Instructors have many students and, in some large schools, may never know all their names. Make yourself stand out by meeting with your professor about the class. This will:
help you feel more comfortable in the course. Your professor may seem serious and intimidating, but if you get to know them one on one, you may discover they’re actually quite kind or funny.
help you figure out what the professor expects from you. Some professors expect you to write your papers one way, but another prefers a different way. Do they prefer close readings of texts or tons of analysis? What do they envision your work looking like? In class, they may not say because they expect students to know already or perhaps to intuit what they want. If you meet with them, you can clarify expectations, down to how long they think your weekly discussion post should be and whether it should be researched or a personal reflection.
help you figure out what the professor wants. This is slightly different from the point above. Maybe one instructor is concerned with issues of gender and sexuality, but this other professor thinks that’s all a new fad. It may sound cynical, but if you figure out the types of papers your professor wants to read, you may be able to boost your grade. Or you can decide to be daring and offer an opposing viewpoint. Most professors will respect and, indeed, welcome differing perspectives as they challenge the class and make it more interesting. And most can access the merits of an argument fairly even if they disagree with it.
potentially help your grade. When grade time rolls around, an instructor you met with may remember the extra effort you put into the course. No instructor will unfairly boost your grade, but if they see you’re a fraction of a point away from the next letter grade, they might just bump you up to reflect the work you put in.
help the professor get to know you. One day you may need a recommendation letter for a job or for grad school. Part of a professor’s job is to write these letters for students, but, if they don’t remember who you are, they can’t write you a good letter. If they agree to write you one at all, based on the fact that they remember you did get an “A” in their course, it might end up being a really generic letter. Make sure a few professors know your name and your chances of getting a good recommendation letter go up.