Monday, September 9, 2019

List: Ten effective strategies to deal with a difficult college professor.

I have been in college forever for 10 years and have never had an issue with a professor until last semester.    I know 10 years is a long time, but it's just so expensive and I don't want loans! 

It all started when the text book rental company sent the wrong edition of the book.  I provided proof that the ISBN # was correct on the text and in the order.  Despite all this, the professor continued to insist that this was my fault and my responsibility.  Never mind the fact that it took her a month to grade my work and flag the issue.  Apparently I should have been psychic!  To keep a long story short, she gave me 48 hours to get the right text and resubmit a month's worth of difficult assignments.  From that point on she held a grudge and I had a big problem.  Without getting a B or higher I would not qualify for tuition reimbursement which could mean the end of my long college career - and I'm  s o  c l o s e  to being done.

Through hard work, perseverance, and a little brown nosing - I got my B!

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Ten ways to deal with a difficult college professor.

1.  Stop and take a deep breathe.
While I may be tiny in stature, I have a giant sized temper.  It's important to calm down and really think before responding.  Once something is said, it's said.  Repeat until calm - "They control your grade.  They control your grade.  They control your grade."

Idea:  If talking yourself down doesn't do the job, bring a stress ball like these whenever you're forced to communicate.  They're small enough to not be a disruption but large enough for your professor to get the hint.

2.  Identify the issue.
While it's easy to get lost in a sea of complaints and problems, it's important to stay afloat.  Swim past the nuances and find the heart of the problem(s).  Once you identify the real issue, you can find a solution.

3.  Accept responsibility and avoid deflecting blame.
It's important to remember that this is your course and your grade.  This simple fact makes everything your responsibility.  Accept it, say it out loud, and move on.  This is not the time to play victim.

4.  Suggest a solution.
There's nothing more aggravating than someone who points out problems without offering a fix.  In my world, this is called whining and I deal with it daily at work.  It is definitely annoying.  If your professor rejects your suggestion, ask him/her to provide a more suitable one.  Just get an answer.

5.  When all else fails, escalate to a higher authority.
If you feel that your professor is being unreasonable, don't be afraid to escalate the case.  Keep it professional, follow the chain of command, and repeat steps 1 through 5.  Remember, once you escalate there is no turning back.  Don't do it until you know they won't work with you.

6.  Once resolved, follow the terms of the deal.
As ridiculous as the terms of the solution may be, do you're best to concede.  Concede within reason, obviously.  If you're given a timeline, try to complete tasks early.  If you're given rules, follow them meticulously.

Idea:  Go old school and utilize an agenda like this one to make sure that all deadlines and agreements are met.  It's important to stay organized and be hyper aware of all responsibilities.

7.  Eliminate all gray areas.
It may be human nature to avoid your professor after problems arise, but this isn't best.  If there are any gray areas or uncertainties, question them and politely request answers.  I like to think the professor would consider the questions as a desire to succeed instead of an annoyance.

8.  Speak up.
If you feel that you're still being treated unfairly, especially with inaccurate grading, speak up.  You should continue to be professional but be direct and remember to be honest.  Try not to cry or get loud.  These are common reactions to frustration, but control yourself.

9.  Express appreciation for what they do right.
While you may feel that your professor doesn't do anything right, I promise that you can find something.  You can thank them for getting back to you, a prompt response, or even just listening to the problem.  Expressions of appreciation isn't always sucking up, but a tactic to get a better response.

10.  Work hard.
A professor can tell when you're trying to skate by or when you're giving it your all.  Because of this, it's vital that you work hard, dedicate time, and fulfill all obligations.

I followed all ten of these steps and not only did I get a decent grade, but I won over her respect.  I know this because on the last day of class SHE thanked ME for my efforts and dedication.  Not only did she thank me, but she indirectly admitted to knowing that she is a beast difficult to work with.

Did you ever have a difficult professor?


  1. Or just pay someone to beat them up properly :))))
    I've finished college (which, back in my ancient times, lasted for four years) 15 years ago and still sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking there is an exam I forgot to pass and I need to go back to my studies.... Freaks me out everytime and it usually takes me about five minutes to remember that I am now actually a professor LOL

    1. lol! You've been scarred for life as a student. :) College is so expensive here that you need to take a life time worth of loans (literally) to get it done in (4) years. With all my other expenses, especially day care, I can't afford more than (1) class a semester. I do take Summer & Winter break classes also to make up for it.

  2. Great advice to follow, not just for college professors either. My daughter is having a really difficult time with her high school chemistry teacher, so I think this advice is something I need her to read. She's been so frustrated with that teacher, she's ready to drop the class. Of course, she needs to learn to deal with difficult people of authority, so we won't let her drop, but I still feel for her having to put up with that teacher every day.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is already clashing with a teacher. I hope these tips help! I’m not an advocate for sucking up, but letting them know you care about their course goes a long way. Even if you don’t care about it, they want to know you’re taking it seriously. I remember chemistry and absolutely hated it!

  3. I've never had to deal with them. I hear they're more better than high school teachers on average. Though HS teachers made it seem like you'd be executed if you didn't write in cursive or wear a tux.

    1. Lol!! I never had this experience with HS teachers. In fact, there are many days I wish I could turn back time and go back to those days. :)

  4. I've had to deal with a few, but yeah, just had to get through it and remember that it is only 3 and half months and then over. Good she at least admitted she is stubborn and a pain in the butt, kinda lol

    1. It was very indirect but it still felt like a win! I also got a B which qualified me for my reimbursement so woo hoo to that.


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