Not all colleges are good. Similarly, not all professors teaching college courses are good.
There are many things that can make the transition from secondary to postsecondary education hard for college students who suddenly find themselves living far away from their loved ones and being amidst a diverse community and a different culture.
And being taught by a professor in a terrible manner can make matters worse.
Other than the college experience itself, your academic success may be put in peril, too — a bad professor can keep you from getting a good grade in his or her class, which can bring down your cumulative GPA.
I will guide you through dealing with a bad professor before the situation does major damage. Believe me, I had my own share of problem teachers during my undergraduate and graduate years.
6 Common Signs of a Bad Professor
A bad professor for one student may be okay or even a good professor for another. Although it’s true that the performance rating of a professor is mostly a subjective matter, there are, however, some telltale signs that he or she is not what the majority of students are hoping for — in some instances, most or all students can agree that the professor is a bad one.
Here are some indicators that the one in front of the classroom is a bad professor:
1. Bores you completely
Nothing can make the class unexciting more than the professor reading exactly what’s in the textbook, which you could also otherwise read in the comfort of your form, aloud and in a monotonous voice.
2. Forgets to hand out a syllabus
It’s customary for some of the best college professors to distribute a detailed syllabus during the first day of classes. Someone who doesn’t may either be too lazy or has absolutely no idea what he or she is going to do the entire semester.
3. Assigns tons of work or none
Whether the professor is giving an unreasonable number of tasks or very little to no work, which might appear a blessing at the onset, chances are that it can get in the way of you learning properly.
However, even if you think that your teacher assigns too much homework, it may not be too bad as it challenges the students to learn more about the subject.
4. Complains about teaching or the school
First things first: a professor who abhors teaching should not be teaching.
Otherwise, it can negatively impact a student’s college experience and even grades. And a professor who hates the college should be teaching elsewhere.
5. Lacks teaching skills
Can’t seem to clearly explain things such as the grading system or, worse, the topic or chapter for the session?
No matter if the professor is simply unprepared or totally clueless, he or she is probably in the wrong career.
6. Refuses to engage the students
Not looking at the students while lecturing and not pausing to entertain questions are clear signs that the class is far from being engaging and dynamic, thus keeping the students from actively learning.
Keep in mind that there are many other possible warning signs of a professor, ranging anywhere from dressing badly to not filling the entire class period.
Again, the concept of a bad professor can vary from student to student, which is why your personal preferences and expectations can impact your own rating of his or her teaching prowess.
What’s the difference between a difficult and a bad professor?
A difficult professor is someone who lacks concern and empathy for his or her students. It’s not unlikely for the professor to argue with the students a lot, too. A bad professor, on the other hand, lacks some of the characteristics of good teaching — often, he or she isn’t aware of the deficit in such important qualities.
4 Things to Do If You Have a Bad Professor
The right step to take to deal with a bad professor will depend on what makes him or her a bad teacher and the severity of the issue. In most instances, particularly if the matter isn’t that serious, a student may simply brush it aside. But if the student’s grade or college career is on the line, getting the college involved is oftentimes necessary.
Here are some of the things that you might want to consider if you have a bad professor:
Raise the issue
Not the only one who has an issue with the professor?
See who among your classmates have the same sentiments and invite them all to talk with the professor after the class.
With many individuals in the same class having a shared opinion, the professor might consider taking the necessary step/s for the benefit of the entire class.
But make sure that all of you speak with him or her politely and calmly. And also, don’t ever make the professor feel like the gang is attacking him or her — keep things friendly and, more importantly, professional.
Send an anonymous email
Instead of speaking with the professor in person, alone or with some of your classmates, you may instead raise the issue with him or her through an anonymous email.
Just make sure that you remain courteous from start to finish. Patiently wait for your professor to respond to your email, upon which you should base your next step — if taking another one is even necessary.
The professor may also discuss the matter with the class after reading your anonymous email for a more collaborative resolution. No matter his or her reaction to the email, do not give any hint that you’re the sender.
Speak with an authority
It’s not uncommon for college students who have bad professors to have this burning question on their minds: can you report a bad professor?
A quick answer to that would be yes; you can report him or her.
The reporting, of course, should be done to the right person, and it’s none other than an academic advisor or department head, or dean.
But be warned: a meeting with everyone concerned, including you, may be held by the authority. Worry not because the school’s policies will likely keep you from any retaliation by the professor should he or she decide to do so.
Give a bad evaluation
Depending on the college, students are sometimes given the chance to evaluate their professors, usually by the end of the semester.
Grab the opportunity to let the professor know which qualities of his or hers to amend in order to spare other students who just want to earn an undergraduate degree from going through the same bad experience as yours.
Why wait for the end of the term or for your college to have the initiative when you can rate a professor online at any given time?
All you have to do is head to Rate My Professors, which is the best resource to find good professors.
How to Pass a Class With a Bad Professor
Speaking in person with a bad professor or reporting him or her to the institution might sometimes pose the risk of your grades being in jeopardy, especially if the college sides with the questionable professor or no other undergraduates share the same opinion as yours.
Fortunately, you can still pass his or her class without putting your college career in peril.
The following are some of the steps you may take to pass your class:
Generally speaking, colleges allow students to change courses, particularly if they have a valid reason for doing so, such as being taught by a bad professor.
However, it’s a must that you act quickly if you want to change to a different class because it’s permitted only during the first few weeks of the semester. Also, consider meeting with an academic advisor ASAP.
Use available resources
Can’t understand the lecture?
Instead of doing your best to get rid of your professor’s bad habits, focus your energy instead on understanding the course material by heading to the library or logging on the web to buy textbooks, or paying a visit to educational YouTube channels intended for college students looking for the helpful content.
Organize a study group
Being a part of a study group or establishing one yourself allows you and everyone else who is not fond of the professor to overcome the challenges everyone’s facing as well as reach new heights.
Other than a better understanding of the course material and higher grades, you could also be making friends for life within the study group.
Get a tutor
It may not be cost-free, but having a tutor is a great way to keep your GPA from heading south, even if your professor is terrible at what he or she does.
In many instances, there’s no need to search far and wide for a tutor — many students are looking for part-time jobs on campus, and a lot of upperclassmen will be more than delighted to tutor lower classmen.
Just Before You Attempt to Deal With a Bad Professor
Never ever skip your class just because the professor is bad — other than the fact that this will not solve things, it will also bring additional problems to the picture, including a lower GPA.
At the first sign that your professor is bad at teaching, consider the various steps that you may take, such as the ones we talked about in this post, and weigh the possible pros and cons of each to determine which one is the most appropriate. In some instances, springing into action right away, such as changing classes, is the way to go.
But at times, it’s a good idea to simply suck it up and do your best to get a high grade — you can consider putting up with a bad professor as some sort of preparation for dealing with difficult and horrible people in the workplace.
Can I petition for a bad professor to be fired by the college?
A student petitioning to get a bad professor fired is possible. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the college will take the petitioned action. In 2022, however, a New York University professor was fired after over 80 students signed a petition complaining that the said professor’s class was simply too hard.
Can a student correct a professor’s mistake?
In most instances, a good professor will appreciate being corrected by a student. But, most of the time, it’s best to correct him or her in private, after classes or before the next class.
On the other hand, a bad professor will usually detest being corrected, oftentimes feeling like he or she is being humiliated and/or belittled.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.