Sooner or later, nearly every student has a teacher who seems unfair, too demanding, or just plain mean.
Luis, 21, recalls: “I had a teacher who regularly used profanity and treated her students disrespectfully. She was going to retire soon, so she may have counted on not being fired.”
Melanie, 25, remembers being singled out unfairly by her teacher. “Her excuse for giving me a hard time was that I wasn’t part of a mainstream religion. She said I would have to get used to being mistreated.”
If you have a tough teacher, you don’t have to resign yourself to a school year of misery. Try the following suggestions.
Be adaptable. Teachers differ in what they want from their students. Try to figure out what your teacher expects from you, and do your best to comply.
Bible principle: “A wise person listens and takes in more instruction.”—Proverbs 1:5.
“I realized that I had to adapt to my teacher’s style, so I did my best to get the work done just as she wanted it. This made it easier for me to get along with her.”—Christopher.
Be respectful. Try to speak graciously to your teachers. Never talk back to them, even if you think they deserve it. Remember, they rightly see you as a student, not their peer.
Bible principle: “Let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person.”—Colossians 4:6.
“Teachers don’t always get the respect they deserve from students, so your efforts to dignify your teachers can make a big difference in how they treat you.”—Ciara.
Be understanding. Teachers are human too. That means they have pressures and anxieties, just like everyone else. So don’t simply conclude, ‘My teacher is mean’ or ‘My teacher hates me.’
Bible principle: “We all make mistakes.”—James 3:2, footnote.
“Teachers have a really hard job. I can’t imagine trying to keep all those kids straight and educate them. I always felt that I should make it easier on the teacher and give her one less kid to worry about.”—Alexis.
Talk to your parents. Your parents are your best supporters. They want you to succeed at school, and their advice can help you deal with a difficult teacher.
Bible principle: “Plans fail when there is no consultation.”—Proverbs 15:22.
“Parents have a lot more experience in resolving difficulties than young people do. So listen to their advice. It can help you succeed.”—Olivia.
How to talk to your teacher
In some cases, you may need to talk to your teacher about the difficulty you are having with him or her. If you are afraid of confrontation, don’t worry—this isn’t a showdown. It’s a discussion, and it can be surprisingly easy and effective.
Bible principle: “Pursue the things making for peace.”—Romans 14:19.
“If the teacher seems to be mean just to you, ask her if you have done something to upset her. Her answer may help you to see where you can improve.”—Juliana.
“It might be best to explain to the teacher calmly and in private before or after class how you feel about the issue. Hopefully he or she will be reasonable and respect the way you handled it.”—Benjamin.
“I was getting bad grades, and my teacher was totally unhelpful. I wanted to drop out of school because she made my life miserable.
“I went to another teacher for advice. He told me: ‘She doesn’t really know you, and you don’t really know her. You need to tell her that you’re having trouble. You may end up helping other students who are too afraid to talk to her.’
“That was the last thing I wanted to do! But I thought about what he said, and he was right. If I wanted things to change, I needed to take the initiative.
“So the next day, I approached my teacher and respectfully told her that I really appreciated her class and wanted to get the most out of it. But I was struggling and didn’t know what to do. She gave me suggestions and even offered to help me after class or by e-mail.
“I was shocked! By means of that discussion, I was able to break down the barrier between me and the teacher and make my school life much easier.”—Maria.
Tip: If you are having difficulty with a teacher, view it as training for adulthood. Katie, 22, says: “Even after you graduate, you will likely encounter people in positions of authority who won’t always be nice. If you can deal with a difficult teacher, you’ll be better able to deal with other difficult people in the future.”