Bad Teachers

By Chandra Orr

June 11, 2010 5 min read

You take school seriously, study hard and get good grades ... except for that one class. You just don't see eye to eye with the teacher -- but it doesn't mean your studies have to suffer.

Bad teachers do exist. Whether they're burned out, dispassionate or just distracted with personal issues, sometimes educators don't give it their all, but more often than not, so-called "bad teaching" is simply a personality conflict in disguise.

"The classroom is a stage on which real life is played out," says psychologist Susan Carol Jones, author of "The Greatest Job on Earth: Extraordinary Parenting." "Students will not click with everyone, yet teens need to adjust, as they will be dealing with this for the rest of their lives. As adults, they will be dealing with demanding and unreasonable people throughout their academic and working careers."

In fact, learning how to deal with difficult people may be the most important lesson gained from a bad student-teacher match, according to Jeff Londraville, author of "The Filter: Unclog the Negativity That Is Preventing You From Having a Wonderful Life." "There is always a lesson from the experience," he explains. "The lesson is to learn to deal with difficult people, to learn that not everyone views the world through the same lens. The quicker this is understood the quicker the student will become wiser than the teacher."

Learn to adapt now and you'll be ahead of the pack. Embrace the experience as an opportunity to practice your people skills. Think of it as preparation for college and beyond.

*SPEAK UP

Most teachers are eager to help students become successful, so give the teacher a chance to see where you're coming from and adjust his/her approach accordingly.

"Most often, these issues can be resolved with a mature conversation between the teacher and student," says teacher Susan Kruger, author of "SOAR Study Skills." "As a dedicated teacher, I can tell you that 90 percent of my colleagues are caring, conscientious professionals who will make many sacrifices to reach every student."

When talking with your teacher, steer clear of accusatory or confrontational language. Be sincere and respectful. Focus on getting the information you need and coming up with a plan that works for both of you.

"This conflict in the classroom is a good opportunity for students to speak up and let others know how they feel," Jones says. "As long as what they are saying is appropriate and sincere, this open honesty should not be misconstrued as hurtful or destructive or bring about negative consequences."

*FOCUS ON THE MATERIAL

You don't have to like the teacher -- and the teacher doesn't have to like you -- but you do have to do the work, so aim for a great performance. Focus on the subject matter rather than the presentation, and give it your all.

"Strive to demonstrate academic knowledge despite the conflict," Jones says. "It's not about who is right or wrong. What matters in the real world is doing your best."

Make every effort to keep up with your work. Turn in assignments on time; study for exams; read the textbook.

"If you cannot connect with the teacher, do your best to get the information from the textbook. This is exactly what you will have to do in college, so now is a good time to start," Kruger says.

If you don't understand the material, ask questions. Nonconfrontational inquiries are part of the learning process.

If you still are having trouble, create a study group. Chances are you aren't the only one having a difficult time. Just be sure you use the study sessions to study, not to complain about the course. Focusing on the negative will only make the experience more unbearable.

"Don't let one teacher ruin your track record. Remind yourself that you only have that teacher for one term," Kruger says. "It is important to remember that you are earning grades for yourself, not your teacher."

*KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE

Smart students don't let stress and frustration overwhelm them. You may not be able to change the teacher, but you can change your attitude toward the teacher, which goes a long way.

"Never let frustration, anger or resentment dictate the situation and be the reason for your actions and words," Londraville says.

Keep your emotions in check, and try to see things from the teacher's point of view.

"Look at it from the perspective of someone trying to teach a lesson to 25 or 30 kids, many of whom may not want to be in the classroom," Londraville says. "By doing this, you help yourself by not getting angry and gaining control by understanding."

"Unfortunately, young people often think this is a way of losing, when it actually helps them win. Remember that it is much better to be happy than right and miserable, which is a valuable lifelong lesson," he says.

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