How to Avoid Bad Teachers and Snag the Good Ones
Ann walks through the importance of finding out more about your professors before you enroll in the class.
By Ann Mallick
June 14, 2012
As I left the test, I continued to berate myself for choosing a teacher I had heard nothing about. For students in high school, I am sure that you have come across a teacher you disliked, who taught a subject you either loved or hated, but didn’t really have a choice either way. College is different: for the majority of your classes, you pick your own teachers and classes based on a variety of factors, including your interest in the subject, reviews from classmates, outside sources, etc.
One of the most important lessons I wish I had learned before entering college is to pick a class based on professors. I cannot stress this enough: the quality of outstanding professors can make even the most dry information accessible, while teachers with no interest in teaching can convert an intriguing topic into an extension of your afternoon nap.
There are so many class resources available to college students that it would be foolish not to look before you sign over a semester of your time and money to a professor you’ve never heard of. Here are a few:
1. Ratemyprofessor.com provides student reviews of professors that come with a rating scale. On it, you can find what class the professor has taught, the level of difficulty, interest, and written comments of what students liked and disliked about their professor.
2. Word of mouth recommendations are extremely helpful if you have a friend who has taken the class before. If you trust your friend, you’ll trust their judgment. Many phenomenal professors are known inside and out of their department, and some classes that look dreary on paper may be misleading.
3. Class evaluations: Most schools employ some form of class evaluation where previous students rate their experience with the class and professor. In my case, I have personally found these to be less helpful than word of mouth reviews, primarily because there are no written comments. Other schools may differ. Regardless, it may be a good resource to explore when no other information is available.
4. If all else fails, enroll in the class and try out the professor for a few days. If their teaching style doesn’t mesh with your learning abilities, drop the class and pick up another.
Of course, there will be situations, a required course for your major or an unfortunate scheduling error, that will force you into taking a class with a professor you either know nothing about or have only heard bad things. Go into the class with an open mind; maybe a teaching style that repulses your roommate will attract you. If not, do what I did, and speak to the department head about the necessary changes that must be made to ensure an invigorating and worthwhile class experience. After all, college is short, as I am just now beginning to learn: I only have one more year. There’s really no time to waste.