October 20th, 2011

7 Steps to Deal with a Terrible Professor

We all encounter him sooner or later:  The T. Rex of professordom, who is a tyrant, a miserable grader, a petty dictator. The instructor who can’t teach his way out of a paper bag due to incoherent lectures, disorganized classes, or mumbled and arcane lectures.  In a word, a terrible professor.

If you haven’t met up with this species, count yourself lucky.  Trust me, you will.  No one gets through college without meeting up with a member of the Professoris T-rexius species.

The issue is, how do you cope with a professor who seems determined to make your life as miserable as possible?  Try these tips.  And remember, though I’m going to use “he” and “his,” mostly because my encounters with Professoris T-rexius were male, they also exist in the female gender too!

#1 – Figure out why he’s so terrible

What is his purpose in sticking you with three term papers and two midterms plus a final?  Is it really to prove he can?  Or is it because this is how you will best learn the subject?  If it’s the latter, respect that he’s trying to help you and suck it up.

#2 – If he’s a bad teacher, see if you can drop the class

If he shuffles in late, doesn’t look at the students, and spends the class time muttering to the blackboard, he simply has terrible teaching skills.  You probably won’t learn much from this jerk.  See if you can drop the class and take it again later—from someone else.

#3 – If he’s a strict teacher, but he teaches an essential course, tough it out

If he teaches an “essential”—a course in your major, or another required course—and if your primary dislike is that he is demanding and strict, try to tough it out.  You probably really need to know this stuff, and you may be grateful down the road that he made you learn it.

#4 – Find others who have taken his class: what worked before?

Bad teachers who have been around a while garner a reputation among the students.  Ask around either in person or on line.  What strategies worked for others in his classes?

#5 – Is there another instructor who teaches this class?  Can you transfer?

If someone else teaches the same class, consider dropping the class this term, and signing up again later—with a different instructor.  Sometimes that’s possible—sometimes it’s not.

#6 – Talk to him about your problems—but do not confront! And do it early in the course!

If you’re having trouble with the class assignments, consider talking to him.  But do so carefully. Professoris T-rexius should e approached with all the caution you would his dinosaur ancestor.  Ask for clarification of requirements. Ask for suggestions for how you can better meet his standards. Make it clear you want to succeed.  Occasionally this will soften the Professoris T-rexius roar down to a reasonable tone of voice.

#7 – Hunker down and suffer through it

When all else fails, and you can’t escape, and you can’t come to terms with him, it’s time to recognize that this is good training for real life.  Sometimes you get a boss just like Professoris T-rexius.  Consider this course good practice on how to cope, hunker down, and just get through it.  The course only lasts one term, after all.  You can survive anything for that long!

But here’s an extra tip: Design a T-shirt: “I survived Professoris T-rexius”, get a few printed up, and sell them to other victims of this guy.  That way, you’ll profit from the experience!

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  • Theartfulcynic

    If you can’t get transfer, then you have to tough it out. Think of it as a teaching moment: It’s not the last time you will have to deal with someone incorrigible. When you get out of college and get a job, I’m sure the same things will happen–inconsiderate bosses, bad work environments, ridiculous schedules–so it’s something better learned now: that most people you deal with are not nice. It’s how you deal with it that makes you a better adult.