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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Surviving Tough Teachers

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7 Strategies for Dealing With a Tough Professor

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When a professor doesn’t act like your best buddy, challenges your opinions in class, and gives you a well-deserved "D" on an essay adding a note in red ink that he or she doesn’t care that you were "really, really tired" when you wrote it, you may decide to brand said professor as "tough." You may dread interacting with such a professor, even with the understanding that he or she may in fact push you to become an even better student. If you have a professor who is truly unprofessional or abusive, then you should voice your concerns to your advisor. But if your professor is just, well, "tough," then consider the following strategies for dealing with what is going to be a demanding, even grueling semester.
  1. Analyze the behavior:

    No doubt you are not the first student in the professor’s class who has wondered whether they should just bail and try to take the same course later with a different instructor. With that in mind, find a former student of your professor-from-hell; he or she should be able to offer some welcome post-traumatic perspective on the class ("Just don’t ask for an extension on a deadline and you’ll be fine!"). You’re also not the first student in the history of higher education to have a tough professor, so speak to some graduates, maybe even your parents, to see if they’ve had a similar experience with a tough professor.
  2. Show up and pay attention:

    Make every effort to be on time to your tough professor’s class, and once you’re there, make sure your iPhone is off and that you’re paying attention. As the semester rolls on, if you are having trouble understanding the material, your professor is likely to be more agreeable to providing you with some extra help since it’s apparent you are making every effort to be a good student.
  3. Form a study group:

    Forming a study group can be especially helpful if a class and its professor are particularly challenging. Putting your heads together as a group can give you some much needed perspective on the materials and help you not take a professor’s comments or grading too personally. Group study sessions can quickly turn into group venting sessions, so be sure your time as a group is spent less on complaining and more on coming up with strategies for passing the class.
  4. Self-teach:

    Self-teach? You’re paying the tough professor to teach you, right? Not the other way around! What we mean is make sure you read all of the material assigned to you by your professor (and even some of that suggested material), and discuss it outside of class with a classmate or in a study group. See if there is a teaching assistant available for additional help in understanding the material. Do your homework, and see if that improves your interactions with your professor.
  5. Consider the professor’s perspective:

    We understand that a tough professor may be a professor who isn’t interested in entertaining any perspective on a topic other than their own. You may find this especially frustrating in a class that challenges your personal, political, and spiritual views. Instead of arguing against what your professor believes, decide whether he or she simply wants to know that you understand whatever it is they are teaching you, not whether you disagree with it.
  6. Talk to your professor:

    As scary as it may seem, scheduling a time to speak with your tough professor, ideally during his or her office hours, may be one of the most helpful things you can do to improve your classroom experience, not to mention your grades. Take the opportunity to ask your professor if they have any suggestions for how you might improve your understanding of the material. A one-on-one meeting may shed more light on your professor’s teaching style, which may completely clash with how you learn. And if that is the case…
  7. Drop the class:

    This is your last resort, but in some cases, it may be the best thing you can do. Schools generally frown upon students dropping or transferring out of a class mid-semester, and doing so may impact your financial aid. So be in touch with your advisor before you make this decision.

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