What to do if your teacher doesn’t like you

Sometimes personalities just don’t gel. But when that personality is the one deciding your grades, you might need to take action to fix the situation.

Student told off by teacher
Marina Cilona Young Adult writer and mum of two BA(Hons) Monday, 3 June 2019

Everybody has had the experience of believing – rightly or wrongly – that their teacher just doesn’t like them. Perhaps something specific has happened, or maybe it’s just a general sense of unease. Either way, it really can affect your confidence and it may even destroy your enthusiasm for a subject.

With this in mind, it’s better to confront the situation and try to improve it than to ignore things for an entire year.

How real is it?

The first thing to ask yourself is what are you basing this on? If you’re basing your feeling on the marks you’ve been getting, you need to make sure you’re not blaming the teacher for something that’s really on you. Is it something your teacher said that one time? Perhaps she was in a bad mood, perhaps she herself regrets her behaviour that day. If your friends also believe the teacher in question doesn’t like them, it might just be his manner. Some teachers don’t believe in smiling until November!

If it’s real, is it you?

If you’re still sure that your teacher’s attitude towards you leaves a lot to be desired, you need to do a little bit of self-reflection. Have you done anything (however unintentional) to alienate him? Do you tend to talk in class? Do you distract people around you? Have you been (and this is almost impossible to believe, obvs) a bit of a smart-arse? No one is suggesting that other people’s behaviour is your responsibility, but it’s always best to consider every angle before you decide how to fix the situation.

It’s time to talk

Let’s assume that you’ve considered and eliminated all of the above possibilities. Your teacher is still treating you like you’re a bad person and you’re starting to feel really negative about going to her classes. You’re going to have to talk to her. It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s an important one. And it will grow your skills in having difficult conversations – which every adult has to have.

This needs to be quite a formal situation so it’s probably best to approach your teacher and ask if you can make an appointment to see him in private. This is not something to discuss in a crowded staffroom or classroom. Make sure your request is respectful — you need to show respect to receive it.

At the meeting itself, it’s best just to be clear about your concerns.

Try something like, “Ms X, I get the feeling that we don’t get on as well as I’d like, and I want to know how to make things better.”

Even if you’ve concluded that it’s not you but her, it’s important to demonstrate humility in your opening gambit. Rather than focus just on the teacher/student relationship, indicate that this is spoiling your attitude to her subject (“I’m beginning to really hate Maths and I’m concerned that I’ll drop it as soon as I can, even though I used to like it and be quite good at it”).

Most teachers care more about their subject than they do about a single student. That might not work with English, given that you can’t drop it, but if your English teacher is the problem, suggest that you’re contemplating giving up reading altogether. That’ll strike a chord!

Chances are your teacher will deny that she has any negative attitude to you. But now she’ll be aware of the impact her behaviour is having on you and she might be more careful. What’s more, it’s entirely possible that she just didn’t understand how you were feeling. Perhaps you really did do something that upset her. Best to have everything out in the open.

Could you make things worse?

It’s possible, although unlikely, that your open and honest conversation actually makes things worse. If you think your teacher’s behaviour is unjustified and unprofessional, it might be worth taking things to the next level. You can speak to the Head of Department, Year Advisor, or even the Assistant Principal. Again, make sure you speak with respect about the teacher in question – you don’t want to give the impression that you’ve simply got an axe to grind. And hey, it may be possible for you to request a change of class and the problem will be solved.

Should your parents help?

It’s best to avoid getting your parents involved in this whole process. They may be itching to talk to the teacher on your behalf and believe that an adult-to-adult conversation will solve the problem with the greatest efficiency. The thing is, you really need to learn to deal with situations like this yourself. In this world, not everyone’s going to like you. After all, it’s unlikely that you like all your teachers.

The important thing is not really whether or not you like one another, but whether you can learn from and work with your teacher. It may well be that by tackling the situation with respect and maturity, you impress your teacher enough to turn the whole thing around. And rather than let your parents rescue you, don’t you want to wear the superhero cape yourself?


Mark Rohald
Executive Deputy Chairman & Director, Cluey Learning

BCom, BCom Hons (Economics)

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