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Monday, September 22, 2014

Why You Should Treat Your Teacher Like A Noble King (Even If They Are An Evil Tyrant)

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I was having a conversation with a reader the other day. He said something that caught my attention. As much as I'm a fan of stroking my own ego, I'm actually going to be posting this to get to an important point. (I'm paraphrasing it to hide some details.)

It's funny how your blog is the only one that seems to hold teachers at all accountable. It's great to finally see someone allowing the possibility that a teacher is crap. I had this one teacher that would always get mad for me talking back to him. It screwed with grades in all my classes because I'd get so angry and stressed.

This comment left me feeling pretty good at first. One of the things I try to do with this blog is break down that force field that teachers have that protect them from any honest criticism. That forcefield tends to protect bad teachers from ever leaving teaching, or becoming a better teacher. Worse, in my humble opinion, it prevents good teachers from ever getting the feedback needed to become great teachers.

As I thought about this reader's comment I noticed something that I should have noticed earlier.

I am very harsh on teachers in this blog but there is a very important point students need to try and remember.

At The Mercy

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It doesn't matter how good or bad your teacher is, you're at the mercy of that teacher's opinion of you. While the following is not always completely true, I want you to read it as if it is. That's because 95% of the time it is true. (Despite that 95% of the time being true, you'll repeatedly be shown the opposite of this on television shows about school.)

If your teacher doesn't like you, your grades will suffer. No, don't believe the television shows that show a genius getting great grades but having the teacher's hate him or her. With some students, I've seen full grade differences based on how well their teachers liked them. A teacher that doesn't like you will force you to do even better to get the same grade as a well liked student.

This is something that most teachers will try and deny but remember the following. They are human beings. They are not transient beings from a better species than our own. Just like you couldn't grade your teachers fairly, they can't grade you fairly.

On top of that, if your teacher gives you an unfair grade, administration will always side with the teacher. It doesn't matter how little the administration respects a teacher, they will always respect a teacher more than a student. The teacher will get the benefit of the doubt. Remember, that administration deals with crappy and irritating students all day (thats most of their job.) They deal with crappy and irritating teachers every once in a while. They're biased too.

Play The Fool

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As much as I would like all teachers to get honest feedback from their students, I don't think you should put your personal life on the line to do it. You're not responsible for teaching your teacher a lesson. If you're in class, you need to keep your eye on the prize. I'm going to assume the prize is your grade for the sake of this article. (If it's actually that blonde a few desks away from you then just pretend we're talking about them.)

To be well liked by your teacher isn't simple. You can't just suck up to your teacher and hope for the best. (No one likes a suck up.) One way you can be well-liked is to share a hobby or interest. If your teacher likes a sport and you like it too, milk that. Ask them their opinion on stuff and act like you care about it. Usually if you're actually interested in it, you will care about it anyway. That is ideal.

Another way to be well-liked is to play into the noble teacher fantasy. Don't talk in class. Keep your eyes on the teacher when they're lecturing even if you're thinking about something else. Try to not stare off into space. Be mildly friendly. Maybe even go to the teacher and ask for help when you aren't understanding something. Yes, this makes most students want to throw up in their own mouth but it's one of the most powerful ways you can be well-liked by a teacher. Teacher's do notice this. They think you care and that helps your grades immensely. (Heck, pretending you care sometimes helps you care more anyway.)

Bad Situations

Consider yourself lucky if you get through school without a few really bad teacher's that you have to suffer through. In most cases, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. In the best case scenario, switch out of their classes fast. In the worst case scenario, you may never be liked by the teacher but at the very least you can try to not make them your enemy.

Based on my experience working with students, and working with myself, a single bad teacher can drag down more than just the grade for a single class. The stress caused a that bad teacher can easily carry on throughout the whole school year. Do your best not to let that happen.

Try a few things to solve it. If those things you try to solve it with don't work then stop worrying about it and accept you're at the mercy of that teacher. Don't fight it. Fighting it is where most of the stress comes from. You may suffer in that class but that's just the straw you drew. You can't win them all.

Don't get in the habit of treating any teacher like an evil tyrant (even if they are one.) That's the kind of thing that can accidentally turn into some really bad habits.

Now I need to get back to the original conversation I was having with the reader of this blog.

No matter how bad your teacher is, do not talk back to them. Every time you seem to attack your teacher you're forcing yourself to be that much better to get the same grade. Play the teacher's game and accept it. It's no fun but it's the only good option you're given.

No, I don't like that anymore than you do. What's more important to you, your ego or your grade?

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