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Nightmare professors

  1. Jan 30, 2012 #1
    So I believe I have one of those "nightmare" professors for my digital circuits class this semester. I don't mean he's really hard in the sense he gives really hard exams or tons of homework. I am talking personality wise. He is THE most condescending and arrogant person I have ever met.

    He laughs when students answer incorrectly, snickers and shakes his head if you make a mistake, makes you feel about 2 inches tall, and very unapproachable. If you ask a question in class, he will question you as to why you don't understand it. When he's explaining concepts, he will basically say if you don't understand this...you are a moron. He will ask, "Does anyone NOT understand this?", and if you say no he will not repeat but only ask, "Why don't you understand?" in a very harsh and condescending tone.

    He was an ex-military guy and tons of experience in the industry (designing control systems for fighter jets). I don't know how or why he is a professor at all.

    Who else has had this kind of experience? And I repeat, I'm not talking about hard exams, homework, etc.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 30, 2012 #2


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    I had a professor that you could smell booze on and his answer was always "it is seemple!" to every question. Lemons happen, you just have to learn the material on your own or find another professor in the dept to ask for help. The energy and time required fighting a tenured professor is stacked against the student.
  4. Jan 30, 2012 #3
    At least you can understand his insults bro. I got a Linear Algebra Professor who speaks broken English. Consider yourself lucky you do not have to deal that damn nightmare. LOL.
  5. Jan 30, 2012 #4
    I've been there. You need to harden yourself so you just don't even care anymore about this guy. Care only about mastering the material and getting a decent grade. The internet, books, classmates, other professors.... use whatever it takes to learn the material.
  6. Jan 30, 2012 #5
    I've had a stats "professor" who came directly from industry. Now, she had some good experiences to talk about, but she couldn't do math to save her life. This was the math-stats, with integrals and proofs, but on the first day she couldn't remember how to do a basic integral like :

    \int xdx

    It was a sad, sad semester. She was embarrassingly bad at math. Oh, and her answers to questions were always of the form:

    Confused student : "Ms, why do you have to do a two-tail test here?"
    Professor Dingus: "Well when I was in pharma, I used to [enter irrelevant comment]"

    I am not kidding. If your method (on a test) was different than hers (in a proof for example), then you got that wrong, even if it was a sound proof.

    I also had a linear algebra "professor" who didn't know what teaching was, so he'd go up in front of the class, and furiously transcribe the whole textbook onto the blackboard. The lectures were 2 1/2 hours of him doing this, twice a week. If students had questions about the examples he put on the board, he'd say, and I quote directly, "We have no time for questions, keep writing". A nightmare professor doesn't even begin to describe these two aforementioned ones.

    My tip to you, just go to lectures, get an idea of what the topics are, and self-study. Learn as much as you can, don't let a crappy professor inhibit your learning.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2012
  7. Jan 30, 2012 #6
    I agree with DivisionByZro, self study is the only way to get pass cruddy professors. I recently bombed a Linear Algebra quiz and it was an eye-awakening experience. Just gotta hit the books and not let bad professor inder your grade.
  8. Jan 30, 2012 #7
    When incidents like this happen where your GPA is lowered because of unfair grading systems on tests, how do you go about contesting it?
  9. Jan 30, 2012 #8
    Talk with the lecturer or deal with it.
  10. Jan 30, 2012 #9


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    I had a math professor (accelerated Calc 1 for engineering) for an 8am class. He couldn't bother to be prepared for class and was barely awake when he showed up for it (often a bit late, though it was the first class of the day). He'd copy problems from the text on the board, and try to work them out. When one of us students would point out that he had made a mistake, he would look at the board and say "Just an error in the algebra." (Moron!) and erase the whole problem before the rest of the class could figure out how he managed to screw up.

    One kid (a math-minded savant from South Portland) would have every single problem in the text worked out in detail before class, and he would try to steer the professor right over and over again, only to cause him to erase the whole problem without acknowledging where and how he had gone wrong. I leaned on that student for help because the prof was NO help.
  11. Jan 30, 2012 #10
    Most professors, in my experience, are condescending but they would always answer questions. Anytime I came across a pompous professor I would make sure I challenged them during the semester. I would find the hardest problems I could then show up in the jam packed office hours with pages of attempts and watch he/she struggle through it in front of everyone. In some cases, I would solve those problems and keep the solution from them but then lead them in the right direction as if I thought of it before them. It was good practice because once you get into industry you'll find some incredibly arrogant people that will usually respect you only after you earned it.

    I think of college as a game where you have to prove yourself. I always make the analogy of being a rookie in the NBA. The veterans are going to give you a hard time until you cross someone good over or if you're lucky dunk on someone. After that, the respect is gained and the trash talking stops. You always hear stories like this in the NBA or any sport really.
  12. Jan 30, 2012 #11


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    It sounds to me like you had a lot of time on your hands. If the office hours were "jam packed" did it occur to you that it may have been because some students needed some serious help?

    Are you suggesting that pulling stunts like you've posted above somehow earns you respect?
  13. Jan 30, 2012 #12
    I've had a few horrible lecturers. I ended up having to dedicate 2-3 times as much time on said courses as a consequence. They weren't forgiving on exams either, we'd frequently be given problems that had little to do with anything seen in class or available on problem sheets. Or stuff that had been "mentioned" in class, but never expanded upon to actually enable one to apply it to a problem.
  14. Jan 30, 2012 #13
    That's your way to earn respect? Wow.

    You basically wasted a lot of peoples office hours. People go to office hours to ask for help. You didn't need help so you wasted the people's time and the professors time.

    If you were my student, I would not respect you. In fact, I would think you were a bit arrogant.

    Here's how you gain respect with me:
    1) Cooperate during class. Answer the questions or ask questions yourself. Don't be ashamed if you answer something wrong.
    2) Think before you ask a question. Br sure you researched your question well before asking. Nothing is more irritating than a bunch of questions that the person could answer himself if he thought for a minute.
    3) Don't be afraid of the lecturer. Talk to him for whatever your problem is. It doesn't need to be course-related.

    Of course, those points don't apply with the nightmare professors from the OP.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2012
  15. Jan 30, 2012 #14
    Hey Turbo, you say you're from Portland, Oregon?
  16. Jan 30, 2012 #15


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    No, I'm from Maine. We have a Portland that is older than yours. :tongue:
  17. Jan 30, 2012 #16


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    Hey huskerw38 and welcome to the forums.

    He kinda sounds like a 'hot shot' and with the experience of his that you describes, it doesn't really surprise me too much.

    You have to realize that with teaching, sometimes the best teachers are the ones who have struggled themselves since they will be able to empathize a lot better with students that find things difficult due to this understanding.

    Chances are if you are being taught by someone that just picks things up instantly and who flies through things, as well as working hard in a competitive environment that comes out on top a lot, then chances are this is how it will be.

    Some people are ultra-competitive, very good at what they do and they know it so its not surprising that they flaunt it as well.

    My advice for you is to just do what you have to do to learn the material. If the guy doesn't answer your questions to your liking, then talk to the dean. If he answers your questions and is still an *******, then he is an *******.

    The fact that he knows what he is talking about and is good at what he does is why he does what he does. Depending on where you go you will meet people like this everywhere in all industries (although some attract these kinds of people more than others), so it's good to learn how to be diplomatic while still having personal self-respect to not be trodden on by people like this.
  18. Jan 31, 2012 #17
    Yes, poor teachers exist. Sometimes they are well-meaning but misguided or unskilled. It is worth your while to try to help them help you.

    For rude and condescending teachers, you just have to keep your mouth shut and listen. The only other option is to get enough students to complain to the department. Not a good idea unless you have numbers (and perhaps video) on your side.

    And there is, of course, a Portland older than that one, too.

  19. Feb 2, 2012 #18
    That's true, you've got professors who would rush through the subjects, shove a lot of materials down and finish assigned homework in a short period of time. And you got professors who hate you for some reason and wont make eye contact with you. How are you suppose to learn the material if the teacher hates you and is singling you out for no apparent reason?
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2012
  20. Feb 2, 2012 #19


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    so your professor knows his stuff but does not flatter you? are you there for self assurance or to learn from him? don't let his insecurity deter you from benefiting from his lectures. would you rather have a professor who makes you feel smart and shortchanges you intellectually by dumbing down the material? the latter type can be recognized as the most popular lecturers at most colleges.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2012
  21. Feb 2, 2012 #20


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    meh... kind of fallacious to bring up the opposite extreme don't you think? It's not an either/or situation. Just because I don't like being insulted doesn't mean I want flattery.
  22. Feb 2, 2012 #21
    Just because someone is condescending and mocks his students does not mean he is a fantastic teacher and a genius. If someone is teaching they should be judged purely on how much their students learn. If for example most of the class fails it just shows that they are a terrible teacher and should stick to research.

    In industry if you deliver a training course and at the end nobody has learnt anything you will be the one to be asked to explain why, not your students. It is your responsibility to find a way to make them learn, not their responsibility to try to figure out how to understand you and put up with your bad attitude.
  23. Feb 2, 2012 #22


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    "It is your responsibility to find a way to make them learn, not their responsibility to try to figure out how to understand you and put up with your bad attitude."

    this may be true, but you are completely missing the point. You are just arguing whether the teacher is good or bad. I am trying to help you figure out how to learn from anyone, good teachers or bad.

    It does not matter whether the teacher is good or bad. Your job is still to learn. What does it benefit you if you prove your point that you have a bad teacher?

    You cannot let yourself use that as an excuse not to learn. A wise student can learn, and will learn, from anyone. Your job is to control the things you can control, which is your response to having a bad teacher.

    So you have bad teacher, now what do you do? Whine about it, or figure out how to learn anyway?

    I am not saying this is easy, I could not do it myself as a grad student. But I did have a friend who could. Whenever I whined about the professor's attitude, he just ignored it and took the information from the professor the same as if it had been delivered politely.

    He learned a lot more than I did. If you are wise you will try to emulate my friend.
  24. Feb 2, 2012 #23
    I see your point and I apologise for misunderstanding. I agree there is nothing that can be done and so whinging achieves nothing, it is a matter of trying to figure out how to get something out of the class even if the professor is hopeless. Self learning unfortunately becomes the only alternative.
  25. Feb 2, 2012 #24
    Well I think it's still important to establish whether or not your teacher is worth something, to help the people who would have him the year after me.
  26. Feb 2, 2012 #25
    I have had a few professors with random mood swings, don't know why. It is as if they hate teaching new things to undergrads especially. It seems like a lot of them see undergrads as dimwits, and it is a waste to teach them, since most of them will fall out anyway.

    However, I think the worst is when a professor isn't prepared for his lecture. That's when you find the errors. Even if the lecturer knows just a little bit about the subject, if he prepared what he would put up on the board, then he would be miles better. That said, the best is still those that take passion in learning things to people and tries to make it as interesting as possible. Rather than just writing and saying the exact same thing he is writing on the board.

    Teaching and learning should be almost like an adventure, especially with science. You want to know where the new things will lead you in the future and for what it can be used for.

    If he tries to belittle everyone in the class, then he should go back to the military. He should actually be proud that people are willing to learn the things he likes. Would he rather have an empty class and teach his subject to the walls or to actual people that have the same interests.
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