Many students come to us complaining that their poor academic performance is due to their teacher disliking them.
We thought this was unlikely, but to prove it, we asked two of our own tutors, Jeremy and Briana—who are also teachers by profession—to share with us their insight.
The first thing to remember is that teachers are professionals: they have gone through years of training, schooling, hard work, and certification to get to where they are, and likely would not have done so if they did not have a passion for teaching. The second thing to remember is that, just like in your personal relationships, sometimes you and your teacher simply will not have compatible personalities. This does not, however, mean that you cannot find a way to work together in a professional manner.
While your teacher probably likes you, he or she may not like all of your behavior. Behaviors that teachers do not like are pretty universal…and I bet you can guess a few. Examples of these include: giving up on work before even trying, talking when others are speaking, distracting the class from the actual lesson, failing to take responsibility for your own actions, and coming to class unprepared.
Also, don’t be afraid to tell the teacher if there is anything that they do that makes you upset or comfortable in class. Be very careful on how you word these statements, though; you want to be sure to frame this part of the conversation in terms of how it makes you feel rather than what the teacher is doing. Do not criticize their techniques; instead, let them know the results of these practices. For example, if your teacher puts you to sleep, don’t say, “Your class really makes me sleepy.” Instead, try something like, “I’m finding that I’m not relating to the material as much I would like. Can you think of ways I could get more engaged?”
Still not buying it? Read this actual transcript…
To help shed some light on this topic, I decided to interview middle school students and their teachers. In a class of nineteen students, ten of the students believed their teachers did not like them. (As a personal side note, if I did not like half of my class, I would probably not still be a teacher.) I’d like to share the following transcript with students who identified teachers that “did not like them.”
Student 1, why do you think Miss F does not like you?
“I don’t know why, she just doesn’t like me.”
Miss F’s Response
“I’m surprised. Sometimes I give him a hard time when he doesn’t have his homework because he’s not the most academically-focused kid, but he’s a sweet kid.”
From my perspective as an outsider, this student is engaging in a behavior that most teachers do not like, such as coming to class unprepared.
Student 2, why do you think Mrs. D does not like you?
“She always yells at me for nothing.”
Meanwhile, another student, listening to this conversation said, “Oh come on, you know there’s always a reason.”
Mrs. D’s Response
“I’m surprised that he feels that way. I have corrected his behavior or lack of participation in class, which I suppose may come across as me disliking him.”
The teacher likes this student, but the behavior that the teacher disapproves of here is the student failing to take responsibility for his own actions.
In my experience as both a teacher and a student, the best way to create a good relationship with a teacher is to talk to him or her one-on-one. Make an appointment to meet after school or during a free block so that you can have a full conversation and neither of you has to run off to other obligations. Before you even begin the conversation, make sure that your teacher knows that you appreciate him or her taking the time to meet with you. Teachers spend much more time than you may thinking grading planning lessons, and attending faculty meetings, and usually don’t have a lot of free time. Ask the teacher what he or she thinks your greatest weaknesses are, and how you may be able to improve in those areas of your academic life.
When it comes to dealing with classroom issues like these, you have to be prepared to be very honest with yourself about your performance and attitude. Although it can be very scary to make yourself vulnerable, it is the only way to truly improve. Very rarely will you have a teacher who really wants to put you down and make you feel bad about yourself. More often than not, teachers get frustrated because they know that you are capable of more than you are producing, and there is nothing more tragically disappointing to a teacher than unfulfilled potential. It is hard to swallow when students complain about poor grades on papers and tests but refuse to stay after school for help. Motivating yourself to spend your precious free time meeting with a teacher can be difficult, but if you want to get better, you have to put in the work. And remember: you are not the only one putting in extra effort when you do so; your teacher is doing it as well.
More than anything else, it is important to your teachers that you make an effort, and there is no better way to demonstrate that effort than to ask them for help. Not only will it show a desire to improve, but it also will make them feel good because they can help you—and that is, in the end, what teachers are there to do: help. Give your teacher a chance to help you, and I can almost guarantee that he or she will surprise you. Who knows? You may find that you will surprise yourself, too.
Jeremy is a recently-licensed high school history teacher who has been a student-teacher and currently works as a teacher’s aide. He believes students should recognize that teachers really are there to help, and that they want to work well with all of their students.
Briana, a French and Spanish teacher in suburban Boston, wants to emphasize that the perceived animosity is not personal—but it could be reflective of your behavior.