Over the years, I have found out one thing about myself: My name is Amanda and I like academic torture and demanding professors. Well, to an extent. Today, on the blog I am going to share my tips for dealing with the demanding professors in your life. You are bound to have at least one or two. I am going to be sharing all of the tips and tricks I have for dealing with a demanding professor and actually utilizing them to push you to work harder.
1. Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover
The biggest thing I will say with demanding professors is don't judge a book by it's cover. The most demanding professors that I have come across have also been my biggest cheerleaders and advocates in other situations. They have helped me, they have pushed me to be a better version of myself, and they have helped me grow beyond my wildest dreams. While they are demanding, they are also very helpful to me. So, when you meet a demanding professor, they will probably seem very rude and stand-offish at first. You may even dislike them with ever fiber of your being at first. I have been there, but once you really get in the groove of things with your demanding professor, great things will start to happen.
2. Evaluate if the style works for you
Okay, going to be honest––demanding doesn't work for everyone. I am a horrible procrastinator and I like having a mix of demanding and not so demanding professors. Having one that really motivates me through demand, and one that motivates me but not necessarily through demand really works best for me now as a graduate student. Having that balance is really important, even if demanding professors work for you.
If you take a professor who is noted as demanding and realize that it puts you through too much stress, this may not be the best fit for you. Know that not all stress is bad stress. Obviously you don't want to be stressed 24/7, but if you just have a mild stress itch every blue moon, that is healthy.
3. Get ready To Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
They are demanding for a reason, so you will probably be working a lot. You need to understand how you best work so that you can accomplish all the things you need to accomplish. Here are some of my tips for working well.
Use your syllabus
Your syllabus is gold. In college most syllabi are super detailed and give you weekly breakdowns of the information happening in each class. Put all of that great information in your planner and break down the tasks. A 15-20 page paper sounds atrocious, but not when you break it down to a page every few days!
planners are friends, not food.
Your planner is your best friend. If you are looking for a planner check out this post by Kayla Blogs featuring all sorts of awesome planners. I personally use the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley to organize stuff for school (shout out to Darling's Fine Things in Newport, AR for sending that planner to me!) I write down every single thing I have due in my planner and I try to break it down so that it works best for me and I don't have a million assignments due in one day. Figuring out how to best break down your task will help you monumentally so that you aren't trying to do a million things in one day!
The pomodoro method
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog all about The Pomodoro Method. I am seriously obsessed with this method of studying and I think you will be too. You can check out that post here but if you have attention span problems like me you will love this method of studying and breaking down tasks.
The Pomodoro Technique works better if you are in an environment where you control the time. I use this in my graduate assistantship, within my studying time, and even when I am working on my blog. This method of studying and working is so efficient and helpful and gives me time to work on my selfies!
4. Make A Connection By Going To Office Hours
Going to the office hours of your professor will undoubtedly be a great help to you as you try to get to know them better and make those connections with them. Demanding professors usually have a reasoning behind why they are so demanding, and it's not usually that they want to make your life a living hell.
Professors are usually demanding because they care about their students and want them to succeed and get out of their academic comfort zone a little bit. From the student perspective, this is hard to tell, and I completely understand that. If you can make a connection with them past the classroom setting, this may really help you understand their reasoning a lot more.
So, go to their office hours with a couple questions, snoop around to see what kind of knick knacks and books they have in their office, make a connection about something you saw on their curriculum vitae or their research interests. Get to know them a little bit past the front they put on in front of the entire class.
5. Always Ask For/Utilize Feedback
Okay, one time in college I had a super difficult professor, one that I took a total of four different times, in four different semesters of my college career. Most of the time out of necessity because he was the only one teaching those courses that semester, but I actually began to like taking his classes after a while.
The first couple of classes I took with him, I didn't do as well as I could have. I ended up with a B in both of them. At the end of that last class though, I asked for feedback on a paper I had submitted that had received an A. It was a pretty lengthy paper (I remember it needing to be 10+ single spaced pages, which is honestly a lot, but I made it through!) All semester long I was just not getting past a B on the essay portions of the tests in those classes, so getting an A on the final paper was a shock to me. While I still ended up with a B in the class, I wanted to know what I did well in the final paper--so I sent an email and asked for some extra feedback.
Obviously, this is something you should be doing well before this time in the semester. If I could go back in time and take that class again with him, I definitely would have asked for feedback earlier so I could adjust how I worked in his class.
Ask for feedback, y'all. Not just on the big assignments, but on the small assignments, and the assignments you aren't sure will pan out.
Feedback is your friend!
6. Understand the difference between demanding and unbearable
Okay, the biggest thing you need to understand is that there is a difference between demanding and unbearable. You need to understand this difference and when your professor is asking for too much. You don't want a professor who demands so much of you that you are falling behind in your other classes or pulling constant all-nighters for your course.
TAKE A BREATHER
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to take a breather. If you are under a lot of pressure, don't let it build up, have a little bit of fun! Go for a walk, color in an adult coloring book or do a craft, go to the game on campus, or just chill out for a bit. Take sometime to yourself and replenish your fun meter. Don't get so wrapped up in your school work for a bit. Taking time to yourself is one of the best things you can do honestly. Don't let this demanding professor take over your entire life and drain it of fun.
Talk with your professor
Okay, let me tell you about academia, it can be a little gross sometimes. You want to make sure that you are as gracious as possible, even when it gets difficult, because trust me it will get difficult. Talking with your professor first can be nauseating, it can make you want to cry *in which case I highly encourage you to take a Beyoncé dance break*, and it can make you want to curl up into a little ball. If you have a problem with the amount of work though, talking with your professor first will always be your best course of action.
If you think talking to your professors by yourself sounds like a disaster and a horrible thing, get some backup from your classmates. Talk with the professor as a class instead of alone. Or gather a few good classmates and talk with them in their office hours. Solidarity is always helpful.
It's really hard to help when no one wants to say anything
What I have found out over the years is so simple--it is really hard to help when everyone complains to each other, but not to the professor. You can only get so far complaining amongst yourselves. Professors are not always great at picking up on all the hints you think you are dropping. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and fight for yourself.
you do have outside help
If talking to your professor is fruitless, sometimes you have to move up the chain of command a bit. If you know another professor in the department really well, you could potentially ask them what the best course of action would be. If not, ask your advisor; the chair of your department; or the undergraduate director for your department. Try to stay within the department as much as possible and then expand because things will go better that way.
I hope that you enjoyed today's talk about demanding professors and how to deal with them. Taking demanding professors definitely isn't for everyone, and you have to really think about if it will be right for you. Demanding professors can push you, but for some people that pushing is too much and creates a negative classroom experience. You need to find professors that help push you a little bit outside of your limits and enough to expand your way of thinking about your limits.