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How to deal with a difficult teacher

Many parents whose teens are struggling in school try many different ways to help their child. They spend hours doing homework, stay up late studying, and even do the work FOR them. 

One of the first steps many parents take in trying to help their teen is to reach out to the teacher to find out what the problem is with their child's learning and grades, and how to help them moving forward. 

Many teachers are used to working with parents in a positive and supporting way to help support learning outside the classroom. But, in some instances, teachers don't seem all that supportive or helpful. 

So what can a parent do to help their child in school, when dealing with a difficult teacher?

First, lets discuss WHY your child's teacher is being so difficult.

1. The teacher does not care.

SOME teachers just do not care whether your child is learning or not. They do not care which student is passing or failing, and they are not willing to provide extra help. These teachers may be burnt out from teaching and tend to be more relaxed with grades and homework.

What to do: Good news! Since these type of teachers don't truly care about your child's learning, they might be more willing to give extra credit. So have your child ask for extra credit opportunities to bring up their grade.

2. The teacher cares too much.

In many instances when a teacher is being too difficult or too hard on a child, it is because they care too much. These are the kind of teachers you want for your teen! This means that this teacher truly cares whether or not your child is learning anything, and is trying to push your child to work harder and learn and grow as a student. It is always the most difficult teachers that your child learns the most!!

What to do: Ask the teacher if they are willing to stay after school for extra help. Most teachers that truly care about your child's learning are more than willing to stay and help. If this is your child's teacher, then hang on for the ride! This class will be long and hard, but your child will learn and grow, and be able to take on the next level of classes with greater ease. 

3. The teacher does not like your child

For some teachers, they are not too cooperating and helpful because they do not like your child. In some cases, the teacher has perceived something about a student, and is not too eager to help them. For example, if a child is too talkative, they are perceived as disruptive. If a child does not turn in homework, they are perceived as lazy, or if a child stares out the window, they are perceived as bored and uninterested in learning. 

As a parent, we know our child just has a problem paying attention in a class that they have no interest in. Teachers make judgments and opinions just like everyone else. They may believe "if your child does not want to learn in class, then why should I try to help them outside of class". 

What to do: Find out from your teacher what perceptions they may have regarding your child. Ask them with love and grace, without judgement of their teaching style. Let them know about your child's difficulties with the subject and assure them that your child WANTS to do well. (and that it's not just you who wants them to do well).

Find ways that they can see that your child is the hard worker that wants to do better. Some teachers have a hard time connecting with certain students. So find a way that this teacher can connect with your child to see your child as the individual learner striving to learn more.

4. The teacher wants to be perceived as tough.

This one drives me crazy! Some teachers do not want to help any student because they want to be perceived as a tough teacher. As in, "my class is SO difficult, that students must work hard to pass. I must be such a good teacher for having such a difficult class". 

(Eye roll)

What to do: These high school teachers believe that they are collegiate difficulty level, and that they are preparing your child for college success. Which, ultimately, is partially true because your child's college professors really won't care what grade your teen gets. Unfortunately, these teachers will be no help towards your teen.

So this might be a good lesson for your child to learn. That, ultimately, your child is solely responsible for the outcome of their grade. (Remember, we are trying to prepare your child for future academic success in college, not just in getting a good grade right now).


Side Note: If this listing of teachers offends you, then I am sorry. BUT, my only intent is to provide informative support to parents to help their teens. I will not filter my support because a teacher is offended. But if you are a teacher that is offended, it is likely you are the #2 above, and you care greatly about helping your students. (In which I thank you for doing all you do. I wish there were more teachers like you!)  


My ultimate plan for dealing with a difficult teacher!

So, How do you deal with a difficult teacher?

My philosophy is "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar". 

Teachers are used to dealing with some cranky parents. Parents come at teachers complaining "Why are you failing my son/daughter? Why aren't you teaching my child? Why is your class so hard?"

A teacher will not be inclined to help a parent that blames them for their child's poor grades. Even if a parent believes it is the teachers responsibility, that is not how the teacher will perceive it. 

So, when going to the teacher to ask for information, guidance, advice, or resources, try this 3 part approach.

Step One. Come to them with Love and Grace. 

Yes, I know you are frustrated at the teacher, and yes, the teacher will know you are frustrated too. But try not to misplace this frustration on the teacher. They are ultimately the one who will help your child go from failing to succeeding in that class. So try to give them love, grace, and kindness. (I know this is hard because, for many parents, we want to react the exact opposite.)

Step Two. Seek guidance on the problem.

Finding out what the problem is with your child (and not with the teacher) will let the teacher know you are interested in helping your child learn. You may find out that your child's teacher believes that your child is too talkative. Then, show that you understand the problem from their perspective. 

Step Three: Ask for the solution to the problem, as a team.

Ask your teacher what are the next steps that need to be done to help your child improve their grade. Use the language as a team, and teamwork, to let the teacher know that you are them are all on the same team. 

Please remember that teachers are people too, They make mistakes, and have feelings just like me and you. You will be able to make more progress with them for your child if you work with them and not against them. Yes, your child's teacher may be difficult to deal with, but it just might be a kind word that could turn them around to helping your child improve their grades again!



My name is Rachael and I have been a private tutor for over 10 years. I earned my undergraduate degree in 2 and a half years and earned my graduate degree by age 22. I have tutored dozens of high school students, college students, and graduate students. I offer my resources and experience to help parents learn how to best help their teen or child that is struggling in school.