Your algebra teacher wears clothes from 1985 and always mispronounces your name.
Your English teacher loves to start classes with pop quizzes. It can be hard to think
of these givers of grades as real people. But they eat pizza, watch movies, and enjoy
sports on the weekends, just like you.
So how can you get along with your teachers? Here are some tips.
Why Work on Good Relationships With Teachers?
A good relationship with a teacher today may help you in the future. You will need
teachers' written recommendations to apply to a college or
for a job after high school. And if you're thinking about
going into a career in science, who better to ask about the field than your science
Teachers are often plugged into the community and may be the first to find out
about local competitions, activities, or contests. They also may know about grants
and scholarships. Sonia's Spanish teacher found out about a contest for exchange program
scholarships in Brazil and Spain. Her teacher encouraged and guided her, and Sonia's
months and months of work earned her a scholarship as an exchange student.
Teachers are often asked to appoint students to student offices or they may recommend
students as volunteers for special community programs. All of these activities can
help you get into college or get a good job.
Teachers are another group of adults in your life who can look out for you, guide
you, and provide you with an adult perspective. Many are willing to answer questions,
offer advice, and help with personal problems.
Developing Good Teacher-Student Relationships
We all have our favorite teachers — those who seem truly interested and treat
us as intelligent beings. But what about teachers we don't know as well (or even don't
You can do lots of things to get a good connection going with your teacher. First,
do the obvious stuff: show up for class on time, with all assignments completed. Be
alert, be respectful, and ask questions.
Show an interest in the subject. Obviously, your teachers are really interested
in their subjects or they wouldn't have decided to teach them! Showing the teacher
that you care — even if you're not a math whiz or fluent in French — sends
the message that you are a dedicated student.
You can also schedule a private conference during a teacher's free period. Use
this time to get extra help, ask questions, inquire about a career in the subject,
or talk about your progress in class. You may be surprised to learn that your teacher
is a bit more relaxed one-on-one than when lecturing in front of the whole class.
It is possible to try too hard, though. Here are some things to avoid when trying
to establish a relationship with your teacher:
Not being sincere. Teachers sense when your only motivation is
to get special treatment, a college reference, or a job recommendation.
Trying to be teacher's pet. Your behavior will come off as phony
and your classmates may start to resent you.
Giving extravagant gifts. It's OK to offer a small token of appreciation
to teachers if they've been helpful to you. But flashy, expensive items could send
the wrong message, and a teacher is usually not allowed to accept anything expensive.
Common Teacher-Student Problems
If you're having problems with a teacher, try to figure out why. Do you dislike
the subject? Or do you like the subject but just can't warm up to the teacher?
If you don't like the subject being taught, it can affect your relationship with
the teacher. Some students say it helps them to think of classes that seem like chores
as stepping stones toward a bigger goal, like getting a diploma or going on to college.
This allows students to keep the class in perspective.
Other students say they try to find the practical value in classes they don't like.
You may hate math, but learning how to calculate averages and percentages can help
you in everything from sports to leaving a tip.
If you find a subject hard, talk to your teacher or a parent about extra tutoring.
If you find it boring, talk to your teacher (or another favorite teacher, friend,
or parent) about ways to see the subject in a different light. Ian constantly fell
asleep in his sophomore history class because the past seemed so removed from reality.
But things changed when he mentioned his struggle over a project to his homeroom teacher.
The teacher talked to Ian and found out that his great-grandfather had fought in World
War II. The teacher suggested Ian use his great-grandfather's letters in his project.
Not only did Ian get an A, he also learned a lot about a family member he barely remembered
What if you just don't like the teacher? When it comes to working with teachers,
personality can come into play just as it can in any relationship. People naturally
just get along better with some people than with others — it's impossible to
like everyone all the time. Learning to work with people you don't connect with easily
is a good skill to have in life, no matter what your goals are.
If you feel at odds with your teacher, pick your battles carefully. Questioning
a grade or asking to retake a test once is fine. But second-guessing a teacher's judgment
on your grades all the time may annoy him or her. Constantly squabbling over a few
points on every assignment can cause friction in your relationship.
Common courtesy and respect are basic building blocks of any relationship. Just
as teachers need to be fair and treat everyone equally, students have responsibilities,
too. You don't have to like your teacher or agree with what he or she says, but it
is necessary to be polite. If you need to be out of school for medical or other reasons,
let your teacher know. And it's your responsibility to make up the work from missed
classes. Don't expect your teacher to hunt you down or take class time to fill you
Just like personal problems can sometimes slow you down, the same is true for your
teachers. Job stress, family issues, or health problems are all factors that can affect
a teacher's performance, leaving him or her cranky, irritable, or unable to concentrate.
Keep in mind that too much disciplinary action can show up on a student's permanent
record. This means that when someone asks for your high school record, they can see
the things you did — even if they happened years ago.
What to Do if You Don't Get Along
Before you try to get out of a class to escape a teacher you don't like, here are
a few things you can try to make a difficult relationship work:
Meet with the teacher and try to communicate what you're feeling. Tell him or
her what's on your mind, using statements such as, "It embarrasses me in class when
I feel like my intelligence is being put down" or "I can't learn in class when I feel
like only a few people ever get called on to participate." See if you can work it
out between the two of you.
Ask yourself, "What can I learn from this teacher?" Even if you don't worship
his or her personality or lectures, dig deep until you find a subject in which your
teacher is very knowledgeable. Focus on that part of the teacher's personality, and
use it as a tool for learning. Not only will you gain more knowledge in that subject,
but a closer relationship with your teacher may help you understand one another better.
Talk to students who are doing well in the class and ask them for tips, tools,
and a plan of action to get along with the teacher better. Sometimes having a second
set of notes can be helpful, so asking a classmate who is willing to share them with
you is a great idea. If you're too shy to talk to other students, study their actions
and behavior in the classroom and try to follow that lead.
If you still can't get along, make an appointment with the school guidance counselor, who
can offer many tips and suggestions for getting more out of difficult teacher relationships.
Sometimes a guidance counselor can act as a mediator between you and the teacher.
If your relationship problems can't be solved in school, then it's time to tell
your parents or guardians. Let them meet with your teacher and try to work it out.
Chances are that you won't encounter physical or verbal abuse (like racist or sexist
comments) in the classroom. But if a teacher has done or said anything that makes
you uncomfortable, immediately report it to your parents, your guidance counselor,
another teacher, the school principal, or an administrator.
Teachers are there for more than just homework,
and they know about more than just their subject matter. They can help you learn how
to function as an adult and a lifelong learner. Undoubtedly, there will be a few teachers
along the way who you'll always remember — and who might change your life forever.