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Unreasonable Professor Worries Me

PhysicsMomPhysicsMom Registered User Posts: 231 Junior Member
edited February 2011 in Parents Forum
I am worried I will fail my math course this semester because the professor has very unusual rules. She says that we must do our homework, check each problem to see if it's correct, and then leave space after it if it's wrong and we can't figure out how to get the right answer. She will then go over the problems in class, and we're supposed to write the work she shows us and the correct answer into the space we've left. If EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM does not have a correct answer with work shown (whether hers or our own) by the end of the semester, she says she will absolutely fail us.

She also says that if every single problem is not written out in the format she desires, she will fail us.

I know I can go to a tutor to find out how to do any given problem, but her demands seem unreasonable because:

1. She doesn't get to every problem in class.
2. She's once or twice arrived at a different answer from the book (I discovered after class) and she wants us to write her answers down, but never gets around to going back over those problems to find out why she got a different answer from the book.
3. She does not answer her emails.
4. She tells us to come to office hours but is never there during her office hours even if emailed beforehand.
5. She leaves IMMEDIATELY after every class, saying she has somewhere important to be.

She also yelled at me and marked me partially absent when I had to use the restroom during class.

Is all this reasonable? Am I just being a whiner? She doesn't seem to like me, and I'm worried she'll purposely look for some little flaw in my homework and fail me.
Post edited by PhysicsMom on

Replies to: Unreasonable Professor Worries Me

  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    Any chance that you can still drop that class without penalty? If so, get out and take the class from someone else in a later term if you can. I'd also drop a letter to the department chair explaining what's going on in that class.

    I don't think you're being a whiner, but even if the professor isn't as bad as you say, you still obviously have some incompatibility with how she teaches and how you learn. Not all professors are for all students even when neither the professor nor the student is doing anything wrong.
  • Got2BeGreenGot2BeGreen Registered User Posts: 497 Member
    Lecture first - then advice.

    Only a really unusual circumstance should require a bathroom trip during class. They do happen, but make every effort to use the restroom before you get there.

    I don't have a problem with the unusual way she wants you to do your homework, but I do think some of her other actions are inappropriate. I think it's wrong to fail - or even threaten to fail - a student because one HW problem (over the course of a semester) is not properly done. Not answering e-mails is unacceptable. Missing office hours and not being available to students is unacceptable. Is your teacher new to the school? How has this behavior not been reported before? I'm not a fan of ratemyprofessor.com, but in this case I wonder if other students have reported similar problems.

    If I were you, I'd carefully document a paper trail. (1) Look at the syllabus for the teacher's grading policy, and see if she has bound herself by any rules. (2) Keep track of every e-mail you send that goes unanswered (make extra sure it isn't getting caught in a spam filter). (3) Keep a log of every time you go to her office hours and she doesn't show up. (4) Most importantly, find another adult at the school that you trust (do you have an advisor?) and let her know what's happening.
  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    I am assuming the OP is an adult. This is the Parents Forum (although younger students do post here from time to time), and her screenname is PhysicsMom.

    I am also an adult who has returned to college (well into my 50s!) and I find I have little patience with professors who are not worth the big bucks I'm paying to be in school at this point. When I was in my 20s I was more inclined to feel like I had to take whatever was dished out. Not now. That has led me to focus on classes with better professors and only take classes with weaker professors when I have no other option. I've also been able to mix my schedule up with face-to-face classes and online classes.

    PhysicsMom, you're the consumer here. Don't waste your time and money on unacceptable services if there's another option.
  • PhysicsMomPhysicsMom Registered User Posts: 231 Junior Member
    'rentof2: I can drop it and will get a "Withdraw" on my transcript, but I'm not sure how my financial aid situation will change if I drop it. I'm currently taking four classes, so dropping this class would drop me below full time. Also, my screen name is probably misleading. I'm a mom, but I'm in my twenties. I originally joined this board in relation to my own college search and so on. I thought the parents here would have the best advice on the site.

    Got2BeGreen: I agree that one should make their best effort to avoid leaving to use the restroom while in class. I always make a point to use the restroom before class, but in this case going again couldn't have been avoided. I also don't mind the unusual way she wants to do homework, but rather the consequences of not doing the homework perfectly within this framework. The prof has actually been around a while, and she has awful reviews on RateMyProfessor -- people say she is very disrespectful among other things -- but unfortunately I failed to check those reviews before choosing the class. I also didn't have a chance to realize I would be worried by her policies before Add/Drop because we had several snow days and then several days when she didn't come in despite the school being open because of problems with the roads around her house. Anyway, I will do what you say and document everything just in case. Right now I don't have an adviser since I haven't chosen a major, but I can still go to the advising center.
  • limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
    Agree with Got 2 Be Green: go to your advisor and (separately) keep a record of your attempted contacts, which you can share if this continues. I'm surprised that this professor even noticed you were in the restroom; must be a small class. Do you have a TA?
  • PhysicsMomPhysicsMom Registered User Posts: 231 Junior Member
    It is a small class. There's no TA.
  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    PhysicsMom, I recently dropped a class that was poorly taught and I had the same question about my financial aid. I went in and talked to someone in the financial aid office and they explained it all to me. In my case it will have no effect, but I didn't know that until I asked. Once that was cleared up, I dropped that class in the blink of an eye. I only got half my tuition refunded, but that was better than living with all the frustration that came with the class, and honestly, even if none of it was refunded it still would have been a better solution than staying in the class. You might want to check with your financial aid office about your situation.
  • limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
    My son also had a totally unreasonable professor. The class was small to begin with and dwindled down when the quizzes and projects became overwhelming. However, my son needed the credits in order to graduate, so he was stuck. The course dragged on. Soon, there were less than 10 kids in the class, and therefore the "curve" became even more skewed. My son worried he'd fail, even when he was spending 90% of his study time on this course alone.

    He also tried to reach out to this prof, but got nowhere. Finally, he started speaking with the other students and they all felt the same. He also approached his advisor, telling him of the numerous attempts and only getting unsatisfying responses. Once other students started to voice their opinions, it was no longer a single whiny student complaining about grades, but a problem for the department to deal with. And they did.

    So, you should see how other students feel about this issue and approach your advisor as a unified group. Be sure to have a solution: what is it that you want?
  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    By the way, even if your do all this documenting, etc., then what? Is that so if the professor fails you, you can challenge the failing grade? Then what? You get a C or D instead of an F? I may be cynical, but in this situation wasting time, energy and resources on challenging the "system" probably isn't going to do much but sap your energy and leave you feeling stressed and fed up. Academic bureaucracies are a pretty immovable heap.

    Not that there's no honor in trying to make things better for students in the future, but you need to think about your short-term best interests.

    I would just get out if that's an option. If it's not, I agree that you should start by talking to other students in the class and see if there's some way to help each other as a group.
  • limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
    'rent, I'm thinking this is at a small LAC or even a community college. Often they have visiting professors who don't know the system or know how to properly work with students. I know my son didn't need a whole lot of documenting to get some action, because of the fact that 1) so many students had already withdrawn from the course and 2) other current students were also complaining.

    My question to the OP is: what is it you want? Do you want your prof to be more accessible? Are you mostly concerned about the threats of failure? Are you not understanding the material? Do you want your professor to stop bugging you if you have to use the restroom?
  • 2VU06092VU0609 Registered User Posts: 3,067 Senior Member
    ^^ Regarding challenging a failing grade - most institutions have a procedure in place for a challenge, but rather than changing the grade to an improved letter grade, the change is to a P or F grade.
  • TreetopleafTreetopleaf Registered User Posts: 2,721 Senior Member
    OP, my D had a fairly unreasonable prof last semester. We peeked at this prof's reviews at the site where students rate professors and learned that the grading she saw was typical for this prof. Did you look up your prof at that site?
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Registered User Posts: 22,762 Senior Member
    My daughter had an unreasonable professor and she asked me if she could withdraw. She had an A average in the course and it struck me as strange that she wanted to withdraw from a course that she was doing well in. She isn't prone to doing something like that on a whim so I just went with her judgement. She took the course with another professor the next semester and did fine. In any large sample of people, including professors, you're going to get a few weird ones. You have to decide whether you want to deal with them or now. Also, ratemyprofessors.com may be of some help.
  • sk8rmomsk8rmom Registered User Posts: 5,746 Senior Member
    Consistently missing office hours would be unacceptable at many schools. Taking away points for an emergency bathroom break is just ridiculous. I would email the department head and identify yourself as an adult student and voice your concerns...it's very likely that this woman has a long history of complaints but is a tenured prof. At my D's school, there is a tenured chem prof who is also a wacko and when his students (D always checks ratemyprof and signed up for another section) finally got up the nerve to complain about him last year they were told that the department was well aware of his shortcomings and all of their grades would be reviewed and adjusted...and they were! Otherwise at least 75% of the class would have failed and this way off the mark when compared to the other sections. The department didn't want all these kids having to retake the class, which is difficult to get into anyway!
  • PhysicsMomPhysicsMom Registered User Posts: 231 Junior Member
    limabeans: I want to get the grade I deserve instead of possibly failing when I don't deserve to. I'm a 4.0 student so far. I put in the work. I more than put in the work, actually. My experiences with absolutely all my other professors so far have been delightful. They could tell I was serious about learning and doing my very best, and so they went out of their ways to help me and give me opportunities. This is the only professor I've had even a minor problem with. I guess I've been spoiled so far.

    Anyway, I'd be horrified if I failed. I want to go into a scientific field, and it would look absolutely horrible to grad schools if I failed a math class. If I genuinely didn't know the stuff or didn't put in the work, that would be one thing, but I've done every problem in the first third of the book at least twice just to make sure I really get everything. I just feel like, knowing me, I'll probably do some slightly wrong thing with the format she wants or whatever... and I'll fail.

    Treetopleaf, unfortunately I did not look up reviews of this prof until it was too late.

    She's actually not tenured. She's complained about tenured profs "who don't care as much about their students as I do -- I love you all as much as my own grandchildren" many times. She is a bit odd, but that would be okay if she wasn't so stringent about everything being perfect.

    Her reasoning on the bathroom thing is that she has ADHD and any small thing distracts her. Someone coughs, and she will lose her train of thought for the next five minutes. I obviously don't begrudge someone having ADHD, but she also proudly mentions her refusal to take medication for it several times a class.

    Anyway, I will withdraw if it won't affect my scholarship and financial aid status. If it will, I'll stay in the class and try to pin her down and get her to check on my homework periodically to make sure I'm doing it right, in addition to talking to an adviser about what's going on.
This discussion has been closed.