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I'm 27, and currently in my first year and first semester at a community college, fully online. The professor in one of my classes has, on multiple occasions, made mistakes in regards to grading or feedback, and each time I have emailed him about it. Twice he has made right on the issues, but I don't get the vibe that he is happy about it. I believe the problem is that he is using material from a different professor, and his expectations do not align with the instructions from the other professor. He will mark down for doing something the wrong way, while the material itself states to do it that way. Or mark down for not doing some specific "stated instructions", when those instructions are nowhere to be found. There just seems to be a complete disconnect between him and his own assignments, obviously because they are not his (they have a different professor's name on them). It just happened again on an important assignment, and I sent a relatively long email asking for clarification. It's only a small difference in the grade, but at this point it's the principle more than anything. He has yet to respond and I'm over thinking myself a bit. I feel like im the crazy one, even though I scoured the hell out of all the instructions before sending.

In this email I responded directly to his feedback and mentioned not seeing those instructions anywhere, stated my reasoning for doing what I did (or didn't do), and ask for clarification. I did my best to give him the benefit of the doubt and stay on neutral footing, but I feel like my frustrations might be starting to show in the email. It's still professionally written and calm, but I can feel my tone of irritation within it. More so, I really just dont like getting on people's bad side, especially my professor, and Im worried these emails will do just that.

Am I crazy? Does this happen a lot? Do professors copy other professors assignments? Am i sending too many emails? I really don't want to be that guy, pissing off my professors throughout my college career...

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Sounds like a lazy instructor. Not so unusual, unfortunately; many (not all) community college instructors do not have a permanent position and get paid only a few thousand dollars per course, and so they may have to teach many courses just to get by, which often results in rather poor teaching quality. Since you are still in your first semester, you may want to find out whether such poor quality is normal for your institution, and if so, consider other institutions.

In any case: if you have questions or concerns about grading, it is altogether reasonable to ask about them. It's true that some instructors may respond poorly to this, but that is not on you.

I sent a relatively long email...it's the principle more than anything.

I would tread carefully here. Many students think they could do a better job teaching than the instructor, and in some cases they are right. But sending lengthy e-mails to argue about negligible points and make unsolicited suggestions for improvements may not a productive use of your time, and it will certainly alienate the instructors. Instead, I recommend sending extremely short, clear e-mails. For example: "Dear professor: I noticed that I lost 10% because I didn't follow the 'stated instructions'. Could you clarify where those instructions were? I spent considerable time looking for them and could not find them. Thanks, -Name." Anyone who would be annoyed by a concise, reasonable request like this is themselves unreasonable.

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  • Thank you for the response. That sounds like a good plan, sticking to shorter emails. I said long, but it was nothing crazy, about 250 words. I didn't try to teach for him or correct him, nor make any suggestions. Essentially, the email can be boiled down into two paragraphs each with this format: " I noticed so and so markdown. I did this because ___ reason/the instructions said ___. Was I incorrect? I may have missed something. Thank you. " Tried to remain respectful and give the benefit of the doubt, but It was done in a rather long winded/detailed way. Trying to cover all my bases
    – LiPoc
    Jul 8 at 7:17
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Almost like you, I got into college very late in my life... I started in a community college and made it all the way to a top Ph.D. program. I came with a baggage of industry experience where adults dealt with adults. In college, however, most of the time it is one adult (instructor) and a bunch of young minds (students) who most of the time silently accept any kind of treatment and style of teaching.

Once, I was in class with another dude who was even older than me. I could see him often clash with an instructor. Often the dude was completely right and most of his clashes resulted in improved policies and a better learning experience for everyone in the class. Older students, especially those who pay from their own pocket and not with their parents' money tend to voice concerns more often because they look at school from a very different and mature perspective. I also have to emphasize that the dude was also an experienced student! He was a 3rd-year undergrad with GPA of 4+. So whenever he got involved in a polite argument he knew the rules of the game.

It is clear that you do care about your success. However, it is only your first semester. This means you still don't know all the rules of the game and still figuring out what constitutes a good assignment or well-written argument. It is possible you are overcomplicating things and just annoying your instructor. Give yourself some time and try to avoid arguing with instructors.

Also, try to understand how your peers are dealing with this issue. Do they get their work right despite instructional inconsistencies? Or do they suffer from the same problem? If your answer is "yes" to the latter, then it is not your problem anymore. It is the instructor's problem. Leave it be and just try to keep up with other hard-working students.

Regarding reused lecture notes: This is unfortunately very common and I dealt with that in my grad school (at a university not community college!). While it does signal some level of laziness it is also an attempt to not do the same work twice. Often lecture notes by well-established professors get reused by younger professors. There are many reasons for that.

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  • I can only be certain on two occasions that his error affected the rest of the class. On the first, he essentially told me that I didn't read instructions properly and half the class didn't as well, then proceeded to quietly fix the grade later on. On another occasion he admitted the mistake and made a statement. They are again pretty minor mistakes, but I feel compelled to say something each time, especially if they are for points. Don't think I could bring myself to ignore them and just keep my head down, and this is bound to keep happening throughout the semester. Thanks for responding!
    – LiPoc
    Jul 8 at 8:03

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