Some teachers are easy to click with. They inspire and encourage, teaching you not only about a subject but about life. You genuinely look forward to their class and might even seek them out for advice. On the other hand, some teachers aren’t as easy to connect with. You don’t understand what they are teaching, and you might not feel comfortable asking for help. You may even feel like you are treated unfairly or even bullied by your teacher. It’s not uncommon to encounter conflicts with a teacher in high school, but what can you do about it?
First, identify the problem. Are you having a hard time understanding the material because of the way your teacher is teaching? Are his or her instructions and expectations unclear? Do you feel singled out from your peers, like you have a target on your back? Problems in the classroom are typically related to content or personality; you’re not understanding the material or you’re not getting along with your teacher (or both!). It’s important to define the problem before trying to solve it.
Then brainstorm potential solutions. If you’re not understanding class content, you could meet with your teacher before or after school for extra help or hire a tutor who can teach the material in a different way. If expectations aren’t clear, you can ask your teacher for step-by-step instructions on how to complete assignments and prepare for tests. If you and your teacher don’t see eye to eye, keep in mind that you both have the same goal–a good grade. Focus on actionable steps to improve your grade instead of defending yourself to the teacher.
It can be helpful to talk with a parent about what’s going on. Ask for advice on how to solve the problem but don’t expect your parent to solve it for you. You should talk with your teacher first and try to work out a solution. However, your parent can offer support and encouragement, role playing teacher-student conversations with you. When you have a potential solution in mind, it’s time to talk with your teacher.
Ask your teacher when you can meet to talk about your grade. Before or after school is a good time, when interruptions are limited and you are both in the right mindset to communicate. Don’t plan on talking before or after class when students are coming and going, and your teacher may be distracted. It’s important to meet as soon as you have identified a problem. The sooner you ask for help, the better.
The focus of the conversation should remain on the facts (the 60 you scored on your last test) and not your opinion, even if it is true (your teacher didn’t teach anything on the test and that’s why almost everyone failed). Explain how you have been preparing for tests and other assignments, so he or she is aware you are taking the class seriously. Ask how you can study differently next time. If your teacher suggests a study method that doesn’t work for you, like flashcards, ask about alternative study options. Finally, if you think it would help, ask if he or she would be willing to meet with you before or after school to help you better understand the material.
When it comes to personality differences, always try to work it out with your teacher first. If the situation does not improve, it may be time to request a parent-teacher conference. This gives your parent a chance to hear your teacher’s perspective and offer you tips on how to get along better. If there is still no improvement and you feel like your teacher is behaving in an unethical or unprofessional manner towards you, your parent should discuss the matter with a school counselor or principal.
Since you will most likely encounter this situation again, in college or the workplace, it’s helpful to practice effective communication skills now. Take advantage of the opportunity to express your concerns in a constructive manner. And no matter what you may be facing with a teacher, we can provide support and tutoring services.