How to IMSA: Dealing with Bad Teachers

Bad teachers exist even at a nerd school like IMSA. (Source: Pixabay).

We’ve all had that one teacher. They don’t like you and you don’t like them – and on top of all that, you absolutely cannot understand their lectures. You frequently ask questions, but their responses only confuse you more. You go to them for help outside of class, to no avail.

But you still want a good grade in the class if at all possible.

We’ve have had our share of bad teachers, too. Here’s our advice on how to handle that teacher and (hopefully) make the best of what their course has to offer.

  1. Pay attention to class lectures. A frequent temptation is to think, “I don’t understand the lectures, hence I am justified in playing video games during class because I wouldn’t learn anything even if I did pay attention.” Bad line of thinking. Even if your teacher teaches terribly, it’s still worth your while to listen to their lectures. You might not understand everything – or anything. But just taking notes on the lectures (or writing down key terms, if you genuinely don’t understand) gives you a foundation to build from when you study the concepts on your own after class.
  2. Try to learn it yourself first, especially if you currently have zero understanding of the material. You might be tempted to seek help from others immediately, but you have to help yourself first. If you still don’t understand the topic after researching it yourself, then go to your peers. But try to develop the strongest possible understanding on your part before you reach out to others for help.
  3. If self-studying fails, get help from classmates. If a friend of yours understands the concept or is in a more advanced class than you are, then go to them for help. Most IMSA students are happy to help others. Not only do you get the help that you need, but you also make your tutor feel good that they were capable of helping someone else. But go to these people with specific questions if at all possible. Don’t say, “Hi, I need help. Explain the entire process of cellular respiration.” Ask, “What powers the third stage of cellular respiration?” Try to streamline the tutoring process.
  4. Get help from another teacher of the same subject. If you have a free mod on a given day, find another teacher in that subject who does know what they’re talking about. Go to that teacher for outside-of-class help on a regular (weekly) basis, or find out their study session schedule and ask them for help then. I started doing this in my second quarter, and I wish I’d started doing it earlier.
  5. Sit in on another teacher’s class. Keep in mind that very few people can actually do this. Few students have free mods that coincide exactly with a specific teacher’s class, and even fewer students can afford to spend those precious free mods sitting in on a class. But this is probably the best way to compensate for having a bad teacher.

But if all of this fails, cut your losses. There’s no point spending all of your time on a single subject while the rest of your grades suffer. Do the minimum amount of work needed to keep from failing the class, and make sure that your other classes aren’t being impacted by this one class taught by a bad teacher. This is called marginal improvement. If you spend 2 hours trying to teach yourself new concepts and your grade in the class doesn’t improve at all, then those 2 hours would be much better spent studying for a different subject that you can ace if you put enough time into it.

About the Author

Grace Yue
Grace Yue is a senior from Des Plaines. She's the Opinions section editor for the second year running, a resident of 03A-wing for the third year running, and an honorary resident of 06 for the third year running. Outside of Acronym, she participates in a research project at Fermilab, serves as 03 Head Tutor, and writes for the Korea Daily Chicago's Student Reporters Club.

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