Confessions of a 30-Year-Old Sophomore: Professor Harridan

# Confessions of a 30-Year-Old Sophomore: Professor Harridan

Brace yourself, this is a long one.  I need to write to get this off of my chest.

The semester is still young, yet I already have run into major issues. I have two classes, Chem II and Pre-Calculus.  Chem is a known quantity (same bat-Prof, same bat-time) but PreCalc is a new situation for me.  I’ve never attempted any kind of math like this, but I felt confident after finding out that the A I got in College Algebra doesn’t stand for “abysmal”.  PreCalc is a necessity for damn near every degree that I could possibly hope to get and isn’t even close to the level of math that I’d need for either a degree or the prerequisites for the program that I’m hoping to get into (a year of Calc and a year of Stats are required for that, not to mention that the Physics pre-requisite has to be calculus-based). From the second that I got into my PreCalc class, I felt a little bit uneasy.  The professor (who I shall refer to as Professor Harridan) explained that she’s got her JD and maintains an active membership in the State Bar, but she prefers teaching math.  She’s from New York and I noticed immediately what I consider to be a stereotypical New York attitude- she’s loud, she’s in-your-face, and she’s not particularly nice.  (Disclaimer: I’ve met plenty of people from NY who are nice, low-key, and stuff.  Remember, stereotype.) She spoke long and loud about how homework must be done, study must happen, and gave plenty of warnings about how if you don’t do your work, you should DROP THIS CLASS.  I wasn’t sure if she was just trying to drum out the slackers or not, so I continued. Class two happened and I immediately noticed a few things.

1. She’s a fast-talker.  REALLY fast.
2. She shows many, many ways to solve problems.  While this is good for some people, I’d rather learn ONE way to solve a problem and learn it really, really well.
3. She hates technology.  I understand her ban on laptops (I usually take my notes in Microsoft OneNote because it’s easy to use, I type more quickly than I write, and I’ve got my stuff on me at all times since it’s saved to The Cloud™— she immediately put the kibosh on that), but then she got on me for my choice of calculator.Our syllabus (and, indeed, the standard rules for all Math and Science classes at my school) clearly states that we can use any calculator that we want so long as it isn’t capable of automatically solving symbolic algebra.  Specifically banned are the TI-89, 92, and Voyager 2000.  I use the standard, non-CAS version of the TI-NSpire, which was meant to be TI’s successor to the 82-83-84 series.  It uses a GUI and has a few extra features (It can handle logarithms with bases other than 10 or e! It has a bigger screen! It lets you do 3D graphing!) but basically the same functions.  My other professors (science and math) have had no issues with this when I explained that to them.  Not Professor Harridan.  She said that she doesn’t want me using it and that I need to use a TI-84.  Luckily for me, one of the cool features of that device is that it can be converted to an 84 with a special keypad, otherwise, I’d be shit out of luck.
4. Even though this is an 8:00 class, we’re expected to be there by 7:45- at least.  I got in at 7:50 and she had already started discussing the lesson.

My wife, being the person with great foresight that she is, suggested repeatedly that I drop the class and find someone else.  I resisted, because RateMyProfessors had shitty ratings for the other person teaching the course, and Professor Harridan had 4 out of 5 in all of the categories.  I thought that I surely just got off on the wrong foot with her… so I continued.  Yesterday was the final day of Add/Drop. It passed, despite my wife’s final suggestion that I go for the other professor. This morning’s class was not a good one.  I had finished my homework on MyMathLab (which is another thing that grinds my gears, but that’s a post for another day) needing minimal assistance from the software (and my wife) to finish it.  I was feelin’ OK, since this is stuff that is technically review (but I still struggled with- fractions within fractions and factoring are two of the things that I can’t get to gel in my mind).  I signed the roll sheet, sat down, and was told to form a group.  We were given four problems— stuff like this:

$\frac{x}{5x^2+7x+18}=\frac{x}{x^2+3x-21}-\frac{x}{-9x^2+7x-22}$

and were told that we had 15 minutes to solve this.  I can handle questions like that (as can the rest of my group, I know)… but it’s going to take me a while, and I know this.  I let my other group members know this, and said that I’ll do whatever I can (maybe start the other equations) but I’m slow and will probably need help.  They were fine with that.  Professor Harridan was not.  She stalked through the class, proclaiming loudly that it was “obvious that none of us had done any studying or homework” (wrong), that “most of us were guaranteed to fail her class”, and that “we must be kidding if we ever think that we’ll be doctors, or scientists, or anything like that” and that even if we DID pass her class, the rest of the school of Science would “drop us like a hot potato”.  She grabbed my paper (before time was up), looked at it, proclaimed loud enough for the entire class that I was wrong, and said that “I must be stupid”.  She then (after snatching up all of the papers) spent another few minutes berating us, saying that “this is Math 99 stuff, if you can’t get this, should you even be in college at all?” and things like that.  Fun times, right?

I realize that I’m not great at Math. It’s something that I have come to accept, and I know that it’s going to be a long, grueling uphill climb for me.  I know that I’m going to be relentlessly bugging my wife for her help on questions when I’m working at home, and that I’m going to have to study my balls off for the tests and weekly quizzes that we’ll be given.  I don’t, however, need to be publicly shamed; I already don’t think that I’m any good at math.  Having an authority figure who, mind you, MY TUITION IS PAYING FOR, reinforce this fact by berating me and calling me stupid is NOT OK WITH ME.  If I wanted to feel inadequate, depressed, and self-harmy, I’d talk about my weight with my mother. Why Professor Harridan could have done something constructive- like saying “OK, this is wrong, let me help you with this” or even quietly saying “Meet with me before class on Friday and we can look at this, you need to do some more work here.”  I can handle that.   I would, obviously, still be disappointed in my lack of skill, but that’s me.  Instead, my mind is alternating between BEZERKER RAGE! and “GIVE UP, FIND A HOLE TO CRAWL INTO, AND DIE” mode.  It took an enormous amount of restraint to bite my lip and not let hot tears of shameanger stream down my face.  The only math that I could think of was what’s shown on drop tables from state governments based on my height and weight (the drop would be 5′, for those counting).

I survived the rest of class (we moved onto something that I’m not terrible at, word problems and the equations formed to solve them) but had to immediately leave.  One of my fellow students talked me down as I left and agreed that what Professor Harridan did was no bueno.  As I headed to the parking lot, another student (the older guy from either Laos or Cambodia, I can’t remember which) approached me and said that he was upset and angry with how he was treated. I was in a bad enough state that (rather than going to the library to study/kill time before having to leave for work) that I had to go home, wake up my wife, and talk to her about everything that went down.  I need to get my oil changed, but I didn’t want to break down in front of some poor mechanic because I’ve basically been told that my hope at getting out of the hole that I’m in is useless.

My wife provided hugs, confirmation that what Professor Harridan did was wrong-wrong-wrong-wrong, and discussed talking to someone at the school about what happened.  The worst part here is that Add/Drop passed yesterday, so I can’t withdraw without my transcript showing a big ‘ol W… and I can’t get into another class to keep my enrolled credit hour level above what I need to keep on getting my Stafford.  My best hope was to talk to someone at the school and figure out a way to get into another class (or at least have the issue addressed in some way, shape, or form).

I searched my school’s website and the closest thing I could find for a good number to contact was the Registrar’s office.  I was promptly told that I would need to speak to the Dean of the particular school in question (In this case, STEM).  I was transferred to a person who I was told was the Dean, but (I later found out) that it was someone else entirely.  My story met with disbelief, I was told that Professor Harridan “doesn’t act like that” and is “really nice”, and that for a problem like that I would have to speak with her directly.  I said that I don’t feel comfortable doing that, particularly after I was called out in front of everyone.  I was told that only after speaking with her if there was no resolution I could e-mail the Advising Committee and that “it would get into the right hands”.  I asked if there was, because there has been a CLEAR breach of the list of Student Rights (and, honestly, if I want to lay it all out on the table, a threat of being failed), there was a chance that I could be removed from that class.  I was again told that I would need to speak with Professor Harridan and/or send an e-mail to the Advising Committee.  So basically, I’ve been told to cram it up my ass, because I’m a lying liar who lies all the time.

At this point, I’m wondering if it’s even worth it to keep going on.

TL;DR: Professor shames me in front of entire class, tells us all we’ll fail, School Admin refuses to do anything about it.