Surviving School: 7 Tips For Handling A Harsh Teacher

The teachers you meet in your school life will make or break the memories you take out of the entire education system and obviously hugely influences the successes or potential failures you take out of your time there. Feeling ‘singled out’ or ‘picked on’ by a teacher is common for most, if not all, students at some point in their academic lives, however realising the line between what is potentially helpful pushing and blatantly unfair treatments can be a tricky one to spot. We spoke to several leading experts in this field for more information on what makes a harsh teacher and how you can combat them, or maybe even turn it into a more positive experience for yourself.

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#1 Go The Teacher First

When you have an issue, always go to the teacher first. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with the teacher alone ask for another, non-administrative, party to be present. Examples of a third party can be the school social worker, a guidance counselor, a parent liaison, an academic coach, or a member of the child study team.

The second you go to administration, the opportunity to build a collaborative relationship with the teacher is OVER. Before you take that final step you need to attempt to remediate the issue with the teacher, or with the assistance of another respected individual within the school. Taking these steps also shows administrators that you are trying to work collaboratively with the school to help your child. It prevents the helicopter parent label and your child being coined as the student with the combative parent.

Contributor: Dr. Kristin Bertolero, Ed.S., Ed.D from njcie

#2 Harshness For The Sake Of Harshness?

If their harshness is accompanied by helpful feedback, take what you can from their criticism and use it to improve your work for the future.

If they are harsh for the sake of being harsh, try to return their harshness with a smile and kindness, as it is likely something bothering them in their own life, not you. They may start to mirror your kindness as well, improving the situation for everyone.

Contributor: Stacy Caprio from stacycaprio

#3 ‘Bad’/’Abusive’

It's important for a student to know the difference between a difficult teacher and an abusive one.  Often the two are confused.  Sometimes they both exist in the same person, which is even more complicated.

A difficult teacher has high expectations which may not meet your image of yourself as a learner.  A good difficult teacher will give you the tools you need to meet their goals, or at least exceed your own.  Even a poor difficult teacher will provide you high standards of excellence in what they know and present on which to model your performance. Ultimately you avoid making excuses, do the best you can, and let the rest go.

An abusive teacher has no interest in your success.  They are frequently interested in maintaining their image of themselves as master, either of their material or of you, and anything you do to threaten that image will be punished.  Questioning their knowledge or their methods may result in some kind of repercussions that could ultimately damage you.

Contributor: Adam Cole, A Jazz Musician Who Writes Books at acole

#4 Rubics

Rubrics are a grading tool. Before starting an assignment or project, the students should know what the teacher expects and how you EARN an 'A'. This is very different from the graded essays we received without an reason why we lost points or how we can do better next time. If the teacher doesn't use rubrics it is a red flag that they may not grade assignments objectively. Therefore, they cannot substantiate their final grading decisions on open-ended tasks.

Why ask this question if the answer is probably 'NO'? This will reduce or prevent conflicts about grades during the course of the year. Asking this question is a way to let the teacher know you will be looking for them to provide evidence as to whether or not your child met assignment's objectives. You don't have to argue every grade. But if the grade is lower than you believe your child deserves, you need a point of reference for comparison and to the start an objective conversation with the teacher.

Contributor: Dr. Kristin Bertolero, Ed.S., Ed.D from njcie

#5 Keep The Respect

Learning a teacher's idiosyncrasies is our job as students. Think of it this way. It prepares you for the work world. Approach it the same way, with respect first. You are there to figure out what is important to that teacher. Sometimes they will say what matters to them, but many times you have to use logic. Even if you think they don't know what they are talking about, go with it. You may not know what you are talking about and even if you do, there's no harm in giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Use the correct title and name when addressing them and on your papers. Follow class directions. Listen. Be there to learn. Study. These items will take care of 90% of teacher problems.

Contributor: Kimberly A. Blevins from kimblevins

#6 Keep Doing Your Best!

There are just some teachers who truly don't like teaching and don't like students and shouldn't be there. Grit your teeth and just keep doing your best unless their behavior approaches harassment then go to the appropriate authorities with your evidence.

Contributor: Kimberly A. Blevins from kimblevins

#7 Contemplate Perspectives

Try to figure out if there is a way to nip the problem in the bud by considering things from the teacher’s perspective. Is the teacher being disrespected by the students and overcompensating by being too strict? Is no one participating in class discussions so the teacher thinks that nobody is working hard? If you can think of a reason why the teacher is acting harshly, try adjusting your behaviors and see if the teacher responds favorably to this.

However, sometimes people can be harsh or mean for no apparent reason. If you think this is the case with your teacher, try to tread lightly. If you need to push back at all, make sure to do so respectfully. And if the situation is very severe, document your grievances and bring them to your parents or the administration, who can try to defuse the situation in a peaceful way.

Contributor: Caleb Backe from mapleholistics

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Written by James Metcalfe

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