What to do when you don’t like your teacher

It's really tough if you have a teacher that you don't like. It can really impact the way you see the subject, how you feel about going to their lessons and, ultimately, how well you do in that subject.

In this blog post, I'm going to share some advice about what to do when you don't like your teacher. Read on for my tips!

1. Put it in perspective

The most important thing to remember when you don't like your teacher is that you can't let your personal feelings get in the way of how well you do in that subject. The teacher you don't like might be the representative of their subject in your life, but if you stop trying and don't do any work in their subject just to get back at them, the person who is really going to lose out is you.

These days, teachers do get performance-related pay. However, you getting a lower grade than you really should in their subject isn't going to make nearly as big a difference in their lives as it will in your life.

If you get a lower grade than you should, particularly in one of the core subjects (maths, English language or the sciences) then your whole future could be changed because you couldn't see beyond the personal dislike you had for one particular teacher. This could mean having to do retakes (which is really boring and a total time suck when you should be moving on to do more interesting things with your life) or that opportunities are closed to you entirely.

So, what should you do?

2. See beyond your personal relationship with your teacher

In life, you're going to come across many people who you don't naturally get on with, but you manage to be polite to. You're also going to meet a small number of people who you find it very difficult to be in the same room as. This is just a fact of life.

But, you have to remember that your teacher isn't their subject. If you let them define your experience of their subject then you are missing out on so much.

How do you see beyond the teacher at the front of the class and learn to love and succeed in a subject despite them?

  1. Get curious about the subject itself. Start asking questions about it and trying to make connections between the subject and things you see in your everyday life. When you see the relevance of the subject, you'll start to enjoy it more as it will enrich all your experiences. If you want to think about this more, there's a lesson about it inside the Motivation module in The Extraordinaries Club.
  2. Find a different subject mentor. This could be a tutor, a parent, a relation or even a YouTuber. Someone with a different personality and a different way of communicating the subject to you could make all the difference.
  3. Prove them wrong about you. This is one of the most satisfying things to do. If someone doesn't believe in you, then work your socks off to prove them wrong. I did this when I was at secondary school and no-one in the school seemed to believe in me at all. My goal in life was to prove them wrong!
  4. Do the work. I found that with subjects that I didn't think I liked, the more that I studied them and got into them, the more interesting I found them. This is strongly linked with getting curious about a subject. The more you study it and understand it, the more you see links in what you're learning, the more it makes sense and the more you want to know about it. It's an amazingly powerful positive feedback loop.

3. Be the grown-up

Now, I know the teacher is the grown-up in the room and the professional. But, as I've already said, you're the one who is going to lose out if you don't get over yourself and start acting like the grown-up in this situation.

So, go out of your way to be polite and considerate towards the teacher. Do your homework to the best of your ability and hand it in on time. Basically, give them no ammunition and your life will be so much more pleasant. And, you'll have the moral high-ground too!

The other thing to remember is that teachers are human beings too. Bad things happen in their personal lives, they seriously struggle with their workload and they're not paid brilliantly well. Try to see them as an imperfect human and have some empathy with them, even if you don't know what's going on in the background.

“But what if my teacher's genuinely bad?”

I've been there, let me assure you. When I was studying for my GCSE science I had a newly qualified teacher who was a biology specialist teaching me all three sciences. She was a really nice person and really fun to have as a teacher. She did a good job with biology, an OK job with chemistry but her physics teaching was an absolute disaster.

We had set text-books, and when she came to teach Electricity and Magnetism, she decided that she'd teach us by copying the content of the textbook onto the blackboard (yes, I'm that old) and then getting us to copy that directly into our books. Unsurprisingly, I didn't really ‘get' this topic at all and when we came to do the module test, that actually counted towards our GCSE grades, I got an abysmal mark.

I was horrified because I really wanted A*s in science. So, I took the responsibility on myself to teach myself Electricity and Magnetism. I went to the local library, found a book that was specifically on this subject and taught it to myself from scratch.

In many ways, this was the making of me. After having seen how I could teach myself a topic that didn't come naturally to me at all, it gave me the confidence to teach myself everything else I needed to know for my GCSEs and then my A-Levels. Because, whilst none of my other teachers were genuinely bad, not many of them were truly inspiring, and teaching myself was really my only option if I was going to get the grades I dreamed of.

The story ends happily. I achieved my A*A* grade in science (we were only allowed to do double science at my school) and I went on to study biology and chemistry at A-Level, getting an A in each, as well as in all my other A-Level subjects.

What if you can't teach yourself?

It's fair to say that not everyone will find teaching themselves to be the solution that I did, although I do believe that most people can do it if they're truly committed to the outcome.

But, if you have a bad teacher and you can't teach yourself what can you do?

There are two options.

  1. Get a tutor. This is probably the most realistic option to help you raise your grade quickly.
  2. Complain to the school. I'd start with your tutor or head of the department concerned. If nothing changes or improves, keep complaining until something does change. However, there's a strong chance this won't happen quickly. The teacher might need re-training or performance management and all of that takes time.

Your grades are your responsibility

The key thing I want you to take away from this article is that your grades are your responsibility. Other people, such as your parents and your teachers, are there to help you along the way. But, until you take full responsibility for your grades you're not going to achieve your very best. This Facebook post says it beautifully:

Do you need some help cracking a difficult subject?

The Extraordinaries Club is my online hub for families containing my signature study skills course that will help your child to achieve their grades in the best way for them. It also gives you on-demand access to a library of workshops and masterclasses on how to revise subjects such as English language, English literature, maths, history, geography and the sciences. These masterclasses, from subject experts, will show you exactly what you need to do to take responsibility for your subjects and the tricks of the trade that will help you reach your full potential. Several students have achieved a grade 9 after doing the English language masterclass. Click here to find out more about the club and join. 

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