When Your Teen Doesn’t Like one of their Teachers

Everyone has their favorite teachers. Whether it’s the funny teacher who made the class entertaining or that empathetic teacher who made us feel understood, teachers can have a big impact on our lives. But, we also have those teachers who were boring or that were difficult to get along with or that we just didn’t like that much. While it’s a normal part of life, it can be really hard when we see our children struggle with a difficult teacher.

One of the great life lessons that anyone can learn is this: You cannot control anyone else; you can only control yourself. Think how valuable it would be for teenagers to learn this early – they would be more successful earlier than most adults! So the message to a teen who doesn’t like a teacher is this: You cannot change the teacher (whether the teacher is in the right or the wrong); you can only change how YOU deal with the teacher. Brainstorm a list of things that he or she could do to improve the relationship with their teacher. Keep them focused on the goal – a good grade – instead of other issues such as whether the teacher is fair or not.

Ideas to give your teen to improve a relationship with a teacher include:

  • Behave in a way that teachers appreciate: show up for class on time with all assignments completed. Be alert, polite and respectful. If you miss a class, proactively ask the teacher how to make up the work. Ask questions in class.
  • Talk to the teacher outside of class. Whether visiting them during a free period for extra help or stopping by after school to talk about your progress in the class, most students are surprised at how different their teacher acts in a more relaxed one-on-one meeting.
  • Work towards a positive perspective. If you dislike the subject, keep reminding yourself that the class is only a year and it keeps you on the path to a high school degree. If you dislike the teacher, remind yourself that learning to work with people you don’t connect with easily is a good skill to have in life. Perhaps overcoming this difficulty will lend itself to a great college essay!
  • Pick your battles. Questioning a grade or asking to retake a test once or twice is fine. But frequently second-guessing a teacher’s judgment on your grades will annoy them. Constantly arguing over a couple points on every assignment is not worth the tension. Choose to only fight the battles that really matter to your overall GPA.
  • Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this teacher?” Focus on the most positive part of the teacher’s personality, and use it as a tool for learning.
  • Observe the actions and behavior of students in the class who are getting along with the teacher and try to follow their lead.
  • If none of the above ideas help, meet with the teacher and try to communicate what you’re feeling. Use “I” statements in the meeting, such as “I feel more organized and able to concentrate when I know the schedule in advance” rather than “you never tell us when quizzes will be.” With a little honesty, you might be able to work the issue out between the two of you.
  • If a teacher meeting doesn’t help, 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 your teacher.

If your teen genuinely tries these ideas above and nothing seems to work, then you can make an appointment with your teen’s teacher to try to work out the issues. Parents often want to jump in and try to “save” their children from struggles, but they are only robbing them of an important life lesson they need to succeed as adults. You need to allow your teen the opportunity to try to solve the problem themselves, and only step in when they have tried, but are still being treated unfairly.

Final Thoughts…

Dealing with difficult personalities is a skill that everyone must cultivate to be successful in life. Different personalities clash. Not everyone gets along. But when a child isn’t getting along with a teacher, it becomes an emotional roller coaster. Although it can be heartbreaking to watch a child deal with these hard issues, think of them as life lessons. All lessons are learned with practice, so this is a rehearsal for the adult world. In the meantime, listen to your teen’s complaints and sympathize, but also encourage them to develop resilience by letting go of their frustration and choosing to find something more positive to focus their energy on.

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