How Can I Get Along With My Teacher?
Name your favorite teacher. ․․․․․
Why do you like that teacher? ․․․․․
Name the teacher you find it hardest to get along with. ․․․․․
YOU can choose your friends, but for much of your early life, you can’t choose your teachers. Maybe you like all of them. David, 18, says: “I never really had problems with any of my teachers. I respected them, and they liked me.”
On the other hand, you may have a teacher similar to the one described by 11-year-old Sarah. “She is super mean. And I can’t understand her. She either doesn’t explain enough about a lesson, or she describes way too much.” To help you get along with your teacher, you first need to identify the specific problem that you feel you have. Once you’ve pinpointed the challenge, you are better able to overcome it. Place a ✔ next to the appropriate box(es) below, or fill in your own reason.
□ I find it difficult to understand my teacher
□ I feel that I deserve higher grades
□ I think that others receive preferential treatment
□ I receive more discipline than I deserve
□ I feel that I’m the victim of discrimination
□ Other ․․․․․
What can help you to cope? A first step is to apply the counsel given by the apostle Peter. He wrote: “All of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling.” (1 Peter 3:8) What could possibly move you to have fellow feeling for a “mean” teacher? Consider some facts about teachers that might help you.
Teachers are fallible. They have their fair share of quirks, problems, and, yes, prejudices. “If anyone does not stumble in word,” wrote the disciple James, “this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” (James 3:2) Brianna, 19, says: “My math teacher wasn’t very patient and would often scream at us. So we found it hard to respect her.” What contributed to this situation? “The class was always chaotic,” says Brianna, “and the kids would act crazy just to make the teacher more upset.”
You no doubt appreciate it when a teacher overlooks your mistakes and shortcomings, especially if you’ve been under a lot of stress. Can you do the same for your teacher? Write here about a recent incident at school and what you think might have provoked your teacher’s behavior.
Teachers have favorites. Consider the challenges facing your teachers: How many of the students in your classes want to be there? How many of those who do want to be there are willing and able to concentrate on one topic for half an hour or more? How many students like to vent their pent-up frustrations and hostility on teachers? Now imagine that you had the job of teaching 20, 30, or even more of your peers and that the topic was one that few of them wanted to consider. Wouldn’t you be inclined to give more attention to those who seemed interested?
True, it may irritate you when you see what seems to be blatant favoritism. Natasha says of one of her teachers: “He set a deadline for assignments but always made exceptions for the football players—and no one else. It just so happened that he was also the assistant coach of the team.” If something similar happens to you, ask yourself, ‘Are my educational needs being ignored?’ If not, why be upset or jealous?
Write here what you could do to show your teacher more clearly that you are interested in what he or she is teaching.
Teachers misunderstand students. At times, a clash of personalities or some sort of misunderstanding pits your teacher against you. Inquisitiveness may be viewed as rebellion, or a touch of wit, as disrespect or foolishness.
What can you do if you are misunderstood? 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) So try not to antagonize your teacher. Avoid needless confrontations. Don’t give your teacher legitimate causes 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.—Romans 12:20, 21.
Ken, for example, had teachers who often misjudged him. “I’m very shy,” he says, “and I would never talk to my teachers.” How did he deal with the problem? “I eventually realized that for the most part, my teachers wanted to help me. So I made it a goal to get to know all my teachers personally. Once I did, I saw a huge improvement in my grades.”
True, friendly manners and talk will not always win over a teacher. But be patient. King Solomon wrote: “Patience and gentle talk can convince a ruler [or teacher] and overcome any problem.” (Proverbs 25:15, Contemporary English Version) Remain calm and speak mildly when treated unfairly. Your teacher may reassess his opinion of you.—Proverbs 15:1.
If your teacher misunderstands you or treats you unfairly, what is usually your first reaction?
What would be a better reaction?
Resolving Specific Issues
Understanding your teacher’s limitations is only a start. What can you do to resolve a specific issue? For example, how might you deal with the following complaints?
I deserve a better grade. “I always got A’s,” says Katrina. “But one year my science teacher gave me an F. I deserved better. My parents talked to the principal. But he only raised the grade to a D, so I was still pretty mad.” If you face a similar issue, don’t fire off a salvo of accusations against your teacher. Instead, learn from the Bible character Nathan. He had 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.
Likewise, you might humbly and calmly approach your teacher. If you throw a tantrum or accuse your teacher of incompetence or worse, you’ll hardly win an ally. Try a more adult approach. Begin by asking your teacher to help you to understand his grading system. “Listen before you answer,” wrote Solomon. “If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting.” (Proverbs 18:13, Today’s English Version) Once you’ve listened, you may be able to point out where you feel an oversight was made. Even if your grade is not changed, your maturity will probably make a positive impression on your teacher.
I feel that my teacher is prejudiced. Consider Rachel’s experience. She had been receiving A’s and B’s on her report cards. Then, when she reached Grade 7, things changed. “My teacher did everything he could to make me fail his class,” says Rachel. What was the problem? The teacher made it obvious to both Rachel and her mother that he did not like their religion.
What happened? Rachel says: “Each time it seemed clear that the teacher allowed his prejudice to affect the way he graded my work, Mom would come with me to discuss the matter with him. Eventually, he stopped giving me a hard time.” If you experience a similar challenge, have the courage to speak to your parents about it. They, no doubt, will be interested in speaking to the teacher and possibly the school administration to work out a solution.
Take a Long-Range View
Admittedly, not all tangled affairs have neat endings. At times, you just have to endure. “One of my teachers had a bad attitude toward his students,” says Tanya. “He often insulted us, calling us stupid. At first he made me cry, but I learned not to take his insults personally. I focused on my work and kept myself busy in his class. As a result, he didn’t bother me much, and I was one of the few who received decent grades. After two years, that teacher was fired.”
Learn how to cope with a difficult teacher, and you’ll gain a valuable life skill—one that will serve you well when you have a difficult boss to deal with. You’ll also learn to treasure good teachers when they come along.
Don’t seem to have enough time in the day? Learn how to make the clock your friend, not your enemy.
“All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Matthew 7:12.
If you think your teacher is boring, focus on the topic, not the person. Take notes, respectfully ask for more information, and be enthusiastic about the subject. Enthusiasm is contagious.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Your teacher has likely taught the same lessons dozens or even hundreds of times to other classes. So it may be a challenge for him to maintain the level of enthusiasm that he first had for the subject.
To help me make a boring class more interesting, I will ․․․․․
If I feel that my teacher is treating me unfairly, I will ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why is it important to focus more on the topic than on the teacher?
● How might your attitude toward a topic influence a teacher’s attitude toward you?
[Blurb on page 146]
“I worked hard to be friends with all my teachers. I know their names, and if I see them on the street, I take a few minutes to chat with them.”—Carmen
[Picture on page 145]
Teachers are like stepping-stones that can help you cross from ignorance to understanding, but you must do the walking