Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

Student-teacher relationships are inherently kind of weird. When you think about it, you probably spend more time on a daily basis with your teachers than you do with your parents. For better or worse, teachers also tend to come up pretty frequently in conversation with your friends and relatives. Teachers are even the subject of their very own meme. Teachers make up a huge part of your life, and usually a pretty random part as well – you can’t control who teaches your AP Bio class any more than Ryan Gosling can. So, it’s no surprise that some students and teachers clash, and that lots of student-teacher relationships go sour before your semester is even in full-swing.

If you’ve got a feeling that one of your teachers can’t stand you, your situation is probably one of three possibilities:

Scenario 1: Your teacher dislikes every person on the planet.

Let’s face it: some teachers just aren’t very pleasant people. There are some teachers who seem to hold so much disdain for students that it’s hard to imagine why they went into education in the first place.

If you’re student-teacher relationship falls into this category, I hate to tell you this, but your best bet is to band together with your fellow classmates and suffer in solidarity. Try to rise above the gloom and negativity and find something – a teeny, tiny something – about the class you can enjoy. I wish I had something more uplifting to say, but the fact is that grumpy people exist, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to de-grump them.

However, if a teacher ever says anything abusive or offensive to you or another student, that’s a completely different matter. Take that issue straight to the administration. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect, even if it’s coming from a teacher.

Scenario 2: Your teacher dislikes you and only you.

This one is a bit trickier, as it requires a healthy measure of self-awareness.

If, as a student, you resemble the infamous Lauren Cooper in any way, take a step back and reevaluate your classroom behavior. If your flawed relationship with your teacher is a result of you being a rude and obnoxious student, you don’t need me to tell you what to do: cut out the shenanigans and behave like the adult you are.

Maybe you’re not quite as horrible as Ms. Cooper, but still find your connection with your teacher a bit strained. If you spend the majority of class time doodling on the corner of your notebook, chatting up your adorable lab partner, or watching yet another Vine compilation video on your phone, consider changing your classroom presence. If you can, sit front and center so that you stay in the thick of classroom discussion at all times and have a harder time getting distracted. It’s difficult to doze off when your Chemistry teacher is explaining anions thisclose to your face. Also, make an effort to be fully conscious one-hundred percent of the time. Certain teachers have mercy on their sleepier students, but many do not. The glorious Joanna Flores has a great article chock full of tips and tricks to help you achieve total alertness during even the most dull geography lecture.

Be sure that you’re prepared for class every day of the week. Nothing visibly frustrates a teacher more than when you show up without having done the reading or memorized your lines and constantly beg pencils and paper from your neighbors. So starting tonight (as in, right this moment), put a little time aside to catch up on your assignments and pack your pencil case to the brim. Stuff some extra loose leaf in that binder of yours and resolve to give your best effort from here on out.

Finally, try to take an interest in the class. Even if you think that “Intro to Dust Bunnies: Composition and Consistency” would be a more interesting way to spend your time, realize that the best way to appear enthusiastic to your teacher is to actually be enthusiastic. Subscribe to SciShow and MinutePhysics if you’re looking to spark an interest in the sciences. Check out the Yuniversity of Righteous Grammar if you want to get in touch with your inner English major. The resources are all out there; you just have to do a bit of digging to find them.

 But… what is the problem really isn’t with you? What if you’re a model student, actively engaged in the subject matter, and more respectful than Mother Teresa and your teacher still seems to cringe when you raise your hand in class?

Some teachers just won’t like you. It’s a frustrating fact of life, and there’s not a whole lot you can do to change it. Lord knows it’s unbelievably annoying when your teacher shuts down your thoughtful analysis of The Glass Menagerie and then fawns over another student’s straight-from-Sparknotes word vomit (my mental reaction to said vomit: “Wait a second. You mean to tell me that the glass unicorn is… a symbol… for Laura? My God, man. You just revolutionized literary criticism as we know it. Get thee to Oxford, my good fellow!”). All you can really do is try to manage your irritation (which is totally justified) as best you can and remember that in nine short months (at most), you will never have this teacher again. Continue to put forth your best efforts and don’t let a teacher’s silly favoritism hold you back.

Scenario 3: Your teacher likes you just fine…but not your work.

This one is rough. It’s hard to take harsh criticism, especially from a teacher you love or in a class you care about. There’s nothing worse than turning in a project or paper you’ve slaved over for weeks only to get it back dripping with red ink. Wait a hot second, there actually is: getting that scarlet-soaked assignment back from a teacher you’re super close with.

We’ve all had moments when our favorite teacher gives us a less-than-stellar grade and we take it as a personal offense. Like, “Hey man, I thought we were bros. I thought we were tight. I thought we were like this *twists index and middle finger around with the indignation of a six-year old child*.”  But those moments exist for a reason: to remind you that your teachers are not your friends. Even if you’ve had dinner at their houses or babysat their children, they are not your bros. They’re professionals entrusted with making sure that by the time you get to college, you have more than tumblr-induced fantasies of Benedict Cumberbatch rolling around in your head. Their job is to educate you, and education requires a little criticism here and there. Their occasional harsh treatment of you isn’t a form of betrayal (although it may feel like it) – it’s a way to make you a better student.

So, what can you do once you’ve gotten over some of the initial emotional sting? Use that criticism as an opportunity to improve your student-teacher relationship even further. Ask your teacher when he or she is available to go over your latest assignment and honor that appointment. Be on time and don’t overstay your welcome in their office. Stay on-topic and act professional. Respectfully ask what it was about your assignment that flopped and how you can tackle the next one in a better way. You can even bring coffee – whatever puts you at ease. It’s all about demonstrating that you can handle criticism in a mature, constructive way.

So there you have it. Like any other relationship, the connection between a student and teacher can be horrible, fantastic, relatively “meh,” or totally one-sided. In a lot of  cases, all you can do is put forth your best effort, act with a positive attitude, and resolve to take criticism in a healthy way. If you’re doing all that and still can’t win the respect of the teacher you’re hoping to impress, just let it go and don’t take it personally.



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the author

Elizabeth Watson (just call her Beth) is a senior at an itty-bitty private Catholic high school in Virginia. In addition to writing for The Prospect, she writes and performs sketch comedy with her improv troupe, rehearses like mad for school theatre productions, suits up for forensics competitions, and writes poetry for her school’s literary magazine. A brief rundown of Beth’s favorite people and things ever to exist in no particular order: hole-in-the-wall bookshops, sweaters, Jane Eyre, peppermint tea (in a Troy and Abed mug, of course), Broadway musicals, British period dramas, Neil Patrick Harris, and Hugh Jackman. Beth’s long-term goal in life to is to become Julie Andrews, but for now she’s focusing on surviving the final stretch of high school and getting into college–hopefully as an English major

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