I was only in middle school when I first learned the benefit of challenging my teacher.
I was in seventh grade pre-Algebra. My math teacher, Mrs. K, had just handed back our quizzes to the class. I had gotten only 1 wrong, but 4 out of 5 is an 80%, and I was not happy that I had gotten a C.
Math was supposed to be my strong suite. I was pretty good at it, and numbers just made sense to me. So if this was supposed to be the class I was good at, I would not settle for any grade besides an A for the class. And getting a C on a quiz was not going to work for me.
I waited till after class to talk to my math teacher. She sat down with me to work this problem out together. The only problem was, she was wrong.
She showed me how to solve this problem, and I showed her how to CORRECTLY solve the problem. We went back and forth in disagreement for a long while. (We could not agree which step in PEMDAS was the correct starting point).
We argued for SO LONG that she finally got so frustrated she shouted "Rachael, what do you want?!"
"I want an A on my quiz."
"Done!" She crossed out my grade in red ink and marked a big 100% across the top.
Now, to this day I still don't know whether she was wrong or I was wrong, but in my 13 year old head, I "knew" she had the wrong answer.
And that was the first time I learned that I need to question everything in order to help my grade. I used that lesson to learn how to approach teachers, and how to speak respectfully in order to get the best grade possible.
This doesn't just work for tests and quizzes! This method works on any graded assignment! For example, I have benefited with big projects too!
I was in a High School Spanish class, and had spent over 20 hours on a Spanish project, including staying up till 3 am the night before it was due. I had to translate a child's book into Spanish, and earned a B- on the major project.
I felt horrible! After spending SO many hours and late nights working on it, I was hoping for an A. Immediately after class, I spoke to the Spanish teacher. She told me the reason I got a lower grade was because I had so many written errors and grammatical errors in sentence structure.
Which she was totally right! This was a beginners Spanish class. We learned vocabulary but did not know sentence structure.
I challenged her thinking on the grade by reminding her that I went above and beyond her minimum requirements for the assignment, and because I had met the requirements, she agreed that I deserved a better grade. She reviewed my assignment again, adjusted the grade, and gave me an A-.
You can teach your teen how to respectfully question and challenge their teachers to get a better grade!
Please note! This is a guide only for when your child gets a graded assignment back. This is for questioning why the grade is low and challenging the teacher for a better grade.
First, let's discuss what NOT to do.
- Do not be disrespectful. Any disrespect will not make a teacher want to help you
- Do not have attitude. See above.
- Do not question or challenge DURING class time. Only approach the teacher after class.
- Do not explain how the teacher is wrong. Instead, explain how your answer is right.
Here is a guide on what your teen should do to question the teacher:
- Only approach your teacher after class or after school. This is when they will have time for a lengthy discussion.
- Take your graded assignment in hand. Whether it is a homework grade, essay, project, test, or quiz, bring it! Even if it is just 1 question, take the time to go ask your teacher.
- Ask them, in a respectful way, HOW you got the question wrong, or why your answer was not correct, and what the correct answer/response was.
- Once they answer, explain WHY you thought the answer was what you put. Explain in full detail your reasoning of support for your answer. Sometimes teachers will hear your reasoning and decide that your answer was a logical answer based on the question. They may give you credit, or partial credit, for the answer you provided based off of the belief that their question may have been worded incorrectly or misunderstood.
- IF the teacher still says the answer is incorrect, this is when the student/your child explain, " based on what you said about X, and what you said about Y, that is why I understood the answer to be Z". This is when your child uses the teachers own words as reasoning for the incorrect answer.
This method of questioning and challenging the teacher on my grades has worked for me MANY, MANY, MANY times!
If I have put in the hours and hours of hard work on studying for a test, or hours on a big project, then I might as well take a few extra minutes to potentially get a better grade!
Even if the teacher does not give them a better grade, your child has shown that they worked hard for the grade, and, most importantly, that they CARE what grade they get! This is huge because it is really important to let the teacher know just how much your child cares about their grade.
Even if your child isn't sure whether they should ask the teacher or not, encourage them to go for it! What have they got to lose! The teacher will not give them a worse grade for asking, but might give them a better grade.
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.