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How to Deal with a Difficult High School Teacher

frustrated high school studentA difficult high school teacher may be a challenge and learning opportunity you and your teen will face together.  In high school, especially a large public high school, your teen may not be permitted to switch out of a class that has a difficult teacher so adaptation becomes their only solution.

Below are tips to help your teen adapt to a difficult teacher.

Help your teen recognize what is under their control and what is not under their control.

Your child, and for that matter you, cannot control the teacher.  However, your teen can control how they respond to having a difficult teacher.  Helping your child recognize this returns power and optimism to your child which they will need when dealing with a difficult teacher.

Help your teen identify and focus on their goals, not on the teacher.

This will be difficult for your teen, especially if he or she perceives the teacher to be unfair.  It might also be difficult for you.  However, focusing on the teacher moves your teen and you away from a problem-solving mindset.  Explain to your teen that sometimes we encounter difficult people, like a boss in a workplace or a teacher in a classroom, that we must deal with in order to pursue our own goals.  Then help your child identify their goals for the class and problem solve strategies on how they can adapt to the situation without sacrificing their goals.

Get outside academic support.

Losing a year of learning should never be the result of a difficult teacher.  If you and your child believe they will not learn the course content from a difficult teacher, you need to seek outside help.  This is especially critical in subjects like mathematics where future courses build on prior learning.  It will be extra work for your student, but failing to take academic safeguards when your teen encounters a difficult teacher could set them behind or even at risk for future failure.

Preserve your teen’s confidence in their ability to learn.

Your child’s inability to perform well in a class with a difficult teacher does not indicate their ability to learn the subject matter.  It is a learning miss-match.  Yet a difficult teacher may undermine your child’s belief in their ability to learn, especially if others in the class are adapting to or do not find the teacher to be difficult.  Remind your child their learning experience is uniquely their own and that if they find a teacher difficult, that is a teacher-student miss-match and has nothing to do with their ability to learn the content.

Adapting to a difficult teacher builds resilience in your teen and, if handled well, fosters a belief in their ability to problem solve and adapt to bad environments.  As long as you safeguard your child’s academic progress and self-confidence, a difficult high school teacher may prove to be one of the most instructive high school experiences your child will undergo.

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