College professor

<eye popping, teeth clenching, exorcism style expression>Must… control… fist… of… death! </eye popping, teeth clenching, exorcism style expression>

Aieee! The semester is officially over now so my biorhythms can no return to their normal parameters although at one time I thought my database professor was going to drive me insane!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a worse teacher. It’s obvious to me that he had some knowledge locked in that brain of his… but his teaching style! The horror!..

Now that I’m calm I’ll give you an itemized list of his worst faults…

1. Extremely disorganized.

a. No syllabus until 3 weeks into the semester.

b.. Homework returned 6 weeks or later after turning it in (if we received it back at all).

c. Homework returned ungraded (just a checkmark, no feedback or correction of answers).

2. Poor test format

a. Only a single test administered 3/4 of the way through the semester. Test was comprehensive on all (poorly) taught material since the beginning of the semester.

b. Vaguely worded and ambiguous test questions.

c. Atrocious spelling and grammar (this is a big deal when a missing or misplaced word completely changes the meaning of a given question).

3. Inappropriate text book.

a. The text book chosen is used for graduate level classes (this was an introductory class).

4. Inferior teaching ability

a. Use of analogies was detrimental. i.e. "This database concept is kind of like the way the brain is structured..."... and then he goes on to talk about neurons and synapses. Ugh. Analogies are supposed to simplify subjects not make them more complex!

b. The professor often made statements contradictory to the text book.

c. Professor was easily side tracked. Loved to talk about his Phd, last skiing trip, pancake breakfast study parties with students, etc. etc.

5. Limited applicable knowledge.

a. Professors ability to apply the database concepts was very poor. In essence his  database theory seemed fairly solid while his SQL coding skills were very poor. For assignments that involved writing SQL code we (the students) were on our own.

I feel better now… carry on fellow Dopers… nothing to see here. Move along. :slight_smile:

Did you at least get a good grade? I’ve had teachers like this and my attitude was that they didn’t really give a shit about what they were doing so it was a blowoff class. Sucked if you wanted to learn anything but that’s not really what college is for.

My anger was more towards the university than the professor himself. It’s the university that took the money and gave a crappy professor.

I hated professors who would never lecture about anything from the book, then the exam would be eerily similair to the sample questions in the book.

Does your school give you the opportunity to evaluate each class and professor at the end of each professor? All through college and grad school, I’ve had that chance. Might be worth doing if you can; if enough people speak up, he might find the incentive to change his teaching style.
The schools I’ve gone to have always stressed the need for feedback from students-- sure, the bitter “she flunked me just 'cause I never showed up” rants aren’t given much credence, but well presented thoughts on what worked, what didn’t, and what could be better seem to be valued. It’s similar to the evaluations the professors will do for each student, especially in my current pass/fail grad program.

That said, allow me to take a moment to rant about the donkey feltching dimbulb who taught my TV Tools class this fall:

Dear Mr. Asshole: please show up when you have a class to teach. No, we don’t agree that the schedule was confusing; as you can see, all 18 of us figured it out and made it here on a Saturday, only to turn around and go home an hour later. Furthermore, at least pretend to be interested in the material, do not vanish from the room to take calls on your cell phone, and please refrain from insulting the staff, especially when several of your students (I’m one of them!) work here. Thank you. Dickhead.

Ah, that’s better.

Haven’t gotten my grades yet for the semester so I still have my fingers crossed. Even if he gives me an A I doubt I’ll ever take another class from him again. The uncertainty associated with his class is too anxiety provoking for me to endure it again.

Me on evaluation day: “Uhhh… here’s the evaluation… I stapled a few sheets to it cuz I needed the room… and, umm… I wore down the pencil you gave me so here’s another in it’s place.”


At the end of each professor?! I can’t believe I didn’t catch that… there’s an image I don’t need.

Two questions–and the first may be negated by the second:

  1. Do students fill out a confidential course evaluation?
  2. Does this guy have tenure?

Sad to say, if someone is tenured they’re damned near fire proof, though they might shift him over to less classroom work. (Though your tuition will still go toward paying his salary–sorry!) Truth to tell, academic deadwood often get shuffled into more classroom work if they aren’t publishing, etc. as a way to “encourage” them to leave. If they aren’t close to retirement age, fat chance. Unless they dress up in a goat costume and molest a student–on videotape–they’re there for life.

I loved college, really did, but have no illusions about the academy. It’s political as hell, and students are by and large just tuition paying units.


What is a TV Tools class? Is that what Norm had to take before he was allowed to host “This Old House”?

Don’t have time to type it all out, as I’ve got to get off the computer in 10 mins, but:

Please do not assign a paper when we are not quite halfway done reading the play, Professor. Yes, I know it was clearly marked on the syllabus, but if you don’t give me a TOPIC I cannot write the PAPER. In addition, this paper requires me to use skills I don’t have yet and won’t have until the semester is halfway done. When I am in Act 3 of Hamlet I do NOT want to be writing a paper on it! HELLO?

And while we’re at it, let’s here it for profs who have been teaching a class for a few years, such that they get a feel for the speed of the class, yet we start to read one book and we’re off the syllabus permanently. UGH! TELL us if we don’t have to read X act for tomorrow, don’t act cute about it when we complain about lack of sleep from having so much shit to do for you . . .

And lastly: I was confronted, DURING THE EXAM, no less than FOUR times by the prof, once asking about an assignment that had been due (I’d turned it in on time) TWO MONTHS BEFORE! FUCKHEAD, if you cannot grade things on time don’t make it my problem.

Dear asshole,

I realize you didn’t like my play. You made this clear. I’m not going to throw an artistic hissy fit and claim that it was without flaw, but I honestly think that a portion of it comes from the fact that I just don’t write the way you do… oh, and then there was the part where I didn’t take it in the direction where you wanted me to take it. I’m sorry I didn’t follow your every suggestion like some of my bretheren.

Be that as it may. You claimed you wouldn’t grade on what you thought the artistic merit of our final pieces were. I did every single fucking assignment. I did them on time, I did them well. I did everything you wanted, save for writing exactly like you.

Thanks for the B minus. I do hope that you don’t have a nasty accident sometime soon… it must be so difficult to walk with your head shoved so far up your ass.

Ah, academia.

[sub]on the bright side, I have a 3.0…[/sub]

Not quite! More like learning the (very) basic elements of how to use a tv camera and edit tape, for non-broadcast majors. And how fitting that a class called Tools should be taught by a tool.*

andygirl, I did a year in a playwriting program (was going for an M.F.A., but reconsidered my calling). I know exactly what you’re talking about. Our first semester professor was ok, if a bit flaky (he advised us to get our creative juices flowing by plopping down at the computer with “a bottle of something” nearby). The second half of the year, though, we got this greasy hairball who spent most sessions name dropping and discussing his own work. This guy almost drove the two most talented writers in the class away, because he was so hell bent on molding us all in his own image. Somehow, he ended up running the program, despite protest from our entire class.

Dear professors:

Please forgive me.

I forgot that every word that tumbles from your lips is a pearl you are so courteously dropping before us green-haired swine.

I promise never to question anything you might have to say again. I promise never to attempt to ask a question that others in the room might wish to hear the answer to, as my ignorant high-school and college teachers taught me to. I promise not to take up your valuable student-seeing time by making you see students.

I promise, in short, never to take an interest in your courses again. It has been made abundantly obvious that your interest is in lecturing to a bunch of students with the responsiveness of dieffenbachia plants and that when students actually appear interested in the material, it alarms and discomfits you.

Please accept my humblest apologies. I grovel in the dust.


OK, I’m a professor. I appreciate all that you folks have written, and I am glad to say that I do not teach TV Tools, Databases, and/or Playwriting.

PLEASE, please, please: when you DO find a professor that you like, give them high scores on their evaluations and write extensive comments about what you like (and also, about what they can do better) on their course evaluations. Believe it or not, these evaluations are very important for ALL professors, tenured or non-tenured (for tenured profs they factor heavily into pay raises). In my case, as a tenure-track Assistant Professor, they are especially important. Many of the students in my class claim, in my office hours at least, to like my teaching style, exams, assignments, etc. I always ask them to please make that comment on the end-of semester course evaluations, so that it will enter my permanent record.

Too often the folks that DON’T like a class/professor write comments, whereas the folks who DO like the class/professor write nothing.

If you like a professor, please let them know ON THEIR EVALUATIONS.



Eissclam, good point. I do try to be as effusive with the good ones as with the bad ones. As I mentioned above, I work at the same grad school I attend. Over the years I’ve picked up on how important these things can be. In our case, they’re made available to students who are selecting their next semester’s classes. All of them are read by the professors (and the deans, I think), but only the signed ones go into the binders we keep for students to browse. There has been some talk of making them anonymous across the board; evidently there’s some feeling that some professors are getting away with years of poor teaching because the students don’t want to get “caught” criticizing them. I don’t know that that’s true, though-- most of the people I’ve met in my time here have been pretty vocal.

I think the bigger problem, at my school at least, is exhaustion. We may care passionately about the course, but come semesters’s end, a lot of us are bone tired and just don’t get around to filling those forms out. And unfortunately, the ones who do find the energy are the ones who, like you mention, don’t like the professor. I would go so far as to say that some of them have an axe to grind, because I can see it in myself. I’ve made a point of filling mine, both good and bad, out for several semesters now, but this fall I was absolutely itching to tear TV Tools man a new orifice.

I kind of feel the need to point out here the we did bring up some of our concerns in class with this guy, to no avail.


Thanks for your reply. I always do a mid-semester course evaluation (on my own initiative, with all responses handled by the TAs to maintain confidentiality) so that students know that I am interested in their feedback and so that I can make mid-course corrections to meet student needs. It sounds like TV man should have done the same!

Actually, the degree to which evaluations matter varies enormously by institution. I have a professor who’s daughter was recently hooded and interviewed at a certain prestigious university. At her initial interview she was told point blank that teaching carried zero weight in tenure considerations. (She went elsewhere). On the other hand, my state school weighs evaluations as about 60% of the tenure application (Well, the liberal arts department does. I have no idea what goes on in those cultural wastelands across campus).

This is why I would not send an undergraduate child of mine to a prestigious university–you get a better education where a) teaching is taken seriously, not as an irritating break from your 'real" job, research, and where there are not hordes of brilliant grad students who are, inevitably, more interesting to the faculty than the snot-nosed undergrads.

Chances are, Bucky, that unless you’re an upperclassman or a grad student, I’m an adjunct or a TA. That means I’m trying to get by with a family, a full course-load, and a teaching load equivalent to a publishing faculty member. And I’m doing it on the national average of $900 a month with no benefits. Oh, yeah, and I’ve got to publish and do presentations to be hireable when I get done. I’ve got a life, I’ve got my own classes, I have a dissertation to write, and you come after all of those. Sure, I agreed to become slave labor, but I did it under the consideration that MY stuff comes first. Are you the swimmer who had early-morning practice, came into class at least 15 minutes late EVERY DAY, and then whined about a C+? Are you the moron who got pissed that I “dissed” the football team and decided not to participate in class? How about the girl (and in my experience, it’s a girl) who sits in the back and gossips all hour?

If you’re not one of those, and your prof’s not one of the above, you have my sympathy–that’s inexcusable for a tenure-track faculty member. But cut a break for the grad students being used for slave labor, and look at yourself and your classmates. None of this happens in a vacuum.

Ah yes, the crappy prof. I can handle almost any amount of crappiness. I can roll with overstressed grad students who are working thier guts out. I can roll with idiots who can’t tell the difference between the second law of thermodynamics and the second hand on my watch, and yet lecture on its relation to philosophy. I can even accept egomania, I’ll scoff at it, but I’ll deal.

I cannot stand evil. I took a class from an evil man. Intro to Shakespeare from a man who is also a preacher/minister something or other (Lutheran? I don’t remember) We’ll call him Honeygosky. I think of him fondly as Stephen. Our grade was to be based on class participation and two papers. Unexcused absences counted against you.

He was a great lecturer. He could speak. He gave some touchingly beautiful lectures about how compassion toward your fellow man is needed in daily life for your soul, etc. While he was threatening to flunk me for lack of attendance. Because I was in the hospital trying not to die. Evidentally, emergency liver surgery should take place in his classroom rather than allow me to have an unscheduled absence.

I aced both papers. I came up with interpretations he could not disprove but had never heard of in class. But he wanted to fail me. I pulled strings, he pulled strings, I came out with a C and he came out with a few of the deans less than happy with him. I ended up not fighting it because I just wanted to go home and be done with the whole pile. (It was not a good freshman year.)

I cannot stand evil in a human being. Hypocrasy bothers me even more. If he lectured in class that evil was the one true way, I’d hate him less. As it is, I don’t think I’d pull him from in front of a bus.
[sub] Yea, I would. But only because I’m a wuss. I’d like to think I wouldn’t though. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy.[/sub]

I had a professor for intermediate algebra that was a nightmare walking upright.
The man LOVED math, I mean he really, really LOVED math. I SUCK at math. This man would wisk through chapters so fast and when we asked him to slow down he’d be like, “Okay, but I just want to get to the GOOD stuff!” I ended up having to drop the class because I was disgustingly behind. He would have quizes, and I was eligible for extended time-so he would let me continue with my quiz while teaching class. I would get distracted and be extremely behind in my notes.

Trust me, whenever I get a professor I like, I am incredibly effusive in their evaluations. And I’ve had to evaluate some excellent teachers.

Some more stuff about evaluations from another grad student, just finished teaching ethics.

Evaluations are generally horrid things which only serve the needs of administrators and students who do not care much about learning. I will elaborate: what most school's evaluations test is how much a student enjoyed the class and how much they felt they learned, although they usually ask a number of questions less directly related to the main concerns, such as of grading standards and of amount of time spent working for the class. It might be a better assessment if the questions were cross referenced with one another -- for example, if a student who worked for 1-2 hours per week didn't like my class, this shouldn't concern anybody, but if one who worked 10 hours a week hated it, this is a serious problem. A good teacher is one whose students have an increase in enjoyment which is directly, not inversely, related to the amount of time they spent working on course materials. This is just one example of how evaluations could be effective.

As it is, they ask for both constructive and summative (or, if you prefer, prescriptive and descriptive) evaluations, but they do not allow any way of separating these, and the administrators, when making hiring or tenure descisions, don't take the constructive nature of some of these comments into account, but tend to treat all as summative. This means that if you try to offer your professor friendly advice at how to make things _even better_, it may mean that they get screwed by the paper shufflers.

Regardless, the evaluations also tend to feed into the consumer college mentality, whereby we assume that anything we pay money for, such as an education, should be neither unpleasant nor something at which we can fail. This leads to what some wit called "edutainment." Much like 'entertainment news' shows, those of us who teach at brand-name universities have to pander to those who are there merely to get either a social-caste required degree, or fulfill requirements to get their business degree, or whatever. The few students who take classes because they want to learn don't have this mentality, which makes us better able to do our jobs (if we care about teaching, which most of the professors above obviously do not), and it means that the students are likely to actually enjoy learning without us having to pander.

Somebody above rightly pointed out that the students are treated as numbers. This in turn means that the professors are treated as machines which get the high numbers from the student-units. The process of quantification destroys the human and the humane.

You all here seem to be concerned about the right things, and I wish that more teachers and students were as well. As far as the administrators go, I just wish they were unnecessary, although that might be helped if education wasn't for-profit.