So You Got a Bad Professor: A Survival Guide

So You Got a Bad Professor: A Survival Guide

In your college years there is a high likelihood that at some point you will have a bad, or even horrible professor. You might find that the majority of your instructors are pretty awful at their job. This is a sad, but true fact of life. The following tips below are strategies you can use to help insure that a bad professor doesn’t wreck your GPA.

  1. Universal Rules for Dealing with all Professors :

  • Always be respectful and polite (even if they aren’t to you):

    This is a given for life in general, but be extra mindful of this tip in your interactions with instructors

  • Always address them as “Professor” or “Dr.”:

    In most cases, instructors at the collegiate level went to school for a very long time to earn their title. When you use it to address them, you’re showing that you understand and respect the work they have done to get where they are. You might be stroking their ego a little bit too, which doesn’t hurt.

  • Know the way they prefer to contacted:

    Usually during the first week of classes the professor will let you know the best way to contact them if you have a question or concern, and if they don’t let you know, ask them. If they prefer that you come to their office hours instead of trying to snag them after class, stick to that. This shows you respect their time.

  • Really take the end of term anonymous reviews of the class seriously:

    Many professors will hand out a review at the end of the term which may or may not be required by their department. This is your chance to let your professor know that they are doing a horrible job, and what they could to in order to improve.

  • Use “Rate My Professor” before you register for classes, but don’t take it too seriously:

    Before you register for a term, use , but take it with a grain of salt. It can be helpful to learn some inside information about a professor, and the class before you take it. However, it is easy to spot that some former student’s reviews of their professor are really not an accurate reflection of that professor’s teaching.

  • Try your best to respect their classroom rules:

    Try your best to be on time, don’t use your phone during class, and participate in group discussions. By following the classroom rules you’re showing respect to both the professor, and to the subject that they have chosen as their life’s work.

  1. The Professor Who is a Bad Lecturer

  • They talk at a lightning speed with no room for anyone to ask questions:

    Tell your professor that the pace of the lecture is very fast for you, and ask if they would allow you to use a recording device during class so that you don’t miss any important information. If they say “no,” follow up by asking when and how the best way to ask questions about material presented in the lecture is.

  • They mumble or have an accent that is difficult to understand:

    There are several things that you can do in this situation. First, reach out to your classmates. Maybe there is someone who can decipher what they are saying better than you. Second, truly use your textbook, lecture slides, and any other written class material as a guide. If you can only vaguely make out what they are saying, trying to follow along with written material may help. Third, if possible, email your instructor with any questions you have. This way, you will have a response in writing.

  • Their lecture is a string of random tangents with little to do with what you are tested on:

    This can be so annoying and frustrating! There are a couple things you can do: First, be honest with your professor. Tell them that it seems like class time has a lot of tangents, which you don’t mind, but ask if there is a way they could make it clear what is important in the text, and what will be important for the test. Second, keep in mind that even though it may seem like 90 minutes of random tangents, maybe you’re still learning something cool.

  • Their lecture is extremely boring, and difficult to stay awake during:

    This problem is common. In this situation, it’s not bad to doodle or sketch. This helps your brain stay alert. Before class, do some extra movement like jumping jacks to make sure your brain isn’t sleepy before going into class. Pay attention to the clock. Every 5 minutes (or whatever interval you choose) reward yourself with a piece of candy, and check in with if you’re paying attention or not.

III. The Professor Who is a Grumpy-Pants

  • Don’t take it personally

    There are a lot of professors out there who seem super grumpy, mean, and rude. It’s important that you don’t take their behaviors and attitude personally. In their years of education you’re probably not the first student they seemed to not like, and you won’t be the last. Remember to just be polite, grin and bear it, and never take a class from that professor again.

  • Look for other resources in the school

    If you’re too scared to go to this professor with questions you might have, there are other people you can reach out to. First, ask your classmates questions. Maybe there is one of your peers who is brave enough to raise their hand or go to office hours on behalf of the class. Second, if there is a professor in the same department who you have a better relationship with, ask them your questions.

  1. The Professor with Confusing Expectations

  • Know your options of dropping/ switching/ withdrawing from classes

    At the beginning of the semester, it’s good to have posted in a place you can see regularly the dates your school allows for adding/ dropping classes and for withdrawing classes. This way if you have a professor whose expectations are too high, or just plain weird, you have time to change classes, or leave the class without it affecting your GPA. Beware though, after those dates that have past, you are stuck.

  • Communicate

    If the instructions a professor is giving are confusing to you, or you don’t know what you are expected to know for a test, SPEAK UP! Chances are the professor doesn’t know they are being unclear. Also, if you’re confused, it’s likely there is another student who is also. Ask questions. It is helpful to both you and the professor if instead of saying “I don’t get it,” you are more specific. Try saying something like, “In this section of the assignment I didn’t quite understand what you are asking when you said…”