairperson of the FurNation Animal Rescue Board of Directors. I am contacting you today to ask if you would be interested in volunteering your skills for five to 10 hours a week to help treat rescued farm animals.
Your expertise and skills would be a great benefit to us, the animals and the community. We hope to have the position filled by Friday, June 22.
Details about the position and the organization are attached. Please email or call me at 945-684-1532 if you have any further questions.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.
Evelyn Day
Board of Directors Chairperson
FurNation Animal Rescue

Email asking for help ordering a product

Subject: Trouble Pre-Ordering a Product
Dear Class Act Cosmetics,
My name is Jaime Collette. I am trying to pre-order the Rosie Rouge Palette, but the palette won’t save in my cart. Is there a way to fix this issue or another way to pre-order it?
I have several other items in my cart, including another pre-order. I have also tried logging out of the website, refreshing the page, restarting my browser, clearing my cart and accessing the palette from your pre-order announcement email.
My contact number is 856-305-3486. I hope to hear back from you soon.
Thank you,
Jaime Collette

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

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How do I get students to ask for help when they need it?

It helps to understand the real reason why students don’t go see their teachers, even when they know they should. Here’s something I wrote recently about the topic for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week :

The quietest part of my day used to be my office hours, when students could meet with me without an appointment. Why? Because no one would show up for them.

I clearly advertised the time I would be available, door open, ready to answer any questions. I extolled the benefits of asking for help. And I told my students what a valuable resource their professors were, that we wanted to help them be successful in their classes.

But I still sat there alone. None of it worked. Students already know it would benefit them to get help. But asking for help feels awkward, uncomfortable, and embarrassing.

When we aren’t in their shoes—faced with the immediate prospect of asking someone—we tend to forget just how powerful those anxieties can be. Telling someone what they have to gain from seeking help doesn’t work when they are more focused on what they have to lose.

That’s why research shows it’s more effective to address the underlying anxiety of asking for help than to focus on the practical benefits of doing so. Students need to feel like they aren’t the only ones struggling. They need to believe they won’t be judged negatively for getting extra support.

That’s also why, in my own teaching, I both formalize and normalize help-seeking by requiring all students to come in for office hours at least once. No one feels singled out, and students get practice taking advantage of available resources—and seeing their peers do the same.

Don’t think that knowing help is available is the same as knowing it’s OK to use it.

Do remember how hard it can be to admit you need help. Share a story about a time when you overcame the hesitation to say you needed support. And ask your child how they feel when a friend asks them for a favor—are they happy to lend a hand? Tell them that’s how their teachers feel when students ask for time outside of class: grateful that they can make a difference.

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

contributed by Penny Kostaras

I am a K-12 learning coach. My approach is comprehensive – executive functioning, time management, and academic content.

A trend I’ve noticed over my career is a winter influx of bewildered freshman, and I am always sorry that we hadn’t met in the summer prior, or even earlier in middle school to help create a roadmap for success.

The major roadblock I’ve noted for these students is the fear of asking for help. To acquire this skill, students first need exposure to a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset. Students must believe that they can learn more and become smarter through hard work and perseverance and abandon the idea that they are naturally good at _____ or bad at _____.

Dear Students, Asking For Help Is A Strength

Becoming a lifelong learner takes time, effort, and help from others. We can always improve. Asking for help and using one’s resources to solve problems is a strength, not a weakness. Developmentally, middle and early high school students are ripe for learning that self-advocacy is essential to future success.

Middle schoolers have a harder time asking for help because they are still transitioning from the cut and dry thinking of elementary school. Add to that the self-consciousness and insecurity that puberty brings, and no one dares to ask for help for fear of being ‘found out’ or ‘exposed.’ The thought of something being ‘wrong’ with them is devastating. Students entering high school bring with them their old patterns from elementary and middle school which don’t serve them anymore.

Being embarrassed to ask questions and stuck in a fixed mindset hinders their growth. From here on out, they’ll need to ask for help and be open to receiving it in order to be successful. Here are some ideas to promote the acquisition of these skills in the classroom.

8 Strategies For Helping Students Learn To Ask For Help

1. Encourage Students To Ask for Help

Reward students who ask questions and come to see you – whether it’s a points system, gold star, or praise. Create a log where you tally how many students asked questions or came to see you for extra help and have a competition between classes to make it fun.

2. Start From A Young Age

Convey that asking questions is a strength, not a weakness. No one accomplishes anything great on their own. Collaboration bolsters creative thinking and innovation. Encourage students to see asking questions as their new superpower where they gain insight and have extra time with the teacher.

3. There Are No Dumb Questions

Restate this tired phrase in a more positive way: “Questions are welcome, so please ask them. If you have a question, I guarantee someone else has the same one, so you’ll be doing the class a favor by allowing me the chance to clarify for everyone.”

4. Communicate The Idea That Everyone Needs Help

Consider inviting older members of the local community to come to visit and reveal ways that asking for help has benefitted them. Revealing to younger students that getting help is the norm in the creative, scientific, and professional world makes them aware that receiving help is universal and okay. Once in the know, students can let down their guard and be open to receiving help earlier so that they can thrive.

5. Play A Game

Establish your classroom as a place that fosters a growth mindset. Have students get to know each other by asking them to write on a piece of paper two things they are good at and two challenges they typically struggle with regarding the subject you teach.

In small groups, share strengths and challenges. For each share, the group comes together to offer help to each person and brainstorm how they can offer the individual assistance when they need it: “You can count on me (us) when you need help with __________.” This support structure will inspire community and empathy where students will simultaneously want to help and accept help.

Further, you can gamify it using gamification. Done well, gamification works. Start by offering points or rewards or playful barriers to encourage students to ask for help when they need it–and for knowing the difference between when they need help and when they don’t.

6. Set The Expectation / Map Out The Road Ahead

Set individual and group goals that highlight progress overachievement. Show them how much they’ll learn and that an uphill climb is to be expected. From the start, this normalizes work ethic and stretched thinking in the classroom. Remind them that they will all need to play a role in supporting each other when they feel challenged.

This can demystify the idea that some students will naturally breeze through the class while others will struggle alone in silence. Keep checking in throughout the year to promote teamwork and remind them of the goals they set.

7. Share Your Story

Share with your students what you were good at and what you struggled with when you were their age. It’s important to remember what it was like to be the age of your students. What were your strengths and weaknesses in the subject matter that you teach or in other subjects? How did you overcome those obstacles? What embarrassed you?

Looking back now, what’s funny about it? What would you have done differently? Give them a glimpse into your past and they will see you in a new light, not as an untouchable authority, but as a relatable human who has grown and changed throughout the years.

8. Normalize ‘Asking For Help’

By normalizing asking for help, teachers can encourage a growth mindset in students – particularly those who are experiencing a big transition – elementary to middle, or middle to high school. Discarding preconceived ideas about their abilities will empower them to learn more about themselves and what they are capable of.

Through various strategies that promote sharing, being a team-player, vulnerability, mentorship, and sustained effort over time, students will be inspired to abandon self-sabotaging habits and instead embrace self-advocacy. They will now have a chance to see school as an environment that supports the idea that asking for help is a strength.

When students feel safe to take risks, real change can take place. With proper guidance, they will learn to hone their communication skills and leverage their resources with confidence. A growth mindset allows students to appreciate themselves as work-in-progress as they make their personal transformations throughout high school and beyond.

How to ask a teacher for help

Penny Kostaras has been a trusted academic coach and educator for 13 years and is an expert at taking students from struggling to confident and successful. Penny is the founder of Wise Student, a program offering effective strategies to help students improve time management, organization, and study skills.

Asking for help seems simple enough, but if you’ve ever needed a hand, you know how hard it can be. Clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen explains why it’s so challenging and shows you how it’s done.

How to ask a teacher for help

Asking for help can turn the most self-assured, square-shouldered among us into a nail-biting mess. We may cast about vague wishes to no one in particular, blame others for our woes, or procrastinate until our problem has become an emergency. You’d think asking for help would be preferable to all this misery, but taking action is tough for almost everyone.

Here are 5 common reasons why we stay silent, along with strategies for how to get the help you need without swallowing your pride:

Reason #1: Fear of being a burden. We worry that asking for help takes something away from our helper. We assume our helper will view the task as an unwanted load. Suspect this fear if you say to yourself, “She has better things to do,” or “He has so much on his plate already.”

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How to ask a teacher for help

Remind yourself of this: First, people love helping. Not only does helping strengthen social ties, it makes helpers feel good about themselves. The most primitive part of the brain—the same reward pathway activated by food and sex—lights up in response to altruistic giving. Graciously allow your helper to give you a gift of help (a gift you could really use); she or he will likely be delighted for the chance. And, if your helper is truly too busy or overburdened, trust him or her—just as graciously—to tell you so.

Second, think how you’d feel if the tables were turned. If a friend were in your shoes and asked you for help, how would you feel? Most likely, you’d feel flattered and happy to pitch in. Trust that others will probably feel the same way.

Then, try this: Ask for something specific. “I could use some help,” is fuzzy and borderless, but “I’ve been totally drained ever since I started that medication. I could use a hand taking the garbage bins to the curb on Thursdays for garbage day and bringing them back in on Fridays,” is clear and well-defined. However, steer clear of micromanaging. If your helper agrees to take on your task, trust that she is competent and let her do the job. Try something like: “I appreciate you asking if there’s anything you can do! As a matter of fact, I’d love some help with laundry —it’s hard for me to lift the baskets since my surgery. What timing works best for you?”

Think how you’d feel if the tables were turned. If a friend were in your shoes and asked you for help. Most likely, you’d feel flattered and happy to pitch in.

Reason #2: Fear of admitting we’re out of control. This fear is particularly common when we realize a long-ignored problem, nose-diving relationship, or hidden addiction is getting out of hand. It feels like you’ve failed, or that you can’t handle it by yourself.

Remind yourself of this: Sure, you could try by yourself, but why would you want to? Sometimes control isn’t the right approach. For example, you can’t stop a wave, but you can surf it. And surfing, we can agree, is better with a buddy.

Then, try this: Think about your problem as if it were an actual object separate from yourself. Then, picture you and your helper teaming up against the problem. Pull a Clint Eastwood and imagine the problem sitting in an empty chair. The problem is no longer “you” or “me,” but a rampant, raging “it.” Call the problem “it” when you discuss it together. This is called unified detachment, a couples therapy technique pioneered by Dr. Andrew Christensen at UCLA and the late Dr. Neil S. Jacobson of the University of Washington. Try this: “This credit card debt really needs to get fixed before it screws up our lives even more. It’s taken on a life of its own. Can we chip away at it together?” Then get on over to Money Girl, who can help you fix any financial mess.

Reason #3: Fear of owing a favor. Most of us don’t like to feel indebted. It cools our response to a helpful favor and makes us uncomfortable, as if our helper has one up on us.

Letters of recommendation are almost always a necessary part of the college application process. Sometimes, you’ll need a letter of recommendation even to apply for a scholarship or other opportunity. So, it’s important to not only know who to ask for this all-important letter but also how to ask.

Asking a teacher for a letter of recommendation can be nerve-wracking, especially if you are generally shy or don’t speak with your teachers one-on-one very often. However, as long as you follow a few guidelines and approach respectfully, you will be absolutely fine and have a stellar letter of recommendation for your application.

When thinking about asking for a letter of rec, keep these tips in mind:

Choose the right teacher(s).

Depending on the kind of letter of recommendation you want, you’ll need to ask the appropriate teacher. Generally, you’ll want to choose a teacher who knows you well, has a positive opinion of you, and can highlight your strengths.

Often, the teacher you choose should match the message you want to send in your application. You might choose your biology teacher who you’ve assisted for a year if you’re applying to major in the sciences, for example.

However, sometimes, asking a teacher who can offer a new perspective that isn’t already in your application helps. For instance, if you’ve volunteered for an organization or extracurricular activity that doesn’t show up in your application much, perhaps asking the supervising teacher to write you a letter of recommendation will help highlight that aspect of your personality and skill.

If you ask more than one teacher, try to ask teachers who will provide different perspectives to highlight varying strengths that you have as a student.

Whatever aspect of you that you want to highlight, choose a teacher who knows about that aspect and will write well on the subject. If you don’t speak often with any of your teachers, it might help to establish a relationship by visiting office hours first.

Plan to ask well in advance of the deadline.

No matter who you ask, make sure you plan to ask them well ahead of the deadline. Teachers are busy, and sometimes the process requires them to send in the letter for approval or to mail the letter, in which case you’ll need extra time.

If you approach a teacher and tell them you need a letter of recommendation in the next week, that teacher likely won’t have much time to write you the kind of letter you want. Make sure to be respectful of your teacher’s time and the effort it takes to write a great letter of recommendation.

You should also assume this teacher is already writing a few letters of recommendation, especially closer to college application season. If you can ask well in advance, you’ll get a much better result.

Ask in person.

Though it might be tempting to ask your teacher to write a letter of recommendation for you over email, asking in person is much more respectful and will give you the chance to connect with the teacher more personally.

Your teacher will likely be more willing and excited to write a letter of recommendation for you when you approach respectfully in person rather than impersonally in an email.

If you are asking a past teacher who you cannot ask in person, or cannot ask in person due to Covid-19, consider emailing and asking if you can speak with them on the phone or on video chat.

Approach individually during an appropriate time.

When you do approach a teacher to ask for a letter of recommendation, make sure that you approach alone, rather than asking in a group of other students. Teachers might feel overwhelmed if more than one student is asking for a letter, and you’ll be less likely to get their undivided attention.

In addition, always approach during office hours or another time when a teacher seems to have free time to speak with students. Hopefully, your teacher has given you an idea of when is appropriate to approach them, so respect their time and space accordingly.

Provide all necessary information.

Depending on the application, you might have a list of requirements for any letter of recommendation sent to the institution in question. In that case, make sure that you give your teacher all the information they need to write and send the letter.

Be up front about the institution to which you are applying and what they’re looking for, and answer any questions your teacher may have about the formatting and process.

Be respectful of your teacher’s process.

After you ask for a letter of recommendation, make sure to respect the process your teacher usually follows for writing letters of rec. Chances are, this is not the first letter of recommendation your teacher has written.

Some teachers have a questionnaire they like students to fill out or want to ask you questions about what you expect from the letter. Some do not want you to read the letter, and some might want feedback. Whatever the process they prefer, make sure you follow it in a timely fashion.

Handle any mail-in duties or purchases.

If your teacher needs to mail in your letter of recommendation to a certain office, make sure you provide an addressed envelope with a stamp. Offer to help with any part of the process to make it as easy as possible on the teacher.

Follow up or send a reminder.

Once you’ve asked for the letter and given all necessary information, including the deadline, make sure to follow up with your teacher or send them a reminder. Don’t expect your teacher to keep track of deadlines.

Consider the letter your responsibility and make sure you help your teacher succeed in getting the letter in on time.

Deliver a thank you!

Once the letter of recommendation has been sent, make sure to thank your teacher for their time and work! You can thank them in person, write out a thank-you note, or even get them a small gift as a thanks.

This is especially important because you want to show gratitude for their effort on your behalf and also keep the option open for any further letters in the future. However, as a rule, it’s best not to ask the same teacher for two letters.

As a thank you, make sure to return any favors your teacher might need from you, whether that’s an evaluation, a letter for them, or help in the classroom.


Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events, scholarships , college fairs, internships, career and leadership programs , partner discounts, and more. Discover what makes NSHSS worth it to student members and how you can get involved.

Interacting with your professors and asking for assistance can seem nerve-wracking, especially in an online learning situation where you aren’t able to meet face-to-face. Fortunately, instructors are often happy to hear from students. Keep these tips in mind when approaching your professor for help, and you’re likely to have a positive, mutually beneficial experience.

Remember Professors Want to Help

Professors are people who also happen to be teachers, and it’s their objective to communicate with you and help you succeed. They want the very best for you and your educational experience. Keep this thought in mind, and you’re more likely to relax when you approach your instructor with a question.

Introduce Yourself Early

Avoid waiting until you have a problem to introduce yourself to your instructor. Send out a brief introductory email when class starts with some basic facts about yourself. That way when you have a question, the professor will already know who you are and it should make your interchange go more smoothly.

Consider Communication Preferences

Most professors will let you know in their syllabus how and when they prefer to be contacted. Many professors prefer email, but some may also be open to phone calls or texts during specific hours. Whatever you do, keep these preferences in mind when contacting your instructor. When you follow the rules in this area, your professor will appreciate it and be more inclined to help.

Look for Answers in Class Materials

Avoid approaching your instructor with a question that has an answer clearly explained in the syllabus, online, or in an introductory email. Asking a question that already has an answer makes you look careless and is likely to irritate your professor. Take a good look at all of the course materials before approaching the teacher, and if you still don’t have an answer, include a note to let them know you tried to resolve the issue yourself first.

Be Polite

Electronic communication is generally archived or saved. Email can be seen by other students, faculty, and even the administration, so it is critical that you always act in a professional manner when writing to your professor. Being polite when expressing your question or concern is much more likely to elicit a polite and helpful response. Even if you feel that the professor is being unfair, stay civil.

Avoid Suffering in Silence

Remember that your professor has no way of knowing what is bothering you, unless you approach them and ask. Rather than continuing to wonder about something when the answer isn’t available, take the initiative and contact the professor with your question. Clearing things up as quickly as possible will help ensure you’re set up for success.

Request a Phone Meeting

If you are having difficulty with a particular issue, and it isn’t being resolved by the back-and-forth of emails with your professor, request a phone meeting. Ask if the professor is able to spend a few minutes with you on the phone at his or her convenience. Having a conversation is likely to clear up any confusion quickly.

Keep in mind that professors are people just like you. When you approach them about your coursework, they likely will be very happy to respond and help you have the best educational experience possible.

How to ask a teacher for help

Last update: 11 May, 2022

Our children spend a good part of the day at school. Having good communication with your children’s teachers is fundamental to supporting and strengthening their learning process during school as well as to knowing that they are OK. That’s why you should ask your children’s teachers these 8 questions.

In school, children not only learn, but they also socialize, make friends, and have triumphs and problems that challenge their emotions. Your children will be your first source of information, but obviously you will also need to know the point of view of their teachers, with whom they share a good part of each day.

8 Key Questions to Ask Your Children’s Teachers

Your children’s education begins at home and continues in school. Conversely, there’s a lot that you can do to support your children from home with the learning process that occurs at school.

To do this, we propose you ask your children’s teachers the following key questions. These will allow you to delve into academic performance in the classroom as well as your children’s relationships within the school environment.

1. How is my child’s performance at school?

The first thing you need to know from your children’s teachers is what their performance is like at school. This goes way beyond whatever academic grade may appear on a report card or their exam results.

You have to ask your children’s teachers if your children work well while they’re in class. It’s important to know if they’re focused on the activities that are carried out within the classroom, if they show interest in the learning process or if they complete the assigned tasks on time.

2. What work methodology do you use in the classroom?

You must ask this question before you even speak to your children’s teachers individually. When you’re in the process of selecting which educational center you’ll send your children to begin schooling, you must know what their teaching methodology is.

It’s important to know if the teachers will send homework to do outside of school hours or if they prefer that the whole process be concentrated inside the classroom. It’s also important to know if it’s an open school, or if they work in projects. And, of course, you must agree with that teaching methodology.

It would not make any sense for you to not support the school’s teaching methodology and thus decide to reinforce your children’s education with an opposing methodology. If you were to do this, you could confuse your child as a result.

3. How can I support my child from home?

You can reinforce the learning process at home.

To do this, it’s important that you bear in mind that a parent’s role is to provide support and ensure that the children fulfill their responsibilities. In no case is it about doing the homework for your children or overloading them with extra tasks.

When parents are involved in the school work that children work on at home, it’s important to take the following factors into account:

  • Ensure that your children can study or do their homework in a quiet environment.
  • Parents should ensure that study time is not associated with punishment.

4. Is there a system that encourages student’s effort?

Ask your children’s teachers how they value student effort. Again, this is about looking beyond school grades. Find out if whether they give some kind of recognition within the classroom or even within the institution to students who stand out for their performance.

It’s also good to know how they encourage the children’s effort: how often they change the learning environment, whether the children have the opportunity to speak and suggest, what’s most relevant, how often the children can move around rather than staying seated, etc.

5. How does my child behave in the classroom?

The subject of good behavior includes respect for teachers and fellow students, compliance with the rules established within the school, and how your child relates to other children. Typically, if a child has bad behavior, the teachers will immediately make a complaint to parents.

Even so, it’s advisable to frequently ask your children’s teacher about this, even if you do not hear a complaint. Also, it’s important that you hear any good news about if your children are respectful, kind and friendly children.

6. How does my child interact with his classmates?

School is the space where your children make their first friendships and also have their first run-ins. Knowing how your children relate to their peers is important to their well-being.

Your children’s teachers should inform you if they share and play with their classmates during breaks. Other considerations are if they are able to work in a team and how they behave when they are with their group of friends, among others.

7. What are the procedures when a student misbehaves?

This is a fundamental question. You should know if your child’s teachers are in favor of or against punishments, and what measures will be taken if there are behavioral problems between the children.

Bullying is a growing problem across the globe. It’s important to find out what the procedures are in these cases, whether your child is the victim or the harasser.

Read this article: Bullying in Children: Signs, Types, and Actions to Take

8. How can I help?

Parents often drop their children off at school, and do not collaborate in any way with what happens there. They only receive the report card or go to a teachers’ meeting only when asked to.

Instead, offer to help during school days or in any activity that requires parent participation. Education is a team effort. Your support of the school community will benefit you child.

How to ask a teacher for help

There are many situations when you need to email your professor: Asking a question, inquiring about your grades, informing them about a missed class, etc. If you’re wondering how to write an email to a professor, we’ll guide you, step by step. At the end of this article, you’ll find several email samples you can use for different occasions.

How to write an email to a professor: A step by step guide

1. Make sure you really need to send that email

If you want to email a professor asking a question, check your syllabus first. Chances are pretty solid you’ll find the answer. The syllabus can tell you about your workload, assignments, deadlines, and more. If that’s something you were looking for, there’s no need to send an email and waste your professor’s time. Your classmates are another valuable source of information, so make sure to talk to them first.

If the syllabus, or your peers, can’t answer your question, it’s fine to send an email with additional inquiries.

2. Use your school email

This is the best course of action because such an email looks professional and shows a recipient that your message is about classes. If you don’t have an educational email address, make sure to use an appropriate email address like [email protected]. Your [email protected] address isn’t suitable for academic correspondence.

3. Write a clear subject line

The subject line defines if a recipient opens your email, so make sure it’s clear, concise and to the point. A good subject line tells a professor what your email is about and how they should act on it.

Here are some subject line examples:

Question about [Course name] assignment

[Course name] : Asking for an appointment

4. Include a proper email greeting

Start your email to a professor with an appropriate and respectful salutation. Double-check their name before sending an email and make sure your greeting is followed by a comma.

Here’s how to start an email to a professor:

Dear Professor [Last Name] ,

5. Remind who you are

Professors have lots of students, so it’s important to tell them your name and the class you’re attending. This helps you save the recipient time and ensures you get a reply faster.

Here’s how to start an email to a professor:

My name is Lexie Brown, from History 1B, Section 1.

6. Get straight to the point

After greeting a professor and introducing yourself, it’s time to state your question or request. Keep it concise and clear, so the recipient can quickly comprehend what it’s about and what action is expected from them.

I was wondering if we could set up an appointment to discuss my grade on [Assignment name] . Please let me know if you are able to meet next week.

7. End an email politely and include a professional signature

How to end an email to a professor? Thank them for their time and sign off your email with “Sincerely” or “Best regards” followed by your name.

Here’s an example:

Thank you for your time and have a great day.
Lexie Brown

8. Proofread your email

Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Make sure to stick to a formal tone and avoid emojis or informal abbreviations like FYI or ASAP. Check the spelling of your professor’s name one more time.

9. Put yourself in your professor’s shoes

Reread the email as if you are a professor who receives it. Is it clear who’s writing to you and what they want? Is the tone of the email polite and respectful? Does it comply with a formal email format? If all your answers are “Yes,” then feel free to send your email.

Email to professor samples

Once you’ve learned how to email a professor, it’s time to practice. Below, you’ll find a number of email samples for different situations. Please keep in mind that these examples are for reference only, and you should always personalize and tweak them to your needs.

If you frequently need to email your professor, you can add these templates to Spark and reuse them whenever needed. Learn how templates in Spark work.

1. Email to a professor about not attending class

Subject: History 1B: Class attendance

Dear Professor Smith,

This is Lexie Brown, from History 1B, Section 1. I am writing to inform you that I won’t be able to attend your class on Thursday, as I have a doctor’s appointment at 11 AM.

Please find attached my assignment we are supposed to submit by Thursday. I will also do my best to look through the materials you provided for this class and ask my classmates to share their notes.

Best regards,
Lexie Brown

2. Email to a professor about grades

Subject: History 1B: Inquiring about my grade

Dear Professor Smith,

My name is Lexie Brown, from History 1B, Section 1. I was wondering if we could set up an appointment to discuss my grade on [Assignment name] .

I have checked that your office hours are scheduled on Wednesdays from 2 to 5 PM. If this is correct, please let me know if I can come.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards,
Lexie Brown

3. Email to a professor asking a question

Subject: Question about the History 1B assignment

Dear Professor Smith,

I am Lexie Brown, from History 1B, Section 1. In the syllabus, the deadline for our latest assignment is listed as April 9th. However, in class on Monday you mentioned April 12th as the deadline.

Could you please verify the correct deadline?

Thank you so much for your time.

Lexie Brown

4. Email to a professor asking for an appointment

Subject: History 1B: Appointment request

Dear Professor Smith,

I am a student in your History 1B class, Section 1. I faced some difficulties with selecting a topic for my research paper, and I would appreciate it if I could discuss it with you during your office hours.

Please let me know if you are available to meet this week.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to your reply.

Best regards,
Lexie Brown

Want to become better at email? Get Spark. This free and powerful email client lets you use email templates, so you can save time with writing similar emails. It also gives you email superpowers like snoozes, email scheduling, and follow up reminders to help you work with email faster.

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This forum is designed so that learners can ask questions to teachers about the English language.

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January 22, 2021

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Asking for a favor is a common practice in professional life. When asking for a favor, it’s important that you do so in the right way to make a good impression on the recipient. There are a few steps you can follow that can help you craft a formal email when asking for a favor. In this article, we cover how to ask for a favor in a formal email and provide you with a template and example you can use to create your own.

Why it’s important to format an email correctly

Proper formatting can help you ask for a favor in a professional and formal way. When asking for a favor, it’s courteous to take up as little time as possible from the recipient, and the right formatting makes it easier for them to get through the email quickly. Using a formal format also shows that you respect the reader and value their opinions and work. This might make them more likely to grant your favor or request.

How to ask for a favor in a formal email

To ask for a favor formally over email, you can follow the 11 steps below:

1. Ask the right person

Before you ask anyone for a favor, it’s important to check that you are asking the right person. Think about what it is you need and whether the person you are asking is the best person to help. For example, if you need assistance on a project, it’s likely better to ask one of your team members than it is the head of the company.

2. Focus on the recipient

When writing your formal email, start by focusing on the recipient. Explain why you chose them for the favor. For example, if you need help with your Java programming, you could mention “Your recent Java program was really well done.” This shows the recipient you are seeking their specific help because of their skills. It may also convince them to say yes by starting off with a compliment.

3. Give them enough time

As soon as you think you need a favor from someone, start planning how you can ask them. Give the person you are asking as much time as possible to assist you. This can make them more likely to say yes, as they can have an easier time fitting the favor into their schedule.

4. Address them properly

Since this is a formal email, address the recipient in the proper way. The most acceptable way to start the letter is by using “Dear.” After that, include their title, like “Ms.” or “Dr.” along with their last name. If you do not know their title, use “Dear” followed by their full name. For example, “Dear Casey Smith.”

5. Introduce yourself if necessary

If the person you are contacting is unfamiliar with you, or may not remember who you are, it’s a good idea to briefly introduce yourself. Let the person know who you are and how you know them.

For example, “My name is Jaylen Sampson and I work in the marketing department,” or “My name is Jenna Jones and I recently read your amazing blog.”

6. Politely ask the favor

In the second paragraph of your letter, politely ask for the favor. Remember to format this as a request rather than something you need them to do. For example, “It would really help me out if you could send over those documents today instead of tomorrow,” rather than “I need you to send me those documents today.”

7. Include all necessary details

To speed up the process and help the recipient determine if they can assist you, include all the information they need in your request, like time frames, specific results or materials needed. For example, rather than asking, “Can you please send over those documents from yesterday?” you could write, “Can you please send over the documents titled ClientMeeting1.doc and ClientMeeting1.xls from 12/20/20?”

8. Add a convincing argument

Depending on the favor, you may need to add a convincing argument. Let the recipient know why you need this favor and why it is important. If there is some benefit to the recipient, be sure to include this as well. For example, if you need a coworker to cover for you at a meeting, you could write “Would you be able to cover for me at the meeting on Friday? My child is in a play at school and I’d really love to be there. I’d be happy to cover for you at a future meeting in return.”

9. End the letter

End the letter by thanking the recipient for their consideration and their time. Add either “Sincerely” or “Regards” to the end of the letter and include your name and contact information to make it easier for the recipient to contact you.

10. Proofread your request

After writing your formal email, proofread it before sending it out. Look for typos, spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. Also check that the information you included, such as what you need or the timeline, is accurate.

11. Format the email

Take the letter you wrote and format it professionally. Start by choosing a simple and direct subject line. For example, “Document Request” or “Friday’s Upcoming Meeting.” Next, put new paragraphs on a separate line and avoid using indentations. Choose a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Arial in size 11-point or 12-point.

Template for asking a favor in a formal email

Below is a template you can use to prepare your formal email:

Dear [ Title ] [ Name ] ,

[ Introduction ] . [ Connection to recipient ] .

[ Statement of favor ] . [ Reasons or benefits ] .

[ Statement of thanks ] .

[ Your name ]
[ Your email address ]
[ Your phone number ]

Example of a formal email asking for a favor

Use this example to help you craft your own email:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My name is Claire McGill, and I am an avid reader of your blog. I really enjoy the way you are able to distill advanced and complicated topics down into easy-to-follow steps. Your guide on advanced SEO topics was particularly useful.

As someone who is well known as an expert on digital marketing, you likely have a lot of people looking to hire you—more than you have time for. As an aspiring digital marketer myself, I was wondering if you would allow me to assist you. I’d be happy to help out on some of the projects you don’t have enough time for in exchange for some experience and networking opportunities. Attached is my resume along with some samples of my work if you are interested.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email and for providing such great resources for us newcomers.

Being able to ask for help is an essential skill for everyday life, but one that often has a stigma attached to it. It’s natural for young kids to want to “do it themselves,” especially when they see adults accomplishing the same tasks without help. Asking for help can sometimes be seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence, especially as we get older. But as we can see in the Magination Press book Giraffe Asks for Help by Nyasha Chikowore, main character Gary became happier and stronger after recognizing that he didn’t have to struggle alone. Help-seeking in children promotes positive psychological functioning, competence, and inspires healthy collaboration with the children and adults around them. When children learn to ask for help, not only do they utilize their problem-solving skills, but they also become more adept at communicating and expressing their needs.

The Importance of Help-Seeking

It may seem obvious to us, but asking for help can be a crucial tool to help kids deal with tough problems such as bullying, trouble with school work, conflict with peers, and more. In addition, help-seeking is a skill that can combat many of the risk factors that have been known to cause stress and sadness in kids. Discussing what asking for help looks like in different settings (e.g. school, home, camp) can help ensure that children can identify adults and peers who are safe and can provide them with the appropriate forms of assistance.

Of course, there’s a line between encouraging help-seeking and allowing a child to become dependent on help. Kids should still be encouraged to try things on their own when it is safe and appropriate for them to do so, but being comfortable asking for help when it would be beneficial is a key developmental skill. Being mindful about that line can make a huge difference in your child’s understanding of help-seeking.

What You Can Do

There are many things we can do to encourage help-seeking behaviors in kids. Letting them know that you are there to help them when needed is a good way to make sure they use the skill. Many kids have already been asking you for help since they were toddlers, and it can help to point out what that looked like as they have grown. You may have helped teach them how to walk, helped them with coloring or drawing, or helped them learn how to ride a bicycle. You can also give them examples of when you have had to ask for help in your own life to emphasize that people of all ages sometimes need help.

The following questions can aid parents and teachers in helping children navigate how to ask for help appropriately:

  • What are some things you can do without asking for help?
  • What are some things you still need help with?
  • How can you ask for help?

Have some suggestions ready in case your child needs help coming up with ideas!

Identify Potential Helpers

This can start simply by asking kids to identify potential helpers at home, at school, and in the neighborhood. This also gives parents a chance to establish clear boundaries for appropriate individuals to approach for help.

A useful activity to promote help-seeking is to introduce children to the individuals you have identified. Parents can take their children to visit neighbors, community members, and family they trust to go over topics that they can help them with. A simple exercise could be to walk over to a trusted neighbor’s home and ask for a cup of sugar to bake cookies, or to borrow a rake to gather leaves in the yard. This presents a great opportunity for your child to practice asking for help in a comfortable, low-stakes situation. It also gives you a chance to talk about healthy boundaries afterwards. Although we can ask the neighbor for a cup of sugar, we probably shouldn’t also be asking them for the flour, milk, and eggs! We can ask the neighbor to use their rake, but once we are done we have to give it back to them in the same condition we received it.

Knowing who not to ask for help can be equally important, and those boundaries should be clearly established as well. Emphasize that they should only approach and request help from known, trusted adults (or kids!). Many kids may already know this, but it can be helpful to reiterate, especially as we’re asking them to brainstorm a list of people that they can approach.

Model Help-Seeking

Help-seeking can be modeled in your home, too! If your child has a sibling, perhaps they can ask for help with picking up toys. You can ask your child to help you with a house chore, or even something fun, like baking a cake. It’s important to stress that, while of course you can do more things on your own as you get older, no one is ever too old to ask for help.

Encourage Empathy

Learning to ask for help can also very naturally lead into a conversation about helping others, especially if you’re modeling by asking for help, as suggested above. This is a fantastic next step! Not only will your child be learning to ask for help, but they will also be learning how to empathize when you reciprocate. If we go back to the example of asking the neighbor for a cup of sugar, it’s useful to discuss that the neighbor can ask us for a cup of sugar in return. We can imagine how it feels to not have enough sugar when baking cookies, and we want to help them. Empathy is crucial to healthy development, as it helps increase emotional intelligence and is essential to healthy relationship-building with others.

You can encourage your children to empathize and help others in many ways. Sometimes just listening and being a good student can be helpful – it helps teachers give students the information they need in a quiet environment. Encourage your child to think about the class from the teacher’s point of view. Empathy can also look like your child sharing a toy or video game with a friend. Letting others have fun with them can show caring and can also give your child an opportunity to help their friend with the activity.

Asking for help is a basic, important skill, but is one that we often don’t utilize enough! Encouraging kids at a young age to be independent but also comfortable asking for help sets them up for success down the road.

How to ask a teacher for help

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Few students make it through college or graduate school without seeking assistance from a professor for help at one time or another. In fact, it’s important to seek help rather than let problems fester and intensify. So, how do you approach a professor for one-on-one time? First, let’s look at common reasons students seek assistance.

Why Seek Help?

What are common reasons why you might seek out professors for assistance?

  • You’ve fallen behind in class because of illness
  • You’ve failed a test or assignment and do not understand the course material
  • You have questions about the requirements of a given assignment
  • You need advice on the subject of your major
  • You cannot reach the class teaching assistant during his or her posted hours
  • You need clarification on policies and/or schedules

OK, so there are lots of reasons to seek assistance from professors.

Why Do Students Avoid Seeking Professors’ Help?
Sometimes students avoid asking for assistance or meeting with their professors because they’re embarrassed or intimidated. What are common anxieties experienced by students?

  • Feeling “out of the loop” after missing several classes
  • Fear of asking a “dumb question”
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Shyness
  • Discomfort over approaching a professor of a different age, gender, race, or culture
  • Tendency to avoid interactions with those in authority

If you’re going to progress as a student — and especially if you wish to attend graduate school, you must set your intimidation aside and ask for the help that you need.

How to Approach Your Professor

  • Contact. Determine the preferred mode of contact; check the course syllabus as professors indicate their preferred methods of contact and related information. Ask yourself: Is this urgent? If so, then contact by phone or stopping by his or her office during office hours is probably the most logical step. Otherwise, you can try e-mail. Wait a few days for a response (remember that teaching is a professor’s job, so don’t expect replies over evenings, weekends, or holidays).
  • Plan. Check the syllabus for the professor’s office hours and policies before you make your request so that you are already familiar with their schedule. If the professor requests that you return at another time, do your best to meet at a time which is convenient for him or her (e.g., during office hours). Don’t ask a professor to go out of his or her way to meet you at a time that is inconvenient because professors have many more responsibilities than teaching (e.g., lots of meetings within the department, university, and community).
  • Ask. Asking is the only way to learn your professor’s preferences. Say something like, “Professor Smith, I need a few minutes of your time so that you can help me with a question/problem I’m having with ___. Is this a good time, or can we set up something that is more convenient for you?” Keep it short and to the point.

Prepare for Your Meeting

Pull your thoughts together beforehand (as well as all of your course materials). Preparation will permit you to remember to ask all of the questions that you need to be answered and arrive with confidence to your meeting.

There are better questions to ask.

How to ask a teacher for help

Dear Parents of Elementary School Children,

Let’s immediately address the elephant in the room and just get straight to your question:

“Is my child being challenged enough?”

As a second grade teacher who hears this from dozens of parents each year, I am begging you. Please stop asking this question.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand that you only want the very best education for your child. You don’t want them to be bored, you know they are incredibly intelligent, and you just want them to live up their full potential. On behalf of teachers everywhere, let me answer: Yes, your child is being challenged enough.

Teachers are incredibly skilled at creating multilevel lessons.

You might not even realize it, but teachers naturally develop their daily lessons and activities to meet the needs of multiple students with different skill sets. They are also constantly adjusting their lessons to meet individual needs.

Here are some of the things I do for your child on a daily basis:

  • Take a difficult task and make it seem fun and exciting.
  • Encourage them to read a more difficult text without making them feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the end.
  • Challenge them to think more deeply about the characters and the problems in the story than they ever thought possible.
  • Give them a math problem and challenge them to find a way to solve it by using all of the strategies that they know, not just one.
  • Offer them opportunities to teach each other how to use those same strategies.
  • Teach them to research and write about a topic that they love; therefore they don’t even recognize it as work.

Throughout all of this, I am teaching them the skills they need to be successful in my class, and I am also teaching them the skills they need to be ready for future classes. I’m not just teaching your child reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. My goal is to teach them to truly love learning.

We’re building a foundation together.

Your child is only seven.

Your child has plenty of time to find a passion and a strength and decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives. They have plenty of time to find an intrinsic motivation and desire to learn more about a certain subject area, in which case they will most likely find ways to challenge themselves. I’m confident all of this will happen in part because I’m really confident that I’m good at my job.

By questioning whether or not I’m challenging your child, you’re essentially asking if I’m doing my job.

Try asking positive questions instead.

If you do want to get involved in your child’s learning, here are some other questions you can ask instead:

  • Is my child kind?
  • Does my child try their best?
  • Does my child enjoy learning?
  • Is my child happy?
  • Does my child persevere through difficult tasks?
  • Does my child have friends?
  • Is my child compassionate toward others?
  • Does my child have something that they excel at?
  • Does my child follow directions?
  • Is my child responsible?
  • Does my child smile and laugh?
  • Does my child have a growth mindset?
  • Is my child curious?
  • What does my child love to read?
  • Does my child pay attention?
  • Is my child respectful toward their teachers and their peers?
  • Does my child show creativity in the classroom?
  • Does my child like learning?

If you ask these questions instead, I guarantee that you will discover new things about your child and find more ways to support their learning. So please, stop asking if your child’s teacher is doing their job. Trust your child’s teacher and support them in their efforts to help your child grow and develop into becoming the very best possible version of themselves.

Second Grade Teacher

This article was submitted to WeAreTeachers by a teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.

What questions do you like to hear from parents? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, how to help gifted students find their place in the classroom.

How to ask a teacher for help

Imagine that you are a consultant that specializes in learning. Because you are a superstar , your clientele list has grown significantly and you now have over 150 cases to manage. You see each case EVERY day and each one of those cases also has up to two people providing oversight. Can you imagine what a typical day might feel like? If so, welcome to the world of the high school teacher!

When you are worried about your child’s progress at school, are looking for advice, or have specific questions about grades or assignments, your child’s teacher can help. Make their job easier by:

  1. Keeping your email very brief (shorter than this blog post!)
  2. Providing a subject line that’s clear and specific
  3. Be positive – Show empathy and gratitude for what your child’s teacher does
  4. Emphasize your child’s desire to learn over the desired grade
  5. Don’t blame child’s problems on teacher’s ability or style
  6. Use bullet points or numbered lists whenever possible for easy-skimming (and quicker answers!)
  7. Allow time for a response (at least 24 hours)

Below are examples you can use to get straight to the point!

Situation 1: Johnny has missed homework assignments

Dear Mr. X.,My son, John Smith, has been struggling in Math. I truly appreciate your meeting with him after school after the last test. I checked online, and I saw that John missed a couple of assignments this past week. John reports that he “had no idea how to even start” the homework.My questions for you:

  • Should John make an appointment to come in to see you or can he just show up after school?
  • Is there any possibility that John could earn points for completing the missing assignments? If so, what would be the (new) due date?
  • Lastly, if we decide to work with a tutor, do you have specific advice I can pass on regarding what concepts to start with, the next test dates, etc…?

Thank you for everything that you do!

Never assume a teacher will or should give points for late work, and tread lightly in requesting exceptions to any stated policies. If there are extenuating circumstances, definitely explain them (a death in the family or serious illness). You might consider calling and leaving a voicemail for the teacher.

Situation 2: Johnny is turning in homework, but performing poorly on quizzes/tests:

Recently it came to my attention that my son, John Smith, has not been doing well in Math. He has been able to complete and turn in his homework for full points, but quizzes and tests continue to be a challenge. John has struggled in Math for the past few years and we are worried that this year will be more than he can handle.

  • In addition to coming to you for extra help during your office hours, do you have any suggestions on how John can best prepare for the chapter tests?
  • Are there any online resources or other opportunities out there that he could reference?

Thank you in advance for your help. I know you’re busy and we really appreciate your time.

Situation 3: Johnny will be working with a tutor

Recently you and I discussed options for John and we really appreciate your time and ideas. In addition to coming in for extra help, my husband and I have decided to hire a tutor. It will be only once a week and just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start.

Before our first session with the tutor on Thursday, I’m hoping that you can:

  • Let me know what chapter you’re in (page numbers, if possible)
  • Send me the (approximate) date of the next test
  • Send me any information you think the tutor should know to make the session as efficient as possible. Of particular interest: the types of mistakes John makes on his test and any learning style differences you’ve noticed.

Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you before 4pm on Thursday (when they have their first session!).

There are times when a parent may want to CC the guidance counselor, but only do so if you feel you need to get them involved. They have an even greater caseload than most teachers, so ask for their help only when needed.

Teachers care about their students, and they especially like students who are able to advocate for themselves. Before you hit “send” on an email, ask yourself if your child could ask those questions himself, or if he could ask them with a bit of help from you. Self-advocacy is an important life skill and today could be the day you help him start!

Use this sample letter of recommendation request via email as a template for your formal notification.

There are several reasons why a student may need a letter of recommendation from a teacher, principal or professor. The student may be applying for a scholarship, a new job or for admission to graduate school.

If the student already knows the teacher, speaking in person gives the teacher a more personal reason to give a good recommendation and allows him or her to include details that show the committee that the student made a good impression on the teacher.

An email request need not contain all the pertinent information. The student may attach a CV to the email if they think it will help or they can request a meeting.

May Not Remember the Student

​If the class was so large that the teacher may not remember the student, then an email may be a better option because it gives the teacher the chance to think about it.

​If the teacher has serious doubts about giving a strong recommendation, he or she can simply reply by email that it would be better to find a different teacher. A student needs a strong recommendation letter. An insipid, vague or generic letter may be worse than no letter from that particular teacher.

The way to get the best possible recommendation letter is for the student to start a year in advance by taking a particular teacher’s class, getting to know the teacher and getting an A in the class.

​However, it is still possible to get a good letter if the student follows a few rules. The first rule is for the student not to be shy. It is not an imposition to ask a teacher for a recommendation letter, and most teachers expect to be asked by a few students.

The teacher will need a complete list of instructions that includes the following information:

  • The nature of the position for which the student requires the recommendation
  • The application due date – the request should be made to the teacher at least three to six weeks prior to any due date and further in advance is better
  • How the teacher should deliver the letter – should it be given directly to the student or mailed to an admission committee or employer
  • To whom the letter should be addressed – is it addressed to an individual or a committee
  • The reasons the student is applying for the scholarship, job or admission
  • A curriculum vitae or resume
  • A copy of the student’s transcript

Sample Email Requesting a Teacher to give a Letter of Recommendation
To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]
Subject: Letter of Recommendation

My name is NAME and I would like to ask you to write a strong character recommendation letter for me to accompany a job application. I took two of the classes you taught, Art Education and Art History, last year and made an A grade in both.

​You inspired me through your interpretation and understanding of fine arts to help improve the lives of children who do not have access to galleries and museums.

I am applying for the job of Roaming Art Teacher for the County of COUNTY. I will not only teach art through several mediums, but will take the children on field trips to get a first-hand appreciation of fine art.

You may not remember me, but I was the student who brought seven fifth-graders from Name of School to listen to your interesting and entertaining talk on animation in February last year. The way you connect art to healthy living is an inspiration to me, and I hope to make it my life’s work.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my request. I would be happy to meet you to discuss the letter further if you would like. Applications are due in the county office on or before May 31. I can be reached at Phone Number or you can reply to this email.

Asking for help is a complicated but necessary skill for children.

How to ask a teacher for help

Knowing how and when to ask for help is a critical life skill that many children struggle to master. Their own feelings may get in the way of communicating what they need. They may also have beliefs that lead them to avoid asking for help, to ask too frequently, or to ask at inappropriate times.

Here are five examples of children who are stuck and having a hard time asking for the help they need—plus, some ways they can do so effectively.

1. The Easily Frustrated Child

Stuck reaction: “I give up. It’s too hard”

Some children have a very low tolerance for frustration. As soon as they struggle, they want to give up. To break through their knee-jerk tendency to give up when things are difficult, they need to practice dealing with tolerable doses of frustration.

They also need a plan of things they can do when they struggle. For example, with school work, they might try re-reading the instructions, underlining or circling key words, or looking again at the example. They might also try asking a classmate to explain.

These children benefit from having a guideline that, before asking for help from an adult, they need to try two ways to solve it on their own. The two attempts help them practice coping. Also, if they explain to an adult how they’ve already tried to solve a problem on their own, the adult will be more willing to help.

A possible way to ask for help:

“I tried _____ and _____, but I’m still stuck. Could you help me, please?”

2. The Helpless Child

Stuck reaction: “I can’t do this! I can’t do anything right!”

Some children jump quickly from struggling with a task to harshly judging themselves as completely incapable. The key with these children is to soften their black-and-white thinking.

There’s some part of the task that they do understand. Being able to anchor themselves on that allows them to see that they do know something and to get the specific type of help they need to build from there. The part they do understand doesn’t have to be big—maybe they just understand the general topic or method—but it’s a starting point. Urge these kids to figure out what they do know before asking about what they don’t know.

A possible way to ask for help:

“I understand _____, but I’m confused about _______. Could you please explain it to me?”

3. The Overwhelmed Child

Stuck reaction: “It’s no good!” (Cries, destroys work)

Sometimes, children become so overwhelmed by their feelings of frustration or inadequacy that they burst into tears or even destroy their work. These children need to learn to take a break before that happens. While not strictly a form of asking for help, this is an important type of self-advocacy. These children won’t be able to process any kind of helpful suggestions or instruction until they’ve calmed down. They can also benefit from learning some self-calming strategies such as slow, deep breathing, noticing all nearby items of a certain color, or counting or doing math facts in their heads.

Note that the break isn’t an escape pass. It’s just a few minutes of stepping away to settle before trying again. When they return to the task, they can use one of the previous two example statements to ask for help.

A possible way to ask for help:

“I’m feeling overwhelmed. I need a short break before I try again.”

4. The Perfectionistic Child

Stuck reaction: “I don’t want help! I should be able to do this all by myself.”

Some children believe that asking for help is a sign that they’re stupid or incompetent. This causes a lot of unnecessary suffering and interferes with learning. Sometimes, these children need help understanding when to ask for help—for example, if they’ve tried a couple of strategies and they’re not getting anywhere. There is nothing noble about needless suffering.

Sometimes, perfectionistic kids think they need to do everything on their own. Explain that refusing to ask for help when they’re struggling is the same as turning their back on knowledge. That’s not admirable; it’s just inflexible.

An important time for these kids to get help is often before they start big projects. Perfectionistic children often have grandiose ideas of what they want to do and may benefit from having an adult help them choose something that’s do-able.

A possible way to ask for help:

“Here’s what I’m planning. Do you have any suggestions?”

5. The Oblivious Child

Stuck reaction: “I need help. I need help. I need help. I need help.”

Some children ask for help in ways that annoy others. For instance, they may monopolize classroom discussions, interrupt the teacher, or derail on-going activities. They may have mistaken ideas—such as a client I once had who knew that class participation was part of his grade, but thought that meant he should raise his hand as much as possible and talk at length whenever the teacher called on him.

These children may also benefit from explanations about when to ask for help. Specifically, they should wait for a break in an activity or until the teacher has finished giving an explanation. They should also not intrude when the teacher is helping another student. While they’re waiting, they can move on to a different problem or section and continue to try on their own.

It may be useful to explain to these children that the teacher’s attention is like a pie that all the children in the class share. If one kid takes noticeably more than his fair portion without a very good reason, the other kids will be mad.

Sometimes limits, such as aiming for no more than two questions per class period, will enable children to weigh whether their question is necessary. Some children find it helpful to have a nonverbal way of signaling the teacher when they need help, such as using a laminated circle that they keep on their desk and turning it over from green to red to signal that they’re confused without disrupting.

A possible way to ask for help:

“Is now a good time for me to ask for help?

Asking for help is a surprisingly complicated skill. It requires that children recognize when they need help, manage their own feelings, predict a potential helper’s likely reaction, assess the appropriateness of asking for help in that particular situation, and clearly communicate what they need. Thinking through these issues, and coming up with relevant plans to address them, can empower children to get the help they need.

Schoolwork Struggles

When your child’s teacher calls you, chances are she’s worried about your child’s behavior or schoolwork, so it’s tempting to panic, get defensive, or fly off the handle before you’ve even heard everything she has to say. How can you stay calm? The key is to ask the right questions so you and the teacher can create a plan to help your child. We asked teachers for the four most common reasons they call parents and the best way to handle each situation.

The teacher says: “Your child is having trouble with his schoolwork.”

School struggles can be a symptom of a wide variety of issues. “Your child could be distracted by a family problem, or maybe he’s just not getting enough sleep and can’t pay attention,” says Marian C. Fish, PhD, professor in the school-psychology program at Queens College, in Flushing, New York. “Or he missed learning something the previous year — he was out sick when the teacher introduced subtraction — and he’s never gotten the hang of it.”

The right response: Ask the teacher for specifics so you can judge what kind of help your child needs: Is he having trouble in every subject or just one? Did he score poorly on a couple of tests or many? Is he not doing the work, or is he frustrated and can’t handle it?

Creating a plan: Always get your child’s take on the problem. Say, “Your teacher is concerned that you’re having a hard time with subtraction. What do you think?” Ask him how you can help, and brainstorm solutions with the teacher too. She may be able to recommend flash cards or work sheets your child can do at home, or maybe she can fit in extra-help sessions with him during lunch or free classroom time. You should check over his homework to discuss mistakes with him and work closely with the teacher to make sure he’s improving.

Following up: Meet with the teacher for a progress report after your child has gotten a few weeks of extra help. If there’s been little or no improvement, consider getting extra tutoring or consulting with a counselor or the school’s psychologist to make sure he doesn’t have a learning disability.


The teacher says: “Your child is acting out in class.”

The right response: Find out what she’s doing: Is she interrupting? Running around? Making noises? Young kids can’t always articulate their feelings, so bad behavior can be a sign that your child is anxious. Ask the teacher whether she’s disruptive at the same time every day, which can help you identify the trigger. For example, if your child misbehaves just before gym class, she could be scared kids will make fun of her because she’s bad at sports. Another possibility: Maybe she thinks she isn’t getting enough attention from the teacher or the other students, and being loud is her way of grabbing the spotlight. Or you may have a high-energy kid — she can’t control herself during circle time or other quiet moments yet.

One worry to cross off the list: ADHD, even though it’s tempting to panic and jump to that conclusion. “If your child hasn’t had behavior issues in the past, chances are that ADHD isn’t the problem,” says Michael Reiff, MD, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis.

Creating a plan: If you suspect performance anxiety is the culprit, say, “Your teacher mentioned that she gave you a time-out before gym again. Would it help if you and I practiced jumping rope together?” Reassure her that everyone thinks they’re bad at some things, and talk up her best skills.

If your child is just naturally a little too peppy, ask the teacher whether there are ways she could release some energy before quiet times. Maybe she could erase the board or do some other activity before she has to settle down. To handle an attention seeker, remind her that the best way to get noticed is to follow the rules and do well on her work. (You might also ask the teacher for a list of class rules so you can go over them with your child.) Suggest other ways she can get attention, like doing something nice for a classmate.

Following up: Meet with the teacher to make sure your child has settled down; if she’s still acting up, see your pediatrician. “If her teachers have said every year that she’s disruptive in class and now she’s more restless than ever, she should be tested for ADHD,” says Dr. Reiff.


The teacher says: “Your child seems anxious and stressed.”

The right response: Make sure you understand the teacher’s definition of anxiety. Ask about the symptoms: Is your child crying at certain times of the day? Does he complain of stomachaches and ask to go to the nurse frequently? “If your child has started biting his nails, it may just be a bad habit. But if he always liked school and now you learn that he’s crying in class every afternoon, there may be a bigger problem,” says Dr. Reiff. Perhaps your child is being bullied by another child at recess or he’s intimidated by a particular teacher.

Creating a plan: Be empathetic — “I bet it’s scary when the music teacher asks you to sing a line in front of the class” — then ask how you can make him feel more comfortable. Offer solutions if he’s at a loss: Sing songs with him at home or have him practice taking deep breaths.

If he’s afraid of a bully, first reassure him that the teasing isn’t his fault and you want him to feel safe. “Tell him that bullying is never okay, and by talking to you and the teacher about the bullying, he’s helping to solve the problem,” says Dr. Fish. This encourages him to open up so you can get more details: Was the kid threatening him physically? Calling him names? The teacher and the administration should step in (most schools have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying); they often recommend getting the other child’s parents involved.

Following up: Keep in touch with the teacher and the school to make sure your child is more at ease. If he still seems worried, ask the teacher what else you can do to help.


The teacher says: “Your child is bullying another kid.”

The right response: Find out how severe the harassment is. Did it happen once — maybe a classmate pressured your daughter to hit another child and now she feels bad about doing it? Or has she been repeatedly taunting another classmate by calling her names or hurting her physically?

Creating a plan: If it was one incident and your child feels bad about it, talk about what caused her to behave so badly and have her apologize to the other child. If a friend told her to do it, discuss the dangers of peer pressure. “Role-playing is helpful here because kids think it’s fun,” says Dr. Fish. “Let your child say, ‘I dare you to hit that girl on the head.’ Then you can model a good response, such as ‘I don’t like getting hit, and I don’t hit other people. It’s not funny.’ Then switch roles and have her give a response.”

However, if the bullying has been part of a pattern of aggressive behavior, speak to the school psychologist or an outside counselor to see what’s triggering it.

Following up: Check in regularly with the teacher. If your child’s still struggling, continue counseling or ask whether the school offers services that help kids improve

their social skills.

Teacher Tips

It’s never easy to receive bad news about your child. We asked teachers how they wish parents would handle this delicate situation.

How to ask a teacher for help

One in five adults in the US* experiences mental illness each year.

It’s likely that someone in your life—whether they’re in your meeting, on your basketball team, or in your family—is probably managing a mental illness right now. That person could also be you.

If you’re dealing with a mental illness, the first step is to ask for help. There are some resources linked below that can help you find more formal types of support.

*Please note that the resources shared here are mostly focused in the United States. To find mental health resources in other areas, please use this list.

In addition to finding more professional help, you might be interested in reaching out to your network of friends and loved ones for support. But how do you approach that conversation?

Asking for Help Isn’t Easy

It’s helpful to start by recognizing the feelings an ask for support can bring up. Reaching out to people, even people you trust, is difficult. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health, admitting you may need help emotionally can seem impossible. Even though there is stigma associated with seeking support, don’t let this deter you. Remember that asking for help is a brave act of self-care. You can do this.

Breaking into a conversation about your needs might not be easy, especially if you’re not usually vulnerable with the people in your life. You may be concerned that you’ll scare them, or they’ll think differently of you, or they won’t understand why you need support. These are all normal feelings. In fact, they’re so commonplace that Scientific American lists “loneliness” as a major health factor affecting Americans.

“A recent study found that a staggering 47 percent of Americans often feel alone, left out and lacking meaningful connection with others. This is true for all ages, from teenagers to older adults.”

By reaching out to someone you trust, you’re engaging in a conversation that is a brave first step in the fight against loneliness. Here’s how you can do it.

But You Can Shape the Conversation

Setting up a comfortable conversation can put you and the person you’re asking for help at ease. Try to pick a setting where you feel safe, at a time when you know you’ll be able to devote a few minutes to describing your needs. You may also want to jot down your thoughts in advance. Even if you don’t bring the paper with you, knowing what you’re going to say might give you more confidence to say it.

When you ask your loved one for help, you’ll need to describe two things:

1. What’s going on with you right now

2. How you would like this person to support you

If you can’t answer these questions, you can still reach out. The loved one you’re chatting with might be able to help you clarify them, or they might point you to resources that could help, like those we’ve linked below.

Finding the words to ask for help can feel impossible. To start the conversation, you can try any of these phrases.

1 I know I haven’t been as [chatty, available to hang out, excited about an activity] lately. That’s because I’ve been dealing with [a description of your current situation]. Would you be able to help me [a specific description of the support you’d like from this person]?

If you know what’s going on and need to tell someone else, this is a great option. You can start the conversation with something you’ve missed, didn’t enjoy, or couldn’t participate in like you normally would, then describe where you’re at mentally. Try to end with a specific description of the help you need from the person. (And if you don’t know, that’s okay! You can always say something like “I know I need support, but I don’t know where to start. Could you help me figure that out?”)

2 I haven’t told you this, but I’ve had [a description of your mental illness] for [the length of time you’ve known about it]. This can cause me to be [the symptoms you’re dealing with now], which can make it difficult to do all the things I want to do. Could you make sure I [a description of one step this person could take to help you]?

If you’ve had a diagnosed mental illness for a while, this option might fit your needs better. You can explain how this illness affects your life (so your loved one doesn’t make assumptions about your needs), then describe the help you’d like from them.

3 I know you’ve offered to help me with [a past obstacle, loss, or crisis] in the past. Thank you for doing that. Would you mind supporting me by [a specific action they can take to support you] while I deal with [your current situation] now?

Sometimes, the best way in is through a memory. Does the person you’re chatting with remember when your dog passed away, when you lost your job, or when you last had a mental health crisis? Reference it, so they can understand the severity of what’s happening with you now.

These are all ideas to help you get the support you want from the people you trust. If you have another method that’s worked for you in the past, please share it in the comments below.

Below is a letter by Mrs. Kamini Lakhani, who founded Support for Autistic Individuals (SAI Connections) in 2004 in Mumbai, India. Kamini is the mother of a young adult with autism and has been providing services in the field of autism for more than 20 years. The post originally appeared on the SAI website here.

We met at a party. She was young and vivacious. We hit it off immediately as we both were from the education field.

She was a 4th grade teacher. As soon as she heard that I worked with people with autism, a barrage of questions and comments followed. You see, she was teaching a child with autism in one of her classes.

How to ask a teacher for help

“It’s impossible to handle him.”

“He’s totally disruptive and creates a ruckus in my class.”

“What an attention seeker!”

“Do you think he should be attending regular school?”

“He can’t sit still, even for a moment.”

“I don’t think he’s capable of learning.”

“His mother is so demanding and she overestimates her child’s abilities.”

I didn’t have to say much to keep this conversation going. The occasional head nods and several “hmms” sufficed. It felt different hearing the educator’s point of view… the viewpoint of someone teaching children with autism. I’m more accustomed to hearing stories from parents about how unfairly teachers treat their children at mainstream school. It felt like the proverbial elephant. One person described the trunk, whereas the other described the torso. It didn’t feel like they were describing the same magnificent animal. Today, I’d like to address things from the view point of mainstream teachers via an Open letter.

First, I’d like to commend you for taking up this profession. You had a choice of other more lucrative careers – but you chose to take up this noble profession. I’m certain that your intent was to make a difference in the lives of children. But here is this one student, who you can’t handle, who makes you uncomfortable, and creates a storm in your classroom. Secretly, you wish he wasn’t in your class.

How to ask a teacher for help

You probably feel guilty about thinking these thoughts – but you just can’t deal with his odd and disruptive behaviors. I know how you feel. Mohit, my son is now 27. For 10 years of his life he attended regular schools. I had the opportunity to interact with and explain autism to several wonderful teachers. I’d like you to shift gears for a little while.

Let’s move from how you feel to how this child feels. What if you came to know that this kid is not disrupting your class deliberately. He has a differently wired brain. Not abnormal or dysfunctional – just different. Due to the way his brain is wired, he is hyperactive and appears out of control. He seems anxious. He is unable to connect with the other children. In fact, it may appear like he’s fighting with them often! All of these behaviors are his way of crying out for help. YOUR help.

Even if this child is vocal, I can assure you that he is not able to emotionally share with you and let you know what’s going on. Can you imagine how he feels? No friends, no support and no one to understand him. Take a minute to digest what I just said. Visualize this child in your classroom. Now that you look at him differently, wouldn’t you like to help him? I’m glad to see you nod.

Here are five things you can do immediately to teach children with autism better.

  1. Connect with the mother. A mother is your your biggest ally. Have a heart-to-heart chat with the child’s mother. Share your difficulties. Let her know that you want to help. Ask for reports, assessments that the child may have undergone. Study these. These will be huge eye openers in enhancing your understanding of the child’s condition.
  2. Make a list of the child’s strengths. Every child… I repeat… EVERY child has strengths. You just have to observe them closely. The child may be extremely loving and caring, or have some skill that your other students don’t. List these out.
  3. Understand how he learns, This child will not learn like your other students. Many students with autism learn visually. Hence, what will help is a visual schedule. Or break things up to help him understand and stay calm. By the way, there are many ways in which a child can learn.
  4. Ask for additional help. You have at least 20 other children looking for your guidance. Yes, it’s not possible to pay attention to one child, while the others are in limbo. A shadow teacher or an Aide is extremely useful in this case. She can sit with the students and guides this child when he gets inattentive, so that your class can move smoothly.
  5. Have a behavior plan in place Individuals on the spectrum get overwhelmed quickly because of something called sensory overload. It’s important to pick up the early signs and have a designated area where the student can go with the shadow teacher if he has a meltdown or gets anxious. He can rejoin the class when he’s ready. It makes the child feel assured and safe, and keeps your class functioning smoothly as well. A behavioral consultant can work out a customized plan, which can be followed at school.

This can be cumbersome and stretch you. I understand. But can I take you back to why you decided to become a teacher?

How to ask a teacher for help

Here is what a couple of my mainstream teacher friends said:

“I wanted to be a teacher to create value for the next generation of our future… I wanted to make a positive difference.”

“I wanted to impart my knowledge and learn from them as well. I always want to remain young at heart by surrounding myself with kids. And above all – Love for kids… Love their innocence… Beautiful souls.”

You, my dear friend, are a sculptor. You have taken this opportunity to impact a child’s life. Yes, this same child whom you find impossible and disruptive. By teaching children with autism, you will expand your own heart. You will create happiness for his family too. And one more thing. Your influence doesn’t just stop with this family. It creates a ripple effect. Imagine all the little ones under your care. Imagine them looking up at you with innocent, studying eyes, to see how you behave with them different. They’re watching you carefully. Remember that they will learn what you do, and not what you say. They will talk to their parents about the amazing ways in which you handled and accommodated ‘that different child’. I hope you will take this challenge of enhancing your own life, and the lives of the next generation.

Here’s something beautiful for you.