Lessons Learned from the Most Challenging Professor I Have Had

Sometimes, the people that provide us the biggest challenges also teach us the most.

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In life, it’s often the people that challenge you the most that teach you the most about yourself and the world. In my 2 years of college, I have had many different professors but there is one that sticks out as the most difficult.

It was my first semester of college. I was just getting my feet wet in college life and one of my courses for the semester was an introductory composition class. I was never the best writer in high school, but I expected the class to be fairly easy. After all, it was just writing. Not advanced math or sciences. Not something that should be hard to understand. Looking back, however, I can find a few important lessons hidden within the course.

1. Do the Work

The biggest lesson I took from the class was to do the work. In terms of writing, that was the most nightly homework I have had for a class. Each night, I went over different grammar rules and worked through a few worksheets, along with any reading that had to be done. As much as those grammar packets frustrated me at times, I did begin to feel more comfortable in my understanding of grammar.

The nightly homework was rarely something I looked forward to doing, but it did allow me to improve my writing. Up to that point, I understood some of the importance of hard work, but writing felt more subjective than skilled. The course gave me a little more appreciation for the skills that great writers have and how much work they did to master those abilities. As much as I would like to believe Stephen King is naturally more creative than I am, his books are more likely a result of all the writing and stories he has created before. He can create such captivating stories because he has been crafting stories day-after-day for decades.

2. I Have a Drive to Meet My Status Quo

This professor was the hardest grader I have ever had. The majority of our grade for the course was based on three different papers we had to write over the semester. We wrote the paper and handed it in, he would tell us what grade we would have gotten and gave us tips for improving it, then we had the rest of the semester to revise it. For all three papers, my initial grade ended up being between a C- and C+. This was lower than anything I was used to. I couldn’t imagine getting a C in the class. As a result, I worked harder on those papers than any other paper I have written.

If the original grades had been better, I don’t think I would have worked nearly as hard on those papers. I had a belief that I was an A or high B student, and I did a lot of revising in hopes of maintaining that self-perception.

In most classes, I spend more time on the subjects I’m struggling with than I do focusing on the subjects I feel more comfortable with. While it isn’t a conscious process, my effort is controlled by my standards. I do a lot to meet those standards, but I don’t try nearly as hard to surpass those standards.

3. You Won’t Always Please People

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things just don’t work out how you hoped they would. I wrote the best essays I thought I could. I was happy with how they turned out. My grade for the class ended up being a B. I certainly wish it had been higher, but you don’t always get what you wish for. People aren’t always impressed or happy with your work. It stinks, but it happens.

My professor had higher standards than any professor I had before and I didn’t know how to effectively meet those standards. It was definitely a surprise and a source of frustration many times during that semester, but it did force me to create what I believe were the best essays I had written up to that point. I look back now and I’m glad for that experience.

4. Maybe We Should Do More to Honor the C Students

As a society, we tend to praise and honor the A students. It’s like we value them more inside and outside of school. They get all the scholarships, internships, and are seen as the future leaders of society. Most importantly, we assume they get better grades because they work harder than everyone else. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true.

I was one of those people that flew through high school with minimal effort. The classes just came to me easier than others and 15–30 minutes of study was usually enough. I didn’t have to spend hours on homework like some did. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good students who do work really hard. I just think we overlook those people that work for hours each day just to pass a course. They’re showing work ethic and resilience equal to that of many A students. Yet, their efforts are often devalued when we assume they just don’t care as much about school.

That composition class was the first class I worked hard to get a better grade in. It gave me a newfound appreciation for those that work hard every day even though they may not be getting great results. There are so many people giving it there all, but still struggling do to a mixture of internal and external factors.


I believe struggle is the biggest cause of growth. People must be challenged to see what they are capable of. Even though that means some difficult moments along the way. Whether or not it was intentional, this professor showed me how that idea can play out in a classroom. There were many days I didn’t want to deal with the challenges, but I eventually started to figure some of them out. I became a more knowledgeable writer and student as a result.

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