We’ve all had that professor. You know, the one that seems to purposely give you bad grades and leave their smile in the office. They must be having a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad year. But before you go blaming every mark-off on a spiteful prof, think about yourself for a moment. In your eyes, you are the spitting image of a perfect student. Let reality sink in. Maybe there are some things you aren’t doing right.
1. don’t take the easy way
It almost seems too obvious, but laziness is incredibly contagious. Try to break the mold. “I’ve had students take on topics that seem boring,” said Ohio University journalism professor Jeremy Saks, “but they are part of the daily job routine of a journalist.” A little successful boredom now can lead to frickin’ awesome opportunities. “I’ve had one student that was able to go up in a plane and get aerial shots of the campus,” he said. And who knows? Breaking the mold may also get you a letter of rec down the line.
2. lose the paranoia
Professors are not out to get you. “I am not vindictive,” said Ohio University journalism professor Eddith Dashiell. “I always try to treat all students the same. I strive to give the same quality advising and provide a challenging.” Unless you’re acting like the Animal House’s toga master, you can relax.
3. if you’re introverted, don’t worry
Introversion is not a bad thing. In fact, a lot of professors can empathize. “When I was in undergrad, there was a professor that I had four times,” Saks said. “And even though I hardly talked, we still were able to build a strong relationship where at the end of my undergrad, he said, ‘Of the people I’ve taught over the years, there are really only a few that I want to keep in touch with after they graduate, and you’re one of those people.’” So leave the nervousness at the door. Your A worthy work will do the speaking for you.
4. don’t suck up
Students, leave your cheesy compliments at home. “Don’t try to butter up your professor with compliments when you haven’t come to class or turned anything in,” said Ohio University creative writing professor Margaret Messitt. “It doesn’t work, or shouldn’t work, and it only emphasizes all that is lacking.”
5. don’t expect anything
News flash: being a teacher’s pet won’t magically change your grade from a C to an A. “My personal opinions of students , if I have them, have no bearing on how I conduct discussions, make assignments or determine grades; such opinions do not enter into the class at all,” said Ohio University philosophy professor Jeremy Morris.
6. do your assignments
What’s that? You didn’t read last night’s homework? Good luck BSing that. “Don’t pretend to have read the material and then talk anyway,” said Ohio University English professor James Miranda. “Don’t fake it. I always know.”
7. be thankful
“A student brought me flowers after I helped her with a difficult advising situation that would have delayed her graduation,” Dashiell said. You don’t have to go as far as that, but not thanking your professor for their help is like “forgetting” to tip. No funds for flowers? Go for the traditional thank you letter. It’s win-win either way.
8. be extravagant
Come on, students. Let your true colors shine. Do extra research; go to those after-class seminars; write a book. “I’ve had students send me entire novels that they’ve written (not as part of my syllabus, but purely for the love of the writing),” Miranda said. “It’s time-consuming [to review], but it’s exciting at the same time.”
9. but not too extravagant
“I once had a student send a giant goldfish-bowl pina colada complete with colorful umbrella and ring of pineapple to my table after running into me at a restaurant,” Miranda said. “For any of my students reading this: steer clear of the frozen drinks in the future; a hello is fine, or a beer.”
10. don’t punch your professor’s door
Dashiell said it best: “There was this student that would always groan after getting his assignments back. He always acted like it was the worst grade he ever had even though he would get 9 out of 10’s. We talked later in my office about this and just before he’s about to leave, he takes his fist and rams it into the side of the door. I looked at him like he had lost his mind. I wasn’t scared, but I was thinking, ‘That had to hurt.’”