Bad Student? Or Bad Teacher?

We’ve all had that one experience with a “bad” professor … you got the flu, couldn’t move for days, then, after being forced by your roommate to finally go to the doctor, you get into a fender bender and have to wait three hours for a tow truck. Oh, by the way, your paper is due in two hours. Honestly – crap happens. Life can spiral out of control and before you know it, you didn’t finish that paper for that one class that fulfills an area of inquiry. Now what? You’re surely going to fail and then life is all over, right? Wrong. Sorta.

Professors, for the most part, are aware of the stressors that college students face: illness, family/relationship issues, jobs, mental breakdowns, your coffee maker spontaneously combusting … because professors are people, too! However, every now and then you may have one professor that is a stickler for deadlines (understandable) and does not accept anything late. This can be one of the most disheartening and soul-crushing moments for a college student, but there are ways to both prevent and treat this issue, just like that flu you had.

First, read the syllabus your professor gives you on the first day of school. READ IT. A syllabus can tell you a lot about a professor’s “type,” how they expect their students to function, and the deadlines that are either etched in stone or somewhat flexible. Keep in mind though, that the majority of syllabi are much stricter than the professor him or herself (sometimes the reverse is true). Throughout the course of the semester, you get to know faculty and understand the way they run; this is extremely important because it will help you figure out how to plan your time management. I am not endorsing putting off your work until the last minute because you have a really “chill” professor. Rather, use this knowledge to help calm yourself in case something awful does occur. Freshman year I would do my assignments weeks before they were due because I was so paranoid my computer would break or I would fall down a gutter and not have time to turn in my paper – well, a lot has changed since then (who has time to do assignments weeks before they’re due, when you have an assignment every second of your senior year?!) but my mentality has remained the same. Be aware of unforeseeable factors and attempt to be prepared.

But, say that you really did your work ahead of time, but life happened and for whatever reason (see the beginning of this blog) you cannot get your assignment in, and your professor refuses to accept your late work thereby giving you an F. You have a few options: one, set up a meeting with your professor explaining your situation as calmly and diplomatically as possible (don’t get into hysterics (some get freaked out by this) or try to elaborate your story as they will immediately assume you’re lying and have no sympathy). Two, if your professor still will not budge, go to the head of the department and state your case. But if all else fails and the grade will not be changed understand that sometimes these things happen, not only in school but in the real world as well, and the best thing you can do is prepare for next time.

My final tip for dealing with stickler professors is to show them the utmost respect without going overboard and driving them nuts. Students talk. We all know who are the “hard,” the “bad,” the “unfair” teachers – thus, when you walk into class the first day you need to learn how you’re going to adapt to fit the class and the professor’s structure so you can prevent any fiascos from happening. Don’t plan on skipping 12 classes and then be shocked when your professor won’t accept your paper late. You are in college to learn, and sometimes there are obstacles in the way, but you have to be flexible and understandable.

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