A statistics prof at a large state school sends along this helpful FAQ.
Q: My TA can't speak English.
A: Before graduate students become TAs, they are required to pass a spoken English test. If they fail this test, they don't become TAs. So apparently somebody thinks your TA can speak English. I did not hire your TA, choose them from a pool of candidates, nor do I have the power to fire them. So you're wasting your time by bitching to me.
Q: Is there any way I can get a C in your course?
A: Sure, just get 70% of the possible points. I thought I made that clear on the first day of class.
Q: I need this class to graduate.
A: Guess what - every single person enrolled in this course needs it to graduate. Did you think your classmates were taking it as an elective? Needing this course to graduate does not make you a special case, so don't expect special consideration or treatment.
Q: I need this class to get into my major.
A: See previous answer.
Q: I work 40 hours a week.
A: See previous answer.
Q: My TA is an asshole.
A: I hope you don't think you're the first college student to have an asshole for a teacher. It happens to many students every semester at basically every university on the planet. Face it, there are a lot of assholes out there. Do you want to know what I did when I had an asshole for a TA? I studied hard, then I walked away laughing at the end of the semester because I got an A, despite my asshole teacher. I got a lot more satisfaction from that than from whining.
Q: Could you tell me my TA's name, office hours, phone number, etc.?
A: I do not know your TA's office hours or phone number off the top of my head. I am not a secretary. On the first day of recitation, your TA told you these things and if you didn't write them down that's your problem. Here's an idea - go to recitation, and ask yourself.
Q: Everything seems easy when you do it on the board in class, but when it comes to the exam, I don't do that well.
A: You know why it looks easy when I do it? Because I'm good at it. I've been doing these problems for years. If you want to become good at them, study your lecture notes and do the practice problems in the book.
Q: I never miss class, study like crazy, get extra help, I do everything you tell me to do, but I'm still failing. What am I doing wrong?
A: How the hell should I know? Maybe you're not paying attention in class, not studying correctly, or getting help from the wrong people. It's also possible that you're just not that bright.
Q: I'm done with this homework problem, but can you just tell me if I did it right?
A: You'll find out when you get it back after it is graded. What's important right now is whether or not you think it's right. If you think it's right, leave it. If not, change it.
Q: I do well on the homework and quizzes, but fail the exams. I guess I'm just a bad test taker. Will this affect my grade?
A: Well obviously it will. Why do you assume you're a bad test taker? Maybe you're just good at taking quizzes or copying your friend's homework, and your exam scores reflect that you aren't learning as much as you thought.
Q: I didn't have enough time to finish the exam.
A: Tough. If I wanted to, I could put 1000 problems on the exam, just to see how many you could do in 50 minutes. As the instructor, I have the right to write as many problems as I want.
Q: I had no idea homework was due today.
A: Baloney. I make announcements in class constantly about when your next homework is due, and it's on your syllabus.
Q: The real exam wasn't like the practice exam.
A: I don't remember promising you it would be. I hand out a practice exam because I think it might help you prepare for the real one. If you feel it didn't help you, then don't take a practice exam next time.
Q: Your class is full. Can I get in?
A: What do you think "full" means?
Q: Sorry I haven't been to class lately, but I'm not a morning person.
A: So why are you signing up for classes that meet in the morning?
Q: I think I'm about to fail this class. Is there anything I can do?
A: Yes. Take the class again.