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Don't drop that class: Here's how to handle your worst professor this semester

Got a bad professor? Never fear, there's still something you can do. – Photo by Pxfuel.com

Bad professors: May we avoid them, may we never be them and may we love them despite their migraine-inducing teaching.

It’s an unfortunate reality that everyone will experience a bad professor in their time at college. Whether it be during your first semester or your last, at some point, you'll find yourself lying on your bathroom floor, pulling your hair out and screaming on the phone to your best friend from home about how your professor’s only goal in life is to sabotage your own.

Never fear — I've had my fair share of aggravating educators and have developed a foolproof list of tips and tricks to help you get through the course without growing any gray hairs.

Communicate

First things first, communication is key! Maybe your professor’s teaching style doesn’t work for you or they speed through the material too fast — so simply shoot them an email with questions or set up a time to meet. That way, you can go through the material at the right speed for you and only go over the content you are still struggling with.

You can check the syllabus for how best to contact your professor, but I've found the inbox tab on Canvas is the most convenient way to quickly and efficiently reach out to your professor. Maybe they won’t seem as bad as you thought.

Also, remember to utilize office hours. Professors want students to come in and ask questions. They host office hours for a reason!

Talk to your teacher's assistant

In the event that you struck out with your professor, your teacher's assistant (TA) is the next best option to get through the class as painlessly as possible. Your TA is a genius in their field, often a graduate student conducting research on the topic of your class, so they'll be just as knowledgeable and eager to talk about the subject material as your professor.

They're also probably closer in age to you, and likely the person actually grading your assignments. Establishing a relationship with them might turn out to be more beneficial than getting along with your professor.

Form or join a study group

If your professor doesn’t answer their emails and your TA, although well versed in the subject, isn't performing well in the teaching department, join a study group! A study group is made up of peers in your class and can be as big or small as you see fit.

Most classes already have a student-led GroupMe, so you can begin to connect with your classmates there. You can meet over Zoom or in person and help each other complete assignments, study for quizzes and work through the lecture material.

Chances are, you're all feeling the same way about your professor and can commiserate together, as misery certainly does love company. 

Use your resources

You couldn’t make it work with your professor or your TA, and your study group was a trainwreck — so now you're back at square one and wondering how to proceed. My advice for you? Use any and all resources you have.

Go online and teach yourself the material using crash course videos, math websites and lesson plans from other universities. You could also consider hiring a private tutor or making an appointment with a free academic peer tutor at the library.

If you know any upperclassmen who took and passed the class previously, don't be shy about asking them for help with material and advice on how to handle the professor. Finally, get in touch with other professors from the department and see if they can answer your questions. They'll be excited to help any student, not just their own.

Become a teacher's pet

If you've exhausted your resources but still find yourself failing the class, it’s time for a hail mary. Channel your inner Paris Geller and become so invaluable to your professor that they have no choice but to pass you.

If your professor wrote a book or research study, email them about how insightful you found it. Raise your hand consistently in class, even if you don’t know the answer, and they’ll notice your participation efforts.

Share a newspaper article or other piece of pop culture with your professor relating to the class content. Put away your voodoo doll, throw your pride aside and get your apple ready — you have nothing to lose. 

And if you haven't already experienced a bad professor, knock on wood and cross your fingers because you're truly one in a million.

But if you're like the rest of us and have had an undeniably harrowing experience with a bad professor or are experiencing one now, rest assured that the semester will one day be over. Not only will you be breathing a sigh of relief but you'll also be proud of yourself for rising to the challenge just by finishing out the semester.


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