professor at lectern

Naughty or Nerdy: The 12 Types of Professors You Will Meet in College

From the Iron Fist to the Hot One, professors can be the best and worst part of the college experience.
October 28, 2019
14 mins read

Whether admired, tolerated or loathed by their students, professors are the most vital component of educational institutions everywhere. Professors characterize the college experience, teach through their personality and do so much more than just fulfill their role as facilitators of learning; for better or worse, they break up students’ study daze with some much-needed humanity.

With that being said, here are 12 types of professors that you will likely encounter over the span of your college career.

1. The “Hip” Professor

Existing somewhere between an authority figure and a friend, this professor desperately wants to be liked. They will make lighthearted fun of you, but not necessarily do it well; they will likely reference current pop culture but will not accomplish that either. Expect to see this professor wear their Halloween costume to class for laughs.

This instructor is either a newer staff member in the midst of an awkward growing phase or an older, experienced facilitator who prides themselves on their endearing commitment and cringe-inducing humor. Either way, you’ll probably decide you that like this prof.

2. The Rebel

The Rebel instructor bites their tongue lest they admit that they think their employer is a scammer. They are here because their anti-establishment principles are not enough to override the need for a salary.

The Rebel, for the most part, loves teaching, still enjoys molding young minds and loves a healthy debate. Nevertheless, they will remind you each time that you pass back an assignment that they think that the grading system is an incomplete representation of someone’s intelligence.

Taking a class with the Rebel will also teach you how to get the cheapest textbooks — “You just need one textbook, not even the latest one, so load up your library print card, then copy and print what you need from the one book” — and you might even meet for office hours in a local pub.

3. The Lovable Professor

This professor is always happy to be in class (even at eight in the morning). They believe in you, and if you are struggling in the course, the Lovable Professor wants to know if there is anything they can do to help.

Jovial, patient and kind (picture Santa or Mrs. Claus), this instructor will remind you to work hard, but also that failure is a necessary step to success. This professor does not just take the form of jolly older individuals but also takes shape in the bright-eyed newbie. This professor knows better than to reveal too much personal information, but just enough to make a classwide announcement that they have a grandchild on the way.

4. The Iron Fist

If you’re picking up on some serious Professor McGonagall from Hogwarts vibes, do not be late to the Iron Fist’s class; the loss in participation marks might tank your grade and the intimidating silence as you walk into lecture, followed by that unforgiving click of the door closing behind you, will crush your spirits. Iron Fists dispense looks of disdain and sharp remarks without thinking twice.

Oh, and this instructor always uses Ms. or Mr. Last Name when shaming students. “Ms. Carson, I sure hope that your work ethic is more impressive than your punctuality. Be early, not just barely on time for class.” The Iron Fist instills more educational PTSD in students than failed exams. Pass the Ativan and get ready to read her critiques and corrections of your latest paper.

5. The Young One

Sitting on the cusp of 30, but probably still in their 20s, the Young One talks to you like they are actually interested in your life, but not in a desperate way like the Hip Professor does. Occasionally, the Young One tells a personal, yet slightly watered-down college party story. They’re you, an everyday college student, but better. These professors know their way around Instagram, enjoy visiting arcade bars and still argue with their parents about their path in life. Yet, they are also calmer, better dressed, know what their credit score is and have less weekend alcohol stuck sloshing around in their bloodstream. Young Ones might still be imperfect teachers, but they’ll share their latest adulthood misstep in order to earn your attention, and it works every time.

6. The Naughty Professor

Even though this professor does everything in their power to hide it, it’s obvious, right?

By trying to avoid giving this one student too much attention, this professor draws everyone’s attention to their interactions. Plus, it always looks like they give themselves pep talks before they enter the classroom, breathing heavily and unsuccessfully trying to keep cool. And, to make matters worse, the fact that it seems like they are trying not to flirt with the student makes it look like they are trying to flirt.

The verdict? They are totally banging.

They must be, or at the very least, there is some inappropriate tension at play. Keep an eye out for quick glances, hair twirling and eye dodging. Furthermore, the object of this professor’s affection always looks suspiciously good in this class — at eight in the morning! Who has the time to curl their hair before class? Everyone will catch on eventually. This professor provides a non-academic distraction to the learning environment, but also front row seats to this inevitable train wreck are always entertaining.

7. The Ultimate Nerd

Equipped with multiple degrees and boundless knowledge, The Ultimate Nerd’s sole desire in life was to earn a Ph.D. This professor either shrugs off their “nerd” term or fully embraces it. Ultimate Nerds are not just passionate about their field, they have successfully mastered it. Picture Ross Gellar from “Friends,” but more approachable and not widely disliked.

In addition, the Ultimate Nerd cannot help but try to get students as ecstatic about their field even though this tactic almost never works. Interestingly, this professor will probably be in a super cute relationship with another instructor from a different department who is equally invested in their craft. Ultimate Nerds might lack social skills, but their passion and knowledge are admirable and endearing; you’ll enjoy their classes even if it is a prerequisite.

8. The Professor That Teaches You Nothing

These professors try, but their classes are too long and too boring and arrive prepackaged with the most monotone voices you’ve ever heard. You know they’re saying words, but you struggle to connect words to piece together a cohesive sentence. You contemplate your entire existence, question how long you’ll need to study just to pass the course and then spend the remainder of your time investing hours into another course you actually understand. Or, you take a nap.

To be fair, you’ll want to like this professor — they really are harmless — but you won’t feel much of anything in their class; no inspiration, no questions and no answers. Sadly, this professor will never realize that their course has transformed into a playground for daydreaming. For example, a question that you might ask yourself during a class is, since Canadians call one goose and one moose a goose and moose respectively, and a flock of more than one goose is referred to as geese, why is more than one moose in a group not referred to as a herd of meese? I don’t understand. I…demand…an…answer…zzzzzzzz.

9. The Chill One

The Chill One is easy to describe. These professors might not always cancel class, but they’re often late, openly admit they made mistakes on the syllabus, rearrange assignments, give out more time for deadlines, don’t require doctor’s notes and always earn recommendations from students. Easy. If you endured your fair share of Iron Fists, give yourself a break and sign up for a course with a Chill One.

10. The Pretentious Professor

As visionaries, artists and geniuses, professors that fit into this category will dedicate most of their time to finishing their book and anticipating the announcement of the breakthrough that will let them leave teaching behind forever.

Pretentious Professors frequently promote their books and side gigs, skew their academic lectures to discuss a topic barely related to their own work and behave like teaching this class is easy, but skim over important details needed for exams. Don’t expect them to remind you of upcoming readings and assignments either. Above all else, Pretentious Professors think that they are cooler than longtime tenure instructors who “never really went anywhere.”

11. The Hot One

On the rare occasion that you find a professor under the age of 40 with a nice haircut who wears minimal tweed, you’ll immediately recognize this teacher as a Hot One. Maybe it’s because they’re naturally charming and funny (Hot Ones often cross over with Chill Ones), or maybe it is just all part of the teacher-student fantasy, but you will find yourself counting down the minutes to office hours.

The best part? The Hot One’s desirability is only enhanced by the fact that they do not know how hot they are. They are never inappropriate, and you will spend every waking hour trying to discover if the Hot One is single, and trust me, you will try to find out (“I have to go get dinner with my parents. Crazy that they are still married, right? What about…are you…umm…dinners with…family?”).

12. The Veteran

The Veteran’s expertise in their field is intimidating. Time has been both a friend and a foe, and Veterans are characterized by their superiority and inferiority. Their era of knowledge, effectiveness and relatability has long passed, and, despite their expertise, their teaching methods are frustratingly outdated.

When they do succumb to the pressure to use technology in class, Veterans will struggle when trying to set up until a student does it for them; more often than not, this student is the front row keener aiming for a Ph.D. in the same field.

Nevertheless, college students make for a scary resting-grump-face clique. I can clearly imagine each type of professor sitting together at a table for lunch, gossiping about the rumor of the Naughty Professor sleeping with a student as the Lovable One talks to the Iron Fist, but Pretentious Professor keeps trying to change the subject. In the meantime, the Cool One and the Hot One might be gossiping together while the Young One sits alone.

All jokes aside, always remember that every type of professor works hard to help students succeed, and even though college students do not like to admit it, professors know more than they do. Teaching is far from easy, and those in the world of academe deserve our respect.

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