What Can I Do to Get Along Better with My Teachers?

Because they're human, teachers respond better to positive associations than to stressful interactions. Who wouldn't rather be in the company of someone who shows interest, enthusiasm, and respect? Your willingness to do more than show up for class, stay seated, and move your eyes back and forth across textbook pages is likely to demonstrate that you're open to new and different kinds of assignments.

Your teachers are not only the people who pass out the grades, but also the folks who write references when you're ready to apply for a job or to a college. When you build solid relationships with your teachers, you begin weaving a network of supporters. Teachers can help you out in their areas of expertise, point you in the direction of organizations and activities that mesh with your interests, be available when you need advice, and lend you a friendly ear when you just want to talk through a problem.

Figuring out how to move toward a good relationship with your teacher can be tricky. You don't want to appear insincere, and you sure don't want to develop a reputation as a teacher's pet. Here are some ways to get into your teachers' good graces without going overboard:

  • Do what's expected of you: Be on time, finish assignments, make up any work you miss, ask questions, participate in class.

  • Always be polite, even if you're questioning the grade you got on an essay you thought was near-Pulitzer-Price quality or explaining why you positively pooped out on a pop quiz. (Hey, everybody has an off day now and then.)

  • Share your interest in the subject matter. Whether you're studying humanities or geometry, foreign language or physics, express your personal appetite for more information on the subject.

  • Don't hesitate to request a private meeting time during your teacher's free period. Outside the classroom, your teacher may be more casual in his tone and more relaxed in his approach to topics like your progress, your career interests, your college plans, or your hope for help on details you don't understand.

So, what happens if you just don't like each other, or you think your teacher's yellow leisure suit and madman laugh are too weird for words? Some of our more memorable teachers are the very ones that once appeared oddest to our eyes (and ears). Before you spread your opinion and grumbles to your friends, try these steps to resolve teacher-related issues:

  • Give your teacher a clue about how you're feeling. Use language that shows respect and a clear picture of your complaint: "When you go off the topic in class, I can't follow the point you're trying to make." Give examples to support your perspective.

  • If you're still not happy with the situation, set up an appointment with your guidance counselor. Your school's professional staff is equipped to give you tips and insights into problem solving. You may walk away with ideas that can apply later in life — as you deal with difficult relationships.

  • Turn to your parents or guardians to help get past the problem. A meeting with you, your parents, and your teacher might help clear the air. Everyone should have a chance to express his or her thoughts — without interruption or disrespect.

  • Observe how other students interact with the teacher. Surely, someone in your class has a positive relationship with the teacher who isn't on your most-admired list. Come right out and ask other students how they handle personality differences or teaching habits that don't work for you. Pay attention to how these students act in class and how the teacher responds. Consider adopting some of those behaviors.

Positive relationships don't come in gift boxes. Just like schoolwork, they require effort. Wake up to the possibilities, and you may pick up some lessons that'll last you a lifetime.