How to Ask Your Teacher a Question Over Email – An AP Language Process Essay

Penelope Noza, Photographer

The following is a process essay written for Mrs. Hebert’s AP Language and Composition class.

How to Ask Your Teacher a Question Over Email

Forgot to ask your teacher a question in class? Too prideful to ask for help in person? Maybe you forgot to brush your teeth before class and didn’t want to subject your teacher to “dragon breath”? Whatever the reason, you now need to do what Gen-Z finds tedious: send an email (seriously, emailing is as old to Gen-Z as faxing is to millennials). Here’s how to ask your teacher a question over email.

Step 1: Create an eye-catching subject. The subject of an email is the difference between your email being read first versus being relegated to the spam folder. Your subject should catch their eye. Create a subject that stirs a sense of urgency in them and has no relation to your question whatsoever. This draws them towards your email, while simultaneously conveying to them that you are “not like other girls.” Adding a few exclamation points or question marks really helps to sell that urgency. Because genius does not strike us everyday, you could also opt to have no subject altogether. The air of mystery that emails with no subjects exude will draw them your teacher in.

Step 2: Greet your Teacher. Address your teacher in a way you would a friend because maintaining professionalism over email would put them right to sleep. Teachers adore word puzzles and learning, so use outdated vernacular, the lingo of today’s youth, or a combination of the two; they eat up anything that causes them to find “deeper meanings” in phrases that literally do not mean anything. Make sure to create a nickname using their first name to insinuate that you are equals, as well. 

Step 3: Ask the question. Let your teacher know how much you care about this email by making your email as long as possible because everyone knows teachers prefer quantity over quality. Treat this similar to writing a 2nd grader’s journal entry: Talk about your day, your favorite color flavor (i.e. purple is my favorite flavor), what animal would make the best door stopper, and other random thoughts. Want to be a teacher’s pet and go the extra mile? Discuss things related to their class. Showing interest in their class will impress them and butter them up to answer your question. Taking a government course? Rank presidents based on attractiveness. Have a science class? Share what types of music each element on the periodic table would listen to. You could also use this opportunity to give your input regarding their classwork or performance. Giving unsolicited advice will make them realize how lucky they are to have a student so concerned for their education as they are always looking for ways to make school a more enjoyable experience. Make sure that this part of the email, along with the sign off, is written in lowercase letters, though a random capital letter or two doesn’t hurt. This, coupled with run-on sentences, improper punctuation, and other grammatical errors will keep your teacher engaged (and even give them a little ego boost) since they love fixing mistakes and feeling competent.

Step 4: Actually ask the question. Once you’ve felt you’ve rambled on long enough, ask your question and elaborate. If you don’t know what pages were assigned for homework that night, explain why you did not know that. If you require assistance with following directions, explain why that’s difficult. If you need an extension on a deadline, explain why you need it. Be sure to be honest, as teachers can smell when someone’s pants catch on fire through their screens. If you were preoccupied discussing who has the biggest toe with a classmate to pay attention to when your teacher was making that announcement, just say that. If you refuse to take your headphones off, even though you know that messes with your ability to comprehend text, just say that. If you were too busy seeing how many movies you could get through without getting off of the couch, just say so. Afterall, honesty is the best policy.

Step 5: Sign off. As a testament to your awesomeness, your sign off should be unlike any your teacher has ever encountered. Out are “Warmly,” “Sincerely,” “Best,” and “Thank you.” Channel the same energy you put into greeting your teacher, as you must make a lasting impression. “Peace out, girl scout,” “*mic drop*,” “Show’s over,” and “Bye, Felicia,” are working examples. Hit the enter key one last time. Follow this up with a nickname no one has ever called you to let your teacher know they’re special and that they are the only ones allowed to call you that, ever. Be sure to take a silly photo of yourself the second you finish composing the email and attach it so your teacher can ensure that it really is you, and you are not being impersonated.

Follow these instructions, and your teacher will be compelled to answer your question in a matter of minutes, guaranteed. Weren’t fulfilled by the process? You are more than welcome to go through your essay, from subject to sign off, to add emojis every 2 to 12 words that somewhat relate to the words preceding your emoji. This will only make your email more perfect. An example of what a perfect email may look like is located at the end of the work. Creating the perfect email does, however, have its unintended consequences. Your teachers will no longer dread opening their inboxes. However, since this will solely be due to them hoping to be blessed with another one of your masterpieces, you will feel obligated to oblige and produce more equally great works. Do not give in to this false sense of duty, lest you burnout and lose your newfound art. And while following this process results in an impeccable email, feel free to experiment! Similar to how one could eat the best bowl of plain mac-n-cheese and think to themself, It doesn’t get better than this, until someone comes along and introduces them to the multitude of mac-n-cheese variations there are (lobster, buffalo chicken, loaded bacon, etc.), there are different “recipes” to be made for your emails. Knowing how many emojis, words, capital letters, and such each teacher prefers prepares you for the multitude of personalities you will encounter outside of school. Entering the workforce is what you will eventually have to do. If interested in becoming a pro at writing emails to employers, purchase the third installment of the How To Write Emails series: How to Ask Your Employer for a Raise Over Email.