How Can I Get Along With My Teacher?
“I CAN’T stand an unfair teacher,” says young Vicky. No doubt you feel the same way. Yet, in a 1981 survey of 160,000 American youths, 76 percent accused their teachers of some sort of favoritism!
Youths are upset when they get low grades for what they feel is high-grade work. They resent it when discipline seems excessive or uncalled for or seems motivated by racial bias. They are angry when special attention or preferential treatment is given to the teacher’s pet.
Granted, teachers are far from infallible. They have their fair share of quirks, problems, and, yes, prejudices. The Bible cautions, however: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) Even teachers “stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” (James 3:2) Could you therefore give your teacher the benefit of the doubt?
A youth named Freddy noticed that his teacher “was snapping at everyone.” Freddy tactfully approached the teacher and found the cause of this surly behavior. “It’s just that I had a problem with my car this morning,” the teacher explained. “It overheated on the way to school and I got to work late.”
Teachers and Their Pets
What about the special favors accorded to teacher’s pets? Bear in mind that a teacher faces unique demands and pressures. The book Being Adolescent describes teachers as facing a “serious predicament” in which they must try to hold the attention of a group of youths “whose minds are usually elsewhere . . . They have before them a group of highly moody, distractible teenagers, generally unaccustomed to concentrating on anything for more than 15 minutes.”
Is it any wonder, then, that a teacher may lavish attention on the student who studies hard, pays attention, or treats him or her with respect? True, it may gall you when seeming ‘apple-polishers’ get more attention than you do. But why be upset or jealous if some diligent student is a teacher’s pet as long as your educational needs are not ignored? Besides, it may be a good idea to be a bit more diligent yourself.
War in the Classroom
Said one student of his teacher: “He kept thinking that we had all declared war on him and decided to get us first. He was one paranoid person.” However, many teachers feel they have a right to be a bit “paranoid.” As the Bible foretold, these are “critical times hard to deal with,” and students are often “without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness.” (2 Timothy 3:1-3) U.S.News & World Report thus said: “Teachers in many urban school districts live with the fear of violence.”
Former teacher Roland Betts says concerning teachers: “Children see it as their inherent responsibility to . . . [figuratively] push them and poke them and see just how far they will bend or stretch before they will finally snap . . . When the children sense that they have pushed a new teacher to within a hair’s breadth of his breaking point, they push some more.” Have you or your classmates been party to teacher harassment? Then don’t be surprised at your teacher’s reaction.
The Bible says: “Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) In the atmosphere of fear and disrespect that pervades certain schools, some teachers understandably overreact and become harsh disciplinarians. Observes The Family Handbook of Adolescence: “Students who . . . seem by their behavior to belittle teachers’ beliefs are usually belittled in return.” Yes, the hostile teacher is often molded by his students!
Also, consider the effects of cruel classroom pranks. Young Valerie exaggerates little when she speaks of “the torture, the torment,” youngsters put substitute teachers through. Adds Roland Betts: “Substitutes are hounded unmercifully by their classes, often pushed to the point of cracking and breaking.” Certain that they can get away with it, students delight in having sudden attacks of clumsiness—dropping their books or pencils on the floor in unison. Or they may try to frustrate their teacher by ‘playing dumb’ and acting as if they cannot understand a word he says. “We sabotage for fun,” explains young Bobby.
Nevertheless, if you sow classroom cruelty, don’t be surprised if you reap a mean, hostile teacher. (Compare Galatians 6:7.) Remember the golden rule: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) Refuse to join in classroom pranks. Be attentive to what your teacher says. Be cooperative. Perhaps in time he will feel a little less hostile—at least toward you.
‘My Teacher Doesn’t Like Me’
At times a clash of personalities or some sort of misunderstanding sets your teacher against you; inquisitiveness is confused with rebellion or a touch of whimsy with foolishness. And if a teacher dislikes you, he may be inclined to embarrass or humiliate you. Mutual animosity may flourish.
The Bible says: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Romans 12:17, 18) Try not to antagonize your teacher. Avoid needless confrontations. Give your teacher no legitimate cause for complaint. In fact, try to be friendly. ‘Friendly? To him?’ you ask. Yes, show manners by respectfully greeting your teacher when you come to class. Your persistent politeness—even a smile from time to time—just might change his opinion of you.—Compare Romans 12:20, 21.
True, you cannot always smile your way out of a situation. But Ecclesiastes 10:4 does advise: “If the spirit of a ruler [or person in authority] should mount up against you [by chastising you], do not leave your own place, for calmness itself allays great sins.” Remember, too, that “an answer, when mild, turns away rage.”—Proverbs 15:1.
‘I Deserved a Better Grade’
This is a common complaint. Try talking out the problem with your teacher. The Bible tells of how Nathan approached the difficult task of exposing a serious shortcoming on the part of King David. Nathan did not barge into the palace shouting accusations, but he approached David tactfully.—2 Samuel 12:1-7.
You might likewise humbly, and calmly, approach your teacher. Former schoolteacher Bruce Weber reminds us: “Rebellion in a student provokes obstinacy in a teacher. If you rant and rave or claim gross injustice and vow revenge, you’ll get nowhere.” Try a more adult approach. Maybe you can begin by asking your teacher to help you understand his grading system. Then, says Weber, you can “try to prove yourself the victim of an oversight or miscalculation rather than of bad judgment. Use your teacher’s own grading system; show her where you see the error in your grade.” Even if your grade is not changed, your maturity will probably make a positive impression upon your teacher.
Let Your Parents Know
At times, though, mere talk proves fruitless. Take Susan’s experience. As an honor student, she was shocked when one of her teachers started giving her failing grades. The problem? Susan was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and her teacher as much as admitted that she disliked Susan because of this. “It was really frustrating,” says Susan, “and I didn’t know what to do.”
Recalls Susan: “I gathered up courage and told my mother [a single parent] about this teacher. She said, ‘Well, maybe I can talk to your teacher.’ And during open house she went up and asked my teacher what the problem was. I thought my mother was really going to get upset, but she didn’t. She just calmly talked to her.” The teacher arranged for Susan to have a different teacher.
Admittedly, not all tangled affairs have neat endings, and at times you just have to endure. But if you can coexist peaceably with your teacher this term, there is always next year, when you’ll have a fresh start, perhaps different classmates—and perhaps even a new teacher to learn to get along with.
Questions for Discussion
◻ How can you view a teacher who treats you unfairly?
◻ Why do teachers often heap attention on so-called pets?
◻ How can you learn from a teacher who seems boring?
◻ Why do some teachers seem hostile toward their students?
◻ How can you apply the golden rule in the classroom?
◻ What can you do if you feel you are a victim of unfair grading or treatment?
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The attention given to teacher’s pets often stirs resentment
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“Teachers in many urban school districts live with the fear of violence.”—U.S.News & World Report
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‘My Teacher Is Boring!’
The Family Handbook of Adolescence says: “Some surveys show that the majority of adolescent students are critical of teachers, complaining that they are boring or lacking in humor.” Sooner or later you, too, may get a teacher who simply bores you ‘to tears.’ What can you do?
One recent experiment revealed that a teenager’s level of concentration is quite high in classes such as the industrial arts, physical education, and music. However, the level of concentration nose-dives in classes dealing with language and history.
Are physical-education or music instructors more gifted than teachers of academic subjects? Not likely. Evidently, many students simply have a negative attitude toward academic subjects. And if students decide in advance that a subject is boring, even a teacher with the skills of Socrates would have a hard time holding their attention! Could it be, then, that your attitude toward certain subjects simply needs adjusting? Taking more of an interest in what you learn may take the boredom out of school.
At times even students interested in learning complain that they have “bad” teachers. But just what is a “good” teacher? Said one young girl: “I like my math teacher because she’s a lot of fun.” One boy praised his English teacher for ‘cracking a lot of jokes.’
But while being likable or even entertaining can be an asset for a teacher, it is not a substitute for his being “adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Though the Bible refers here to spiritual qualifications, it highlights the fact that a good teacher should know his subject.
Unfortunately, knowledge and a colorful personality do not always come in the same package. The apostle Paul, for example, was superbly qualified as an instructor of God’s Word. Yet some Christians in Paul’s day complained that “his presence in person [was] weak and his speech contemptible.” Paul replied: “Even if I am unskilled in speech, I certainly am not in knowledge.” (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6) If some overlooked what Paul had to say and saw only his alleged deficiencies as a speaker, they lost out on gaining valuable knowledge. Don’t make the same mistake when it comes to school! Before writing off a teacher as being “bad,” ask yourself, ‘Does he know what he is talking about? Can I learn from him?’
You may have to pay more than the usual attention to the teacher who is a drab speaker. Try taking notes in order to keep your attention riveted on what he has to say. Supplement dull classroom discussions with additional study at home.
Barbara Mayer, a teacher herself, adds: “Teachers, who have probably repeated these same lessons more times than they care to remember, tend to fall into a routine.” What can you do to liven things up? “Raise your hand for a change and ask for more information . . . Make him really tell you all he knows.” Will the teacher resent this? Not if you do so respectfully. (Colossians 4:6) Says Mayer: “You’ll discover that your teacher is coming to class a bit more prepared, and with more than just surface information.”
Enthusiasm is contagious, and your desire to learn just might inject some life into your teacher. Of course, don’t expect a drastic transformation. And there may be some classes that you just have to suffer through. But if you are a good listener and are sincerely interested in what is going on, you can still learn—even from a boring teacher.
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The rising tide of school violence has made the teacher’s job a difficult one
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If you feel some injustice has occurred, respectfully approach your teacher