Professors and teaching assistants (TAs) are people too, so treat them like real people. Expressing your interest (real or pretend) in actually learning helps when approaching them in and outside of class.
READ THE SYLLABUS
Professors write their office hours, their email address and how they like to be addressed, among other course information in the syllabus. Your professors will tell you time and time again that the answers are in the syllabus, and we’re telling you that too — so it must be true! It should always be your first instinct to check there so you don’t waste class time on questions you already have the answers to.
It’s good practice to always include your name, class, section and student number when emailing a prof (especially in big classes) so your professor does not have to remember which of the four Marks you are. Starting with an “I hope you are doing well” or “insert your own nicety here” makes for a slightly more tolerable email. If the syllabus doesn’t tell you how to address them or they didn’t say on the first day, you can ask a peer, or ask the professor after class. Or just go with “Hi Professor/Hi Dr. [Last name],” which should work in most situations.
GO TO OFFICE HOURS
Office hours are where the magic happens. In a sea of students, going can help you stand out (in a good way)! They are a great place to introduce yourself and ask clarifying questions to your professors and TAs where they have more time than in lecture. They’re also there to help you beyond the class, so don’t hesitate to use them as a resource for letters of recommendation, grad school advice and general post-grad life questions. Unless there’s a 10-person line out the door, you can also ask them about their work and show some interest in digging into the class material to stand out.
Also, go during weeks that aren’t right before the midterm while everyone is cramming! They’ll be less busy, so your profs and TAs are likely to have more time to help you out.