Is the Professor ‘Bad’ or is it You?
It’s inevitable; at some point in your college journey, you’re bound to cross paths with a professor you just don’t understand. Does this mean the professor is bad? No. It’s a simple fact that you won’t like everyone you meet, and this, unfortunately, will include some of your instructors. Thankfully, I have been pretty lucky and only encountered two professors who made me want to throw things or rip my hair out in frustration, but the experiences made me wiser and more willing to give my professors a second chance. Here are some things to consider before you label your professor ‘bad’ or even think about dropping a class.
1. Is the Course Material Too Difficult?
If you are having trouble keeping up in class or your grades are slipping, take a closer look at why that is happening. Have you put in enough time to review lecture notes, read your textbooks and complete assignments, or are you a procrastinator who puts off everything until the last minute? You really can’t blame the professor for your poor performance if you haven’t put in the time. Although some courses may not require much work, others will be time-intensive, but this doesn't mean the professor is bad. Even if you switch sections, you may have the same issues with another instructor. If you still feel it is the professor who is causing the issue, check with your classmates and see if any of them may be having similar problems. If you find that several students are having trouble with certain concepts or sections, it may help to meet with your professor during office hours and ask for additional help. He/she may even be willing to dedicate the next class period to reviewing previous work and having an open discussion. On the other hand, you may find that others are not struggling, which means you need to take additional steps to improve your grasp of the subject matter. Talk with a graduate student or teaching assistant, since many often grade the assignments and tests for professors, and see if he/she may be willing to provide some assistance. Don’t be shy about using your school’s tutoring services or asking a classmate to study with you, as both can help improve your grades.
2. Is it a Personality Conflict?
Depending on your personal tastes, you may find some professor’s lecture styles and teaching habits annoying, but this shouldn't earn them the label of ‘bad’ professor. Instead, it’s to your benefit to figure out a way to get through the course and learn how to communicate, especially if you ever plan to hold a job in the real world. First, determine if it's the professor’s habits that irritate you or if your behavior sparks the conflict. I remember being in one class where this guy constantly complained about his grades and the professor, yet he spent most of the class sleeping or texting. To the professor's credit, the student basically ignored him the entire time. One semester, I was seriously considering dropping a British literature course because the professor rarely looked at the class and always talked in a monotone voice; I literally had to fight to stay awake each class. After talking to some other students, all of whom loved him, I decided to meet with him in his office. It turned out that he had major neck surgery after a serious car accident that left him unable to rotate his neck and had restricted his speech. I also found out that he had a great sense of humor and loved many of the same authors I did. Needless to say, I remained in his class and actually ended up taking two more courses with him before I graduated. The point is that you need to understand if the personality issue is stemming from your actions or possibly a miscommunication between you and your professor. Once you look at him/her as a person, and not just someone who hands out grades, you’re bound to make a connection and get more out of the class.
3. Is it Time to Seek Another Opinion?
Every orchard is bound to have one or two bad apples, and college is no exception. If you have enlisted the help of other students and tutors, met with your professor, and exhausted all solutions for resolving an issue in the classroom, it may be time to seek higher counsel. Thankfully, this has happened only one time during my college career. I was in an Honors Algebra course with a teacher from India. She spoke very quickly, and every class we had to ask her to repeat herself or slow down, so we could understand. She grew increasingly frustrated and often cursed at the class. During the review of our final exam, we found several errors, yet she refused to alter the grades. Several students and I approached her about the grading, but we were told to leave and not discuss the test again. Eventually, we had to take the exam to the head of the math department. After reviewing the test and the incorrect questions/answers, he agreed with us and made her change the scores.
Conflict is never fun, especially when it is with someone who can cause serious damage to your grade point average. In most cases, it can be resolved by simply speaking with your professor about any problems you are having with the subject material or any other issues you may have during class. Your classmates can also provide valuable feedback, so don’t dismiss their opinions and observations. If you still can’t find a way to communicate effectively with your professor, or your grade is in serious jeopardy, consider switching sections or dropping the class, but make sure the deadline hasn't passed; nothing is worse than suffering through a bad class and getting a bad grade to boot.
Before you select your next classes, do yourself a favor and ask around about the professors. You can also head over the RateMyProfessors.com and see what other students have to say. Just be sure to start each new class with a positive attitude and give your professor the respect he/she deserves; being professional and acting like an adult can make all the difference in college.