Dealing with a Bad Professor

It’s a fact of college-student life: you’re going to have at least one professor that you dislike.

Samantha Starkey

September 29, 2014

Dealing with a Bad Professor

It’s a fact of college-student life: you’re going to have at least one professor that you dislike.

You’ll go to your first day of class thinking that all those Rate-My-Professor reviews you read prepared you well. Then it turns out that most were written by disgruntled students who wanted easy As, and your professor’s tough but fair and you know you’ll thrive in the class. But this is a best-case scenario.

What happens when you find yourself in a class with a professor that you know you’re going to struggle with all semester?

Bad professors are everywhere: twenty-six year olds straight out of grad school who’ve had no teaching experience whatsoever; pretentious old-timers on the tenure track who don’t bother to learn your name, but spew knowledge at you for two hours straight while you struggle to keep your eyes open; professors who expect the students to teach the class; who skip the basics and move straight to the more advanced, leaving you to flounder all semester. Vague, scatter-brained, uninvolved, et cetera.

It’s important to remember that “bad” is different than “tough.” If you’re really at school to learn—which you should be, considering that you’re paying—then a tough professor will make you work to earn your A, but you’ll get something out of the experience.

You firstly have to know what type of student you are in order to know what type of teacher best suits your needs. That’s why some students love a teacher while others despise him.

Take me and my roommate for example: she’s taking her third class with this one professor that I had last semester and swore I would never take again. I found her nit-picky and controlling; my roommate, on the other hand, thinks she’s fantastic.

But say you’re already in the class. It’s too late to drop or transfer to another section (but do keep these options in mind at the very beginning of the semester). You’re stuck. Now what?

Your best bet is to try talking to your professor. Send him or her a quick email or stop by office hours. This can be particularly helpful if you’re confused by an assignment, a point made in class, or your teacher’s expectations of you. Oftentimes, too, if you make yourself known to your professor, it’ll factor positively into your class participation grade.

You can also try getting together with classmates to study difficult material together, because it’s a safe bet to make that if you’re struggling with the professor, at least one of your fellow classmates is too. Your peers can be a helpful resource to you for navigating the semester.

Try your best. A bad professor, while certainly frustrating, isn’t a reason to give up, especially if you’re concerned about maintaining your GPA. Perseverance and a positive attitude can go a long way. If you are seriously concerned about your professor’s teaching abilities, be sure to complete a teacher evaluation at the end of the semester, or to take it a step further and talk to the head of the department.

And if you really don’t think you can last the whole semester, consider your options for withdrawing from the course.

Keep in mind, however, that while this is a viable option, it should be used only as a very last resort. Withdrawing from a course will set you behind in credits and can have adverse effects on your full-time status and financial aid.

Check your school’s policy on withdrawal. I know that at my school a withdrawal will go on your academic transcript, and while it won’t affect your GPA, it will reflect whether you were passing or failing at the time of withdrawal.

But if you stick it out, keep your head up. All students can probably agree that a bad professor will make your entire semester nightmarish. Hopefully these tips will make your dud of a professor more bearable.

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