On every campus there are bound to be difficult professors and difficult students. A misunderstanding between the two can lead to uncomfortable situations in the classroom.

So how do you deal with these problems? Notes talked to both professors and students to tell us how they handle tough, tricky situations.

Difficult students

How exactly does a professor identify a difficult student? Sa'ad Asfour, professor of marketing and management at the
American University in Dubai, said: "Professors wish to carry out their professional responsibilities with diligence and be
as productive as possible. There are certain behaviours that intervene with the educational process and good class management that ranges from excessive lateness or absenteeism, diverted attention, feeling of entitlement, lack of preparation and participation, all the way to heckling and griping."

Dr Ebrahim Sadek, associate dean and professor of mathematics at the American University of Sharjah, said that "a difficult student is reflected in his/her behaviour. They insist on something, saying that they are always right even though they are far from right. They do not listen".

Skipping classes

Another factor that often strains student-professor interaction is the tendency of many students to skip classes.
Samar Saleh, a student studying mass communication at the American University of Sharjah, said: "If a course doesn't interest me, I don't excel in it. This is why at times my grades are not so good. Also maybe because I skip a lot of classes which I know is very bad."

This is the case for many students. Reem Mohammad, an architecture student at the American University of Sharjah, admits she is also guilty of this crime. "I try to attend all of my classes but sometimes I just get so bored and the easy way out is to skip.

But I don't think I am a difficult student. I mean I give in my work on time and complete all assigned tasks."
Not only do professors have a problem when they come across difficult students, but other students do as well. Mohammad said that she has met a couple of difficult students in some of her classes.

"These students expect a person to do all their work and in the end they want to receive all the credits. They pretend to be sick or busy, never attend any group meetings. I can't tolerate difficult students. I tend to report them to the professor.
This might teach them a lesson."

Dealing with the problem

Different professors have different methods of dealing with difficult students.

Asfour said, "We, as professionals, try to understand what might cause such behaviour, then generate solutions to the
problem. We need to separate the behaviour from the person.

Equally, we have to be able to stand back from our own feelings and accept that dealing with such problems is a normal part of the professors' role."

Asfour added: "Encouraging students to be better individuals, being clear about our expectations, praising hard work, and
leading by example are among the most powerful techniques we use."

Difficult professors

How do we define a difficult professor?

Most students who single out professors as difficult complain about the amount of work a professor gives.

But professors themselves apply different criteria.

"The old meaning was someone who gives tough exams," said Sa'ad Asfour, professor of marketing and management at the American University in Dubai.

"I feel those who are emotionally intelligent, positive, unbiased, creative and passionate about teaching and stimulate intellect can't be labelled as difficult. Difficult professors may be considered intimidating, boring, opinionated and hard to learn from."

What students think

"A difficult professor is someone who doesn't do his or her job properly. If they don't like you, then to them your work is
not efficient. Some factors like ethnicity influence this," said Samar Saleh, a mass communication student at the American University of Sharjah.

Amina Zia, a business student at the American University in Dubai, labelled a difficult professor as "someone who is too
precise about the layout of a subjective answer, or who overloads students with too much unnecessary work, who is stubborn about participation and attendance."

"I think I am a good student," continued Zia. "I study when I have to; I usually get the grades I deserve, and I help friends
in need. I also establish good relations with my professors."

Dealing with them

Zia said that if she comes across a difficult professor, she "just takes it easy and does what they expect".

However if the professor is too difficult to handle, she "drops the class and takes it with another professor".

Reem Mohammad, an architecture student at the American University of Sharjah, deals with them in a similar way.

"If I don't like the professor and think that his method of teaching is very difficult, I will take the same course with
another professor in the next semester. Otherwise, I would stay in the course and take notes from a friend who took the same course previously with a different professor."

"I try not to give professors anything to complain about. I do my work on time. My main aim is to pass and mainly I achieve that, no matter how difficult the professor is," said Saleh.

In conclusion, Professor Asfour said: "Teaching is about delivering a service and service quality outcome depends on the service provider, recipient and the environment. Any distraction in any of the three elements might enhance or ruin the service level; therefore, I believe professors, students and the universities shoulder the responsibility in making this

Tips on how to cope with difficult professors

"Be calm and don't get upset. If a student feels that he or she hasn't got the grade that they deserve, there are channels that they can go through to achieve fairness."
- Ebrahim Sadek, associate dean and professor of mathematics, American University of Sharjah (AUS)

"Support professors' arguments when they talk about difficult students' behaviour, demonstrate a constructive attitude,
play a role model and don't lose your cool."
- Sa'ad Asfour, professor of marketing and management, American University in Dubai (AUD)

"Actions speak louder than words. Do your work and do extra to prove yourself to the professor. Do it for yourself."
- Samar Saleh, mass communication, AUS

"Establish good relations with the professor, always ask for their help whenever you need it, attend all classes to make sure you get exactly what they expect from you."
- Amina Zia, business student, AUD

The writer is a student at the American University of Sharjah