Talking to a brand new prof College Life

Hello everyone:

I was chatting informally with a college student yesterday and she shared with me about her frustration with a brand new professor at her college. It was the first semester for both of them. The student was a freshman and her prof was a recently-graduated master’s degree recipient who had never taught anything before.

That was a recipe for disaster. The prof, not having a clue what to do, spent the entire semester reading the textbook to the students during class. Her exams were very picky, as she asked some of the most absurd questions. No one passed the exams, which led to the prof expressing her anger at the students she was attempting to teach. Not a good start for any of them.

What is a student to do? Well, understand where the prof is coming from. First, this person is most likely an adjunct. This means that the prof has no office, no desk, and no phone and is looked down upon by his or her full time colleagues. Second, this person obviously did not have a mentor to teach him or her the ropes on teaching in college. Third, this person may have only gotten assigned the class the week before the semester began. (I was hired for my first college faculty position on a Thursday. I was handed three different books for three different classes and told I would have three classes, beginning on Monday. Yes, less than a week later, I was expected to be the “sage on the stage.” I survived and so did my students. It wasn’t pretty.) Fourth, this person is horribly underpaid and has absolutely no benefits. Fifth, this person will be reminded of facts 1-4 every time a full timer comes in the room.

Now, those issues are not your fault, but there are some ways to work through this mess in such a way that you will both benefit from your time together. First, be very nice (not Eddie Haskell nice, but kind) to this person. Many adjuncts do what they do because they love teaching and helping students prosper. Second, make an appointment to talk with your professor. Be on time and take cookies. (I was serious about the first part of that last sentence and kidding about the second half.) [Note, however, that I am allergic to chocolate.]

Second, ask the professor how you can be better prepared for his or her class. This may include offering to give a presentation on an upcoming topic that you are very familiar with. (I once took a real estate course and had been a title insurance settlement agent for several years. I offered to teach the class on real estate closings. The professor, who was a very boring man, agreed and gave me the entire hour to make the presentation. He told the class that he “would correct anything she said that was wrong and summarize her comments when she is finished.” When my presentation was complete, he complimented me on what I had presented and told the class that class was dismissed for the night. He turned to me and said, “You just aced this course.”)

Third, be attentive and contribute to the class whenever you can. Do not correct the instructor but do add to the discussion he or she should be having. If you approach this nicely, you will have the gratitude of the prof, who may just be trying to fill time. It happens.

Was this your problem? Nope, it’s a problem that the college has. But you can work towards a viable solution that will help you pass the course. Then you can pray you won’t have the same prof again….


Dr. Sheri


Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

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