Opinion — Is it me or is it my professor?

Dallas Wiertella

Something that I hear most around campus when discussing classes is that some professors fail to instruct their classes, which leads to the downfall of their students. 

We have all heard the horror stories of professors destroying the hopes and dreams of their students by talking about personal stories or going off on hour-long tangents every class period for 15 weeks straight, just to drop an exam that has nothing to do with any of the lecture material. 

The question is: am I to blame, or is my professor secretly trying to make me flunk out of college?

I have had my fair share of professors, from great to sub-par, and there have been times when even I have come to the false conclusion that there is no way it is me who is failing this class — it is my professor who is praying for my downfall.

For instance, I would like to give a quick shoutout to the professor who forced me to not turn in my assignments on time (or at all) and gave me a C out of spite for my person and not my performance in class. 

Despite my frustrations, my final grade will always come down to me. No matter the barrier, there is always a way to earn a decent grade. But sometimes it feels difficult just to make the push to earn that passing grade. 

On syllabus day students can usually gauge how hard they will have to work based on what their professor sets out for their class. Some professors do not care about attendance while some give a limited amount of absences. Some require separate one-on-one meetings while others have expectations that you do not email them after business hours. 

I cannot stress enough that if a class is required for your degree that you should take it and work as hard as possible to make sure you succeed. If it is not required, however, you must know where you stand from the beginning of the semester. 

You are paying a premium price to take classes in college. If a class is both difficult and not required, you are adding a lot of mental and financial stress just to inch your way to the graduation finish line. 

If you are considering dropping a class to save your GPA or your mental health, then it is up to you to decide if your effort will be wasted. If you think it will be wasted by dropping it and that is not worth it to you, then stick to the class and work your hardest. But if you think your effort will be wasted and ultimately result in a failing grade, then maybe it is time to cut the baggage. 

When considering this ultimatum of credits versus stress, it is also important to think about what you will learn and what grade you believe is realistic for you to obtain. This will depend on your confidence, so if you are too unsure then I recommended speaking with an advisor before concretely answering this question. 

I was once asked during a class if learning and receiving a letter grade meant the same thing. I do not believe the two are linked whatsoever. 

Say that your class has continuous lectures based on an idea, such as writing in a certain style. You learn every detail and understand every nuance, but only truly understand what you are supposed to do after receiving feedback on an assignment. You might end the class with the lowest grade you can receive to still get credit, but you still learned what the professor set out to teach. 

However, when a teacher has a class average of 70% and the students are all trying their best to succeed, then maybe the professor has misjudged the criteria of their coursework. 

If you believe that you can get a good grade with low effort, take the class. If you are eager to learn from the class and not particularly worried about anything other than passing, then go for it. If you cannot find a reasonable meeting point between effort and grade, however, then maybe the class is not for you. 

It goes to say as well that a class may not be for you now, but maybe a more experienced version of you or a lighter course load will allow you to succeed in that class.

So if you find yourself taking an elective and the teacher makes a rule about putting your phones in a box — and that is your last straw — then respectfully wait for the class to be over and peace out. 

To summarize, it is not your fault that you are a student and it is not the professor’s fault that they want their class to be run a certain way. If the class is not sitting well with you, either make the best of it or duck your head before you get clotheslined by an essay that is somehow due in 20 minutes. 

Not every class you take will be a walk in the park. Not every professor will spoon-feed you, as for minimal effort. Despite how lame this may sound, we are here to learn. 

So maybe it is you, and maybe it is your professor. Who knows? But be sure to realize that you always have the option to balance out your education and your mental health.