Knowing your limits: why I chose to drop a class and spare myself further misery

Posted: October 19, 2010 in School Daze
Tags: , ,

I’m a terrible blogger this semester. To be fair though, this has been a killer one so far.  So I feel like I need to catch up on all the things I’ve been doing so far since class resumed in August.

First things first.  I’ve officially run into a professor that I despise.  In the past, I’ve only had one awful professor that made me want to run away screaming, but it wasn’t the result of a personality conflict like the most recent one.  It occurred to me that I should tell that story as an example to others who might run into this kind of problem with a professor and have the same kind of issues I did with what to do about it.

My Senior Seminar course, called Theories of Culture, is required for graduation in the Anthropology Department.  I signed up for this class back in March, thinking I’d be able to get the remaining three requirements finished by the end of this semester, which would leave me with only elective choices until graduation.  From the first day of class, I knew that I was not going to like this man.  It was a case of instant dislike; he came into the room and started barking orders like we were so many poodles to jump through his hoops. And the hoops kept coming.  There was only one exam the entire semester, scheduled for the very beginning, followed by 2 papers and a group project.  Sounds easy enough.  However, his policies were quite terrible.  I realize this is a weed out class, and for those of you who don’t know what that is let me explain:  a weed-out course is one in the major where they get rid of all but the most dedicated people and those who chose the field on a whim (that doesn’t happen often with Anthropology. People in Anthro know what kind of work it entails typically and they drop out of the major LONG before senior year).  It is intentionally difficult and has a mandatory requirement policy usually.  But, I loathed this man.  Everything he said or did just irritated me. And he was very unreasonable to boot.  He accepted something late, but every day we were late was 5 points off.  Considering we only have class tuesday and thursday, if you missed turning it in on thursday, you would lose 20 points.  And if it were a holiday, you’d lose even more.

There’s always more.  There was a required attendance policy (something I’ve never had in any of my classes).  If you missed 3 days without a doctors note, you lost an entire letter grade.  Then he started changing the requirements for the papers.  First, we could choose anyone up to the exam, then, with two weeks until the paper was due, he changed the rules again, eliminating anyone who had not done fieldwork.  We knew nothing about the exam. He never reviewed, he never even mentioned it.  He posted online: Exam Thursday.  That was all.

For the first time since I’ve been back in school (almost 4 years) I failed an exam.  I studied for 4 days all the concepts and theories that we had covered in class and I still failed.  He tore my answers to his questions up, piece by piece, telling me I should have elaborated this (-2 points), I was too wordy with that (-2 points), I missed the point here (-4 points).  All those deductions left me with a nice, fat 62%.  Did I mention the test was only 50 points?  75% of my class failed that exam.  That’s 30 people out of 40.

I freaked the hell out. I had not failed anything since high school.  I took it personally, which in retrospect, was probably a good idea after all.

Around this same time I started getting backaches.  Now, I’d been having a problem with my left leg hurting for a couple of months, but it wasn’t a constant pain.  It would sometimes wake me up at night burning, which is a very strange feeling.  I thought nothing of it, so I never mentioned it to my doctor, who I had seen twice before.   The backaches though were starting to really aggravate me.  They started happening in the afternoons when I was driving home from class.  Then my leg started to hurt while my back was hurting in the car.  Then, it started happening before I even got to school, on the way there. Then during class.  It started to be increasingly difficult to sit down for very long.

I made myself visit my doctor, who tortured me with range of motion tests before pronouncing me to have a bulging disc, and as a side note, my hip is slightly crooked.  The leg pain was sciatica (not fun – it can hurt like hell), the bulging disc was the culprit. He gave me muscle relaxers and a mild pain killer, coupled with a steroid to reduce swelling.  He ordered me to return in a week.

Meanwhile, I’m hating my professor.  The test results came back and I had failed.  So, because there was only one exam in that class, that immediately barred me from getting an A.  All 30 of us.  Between constant backaches and leg pain, followed by an insufferable professor who failed most of us, I was in a terrible mood. His class was beginning to give me anxiety attacks.  I’m overly proud of my very nice GPA and was horrified of getting at best a B in a class in my major.  That would have totally screwed my GPA, and I likely would have lost the chance to graduate with honors.  I started toying with the idea that I would drop the class, but ultimately, that started to make me even crazier.

My advice? If you hate that professor, and even though it’s a required course, drop that shit like yesterday’s trash.  You can always retake it later (I will take it with a different person in the spring most likely).  I finally made myself drop it.  I don’t let professors beat me usually, and I don’t think this is a case of being defeated.  I just chose to not deal with his stupid shit in addition to the mess that is currently unfolding in my life.

I returned to my doctor a week later, still having pain and discovering that prednisone makes me into some kind of lesser Demon.  And I mean that. I was intensely cranky and unpleasant during the 6 days I was taking it.  I wanted to bite people. I screamed at people in traffic.  I wanted to set a professor on fire.  He sent me for an MRI, and told me: if it’s herniated you are going to surgery.  The hell I am not.

The MRI results showed that I didn’t have a bulging disc; I had several.  Three, to be precise.  So, that explained why I was constantly hurting and those shitty painkillers weren’t working.  The culprit does in fact appear to be my crooked hip.  Bulging discs don’t come on suddenly, they develop over time.  I seem to recall the chiropractor telling me that 15 years ago when I had a car wreck that my crooked hip would cause back problems.  I think I chose to ignore him.

So now, I’m going to see a specialist.  The problem is, it will take 3 weeks at least to get in.  So I get 3 more weeks of pain before I can be treated.  My regular doctor took pity on me and upped my pain medication’s strength.  I spent part of the day yesterday agonizing over the decision of whether or not to go to class. I decided to stay put, since I can’t sit for 3 hours, and the harridan that teaches statistics won’t give us breaks.  Additionally, that would have meant an hour in the car, which I think is a device made solely to torture me at this point.  Even  my 10 minute drive to the pharmacy last night to get the new painkiller was horrible. I stand behind my decision: I do not want to suffer further.  I will return back to school this Thursday (I have to, we have reviews for next weeks exams) and survive the best I can until i can see the specialist. I just needed a day or two to give my back a rest.

I just realized that if I turned my stats professor into a post, it’d probably be as long as this one. That’s a whole story unto itself.

I hate statistics.


  1. April Snider says:

    I agree with ya Kev, I am too damn old to be treated like a naughty child because my prof. has an ego complex the size of texas.

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