8 Ways to Overcome Bad Teachers (and 7 Mistakes to Avoid)
Bad teachers are real. In many schools throughout the U.S. (and the world) you will find them. They are collecting a paycheck one busy-work assignment at a time. They get frustrated by the classroom dynamics and fold under pressure. They fail to connect the dots from their understanding to your brain. They let others run over them.
Unfortunately, you the student suffers the most. After all, they’re getting paid. And with each renewed contract, they move further away from accountability.
Don’t get us wrong. There are also a lot of great educators out there, and not every issue is the fault of the person leading the classroom. But the great ones shed light on the problem of bad teachers, and if you’re a student uncertain of how to cope, here are some tips to help you navigate the confusion.
8. Determine the failure on your end.
It may be difficult to do — particularly when you’re sure that a class has gone wrong because of the teacher — but before you can make any headway around the problem you need to determine where you are coming up short.
No one is perfect, and you could be tuning out or contributing to in-class behavioral problems that are causing the teacher to give up. Furthermore, if you notice your classmates derailing him or her, try to exert as much influence on your inner circle as you can.
Bad teachers are not that way because they’re stupid. They have to go through a battery of classes and testing to get certification. They know their subject matter. What they may not know, however, are classroom management skills. If you can help out in this regard, you may be surprised by how much better they are at their jobs.
7. Address your issues with the teacher.
Even the best classes can get stuck with a teacher, who simply doesn’t get it. If you are unlucky enough to be in that scenario — and let’s face it, we’ve all been there — see what you can do about a one-on-one meeting with the teacher to discuss your issues.
Bad teachers don’t wish to be bad teachers. They want to be good at their jobs. Many care deeply about students and making a difference. Others simply want to have a job and stay out of trouble. In other words, they will do whatever they can to make lives easier on themselves, and that can benefit you.
You simply have to approach the teacher with respect and tell them you are having difficulty connecting to the material. That’s important. Connecting to the material. Such verbiage will activate their desire to help, and the two of you may be able to find a breakthrough outside the classroom that translates to inside the classroom.
6. Look for a mentor.
Bad teachers are not the only “authorities” on their subjects. Professional men and women utilize what your teachers are teaching to varying degrees. Find someone who has excelled at some particular aspect of the subject in his or her professional life. Pick their brains. Explain to them where you are having troubles, and try not to complain about the teacher. Instead focus on the material.
After all, today’s mentor is tomorrow’s employer. If you can network with these people in a way that shows a desire to take responsibility rather than simply complain about someone else, then you could end up grasping the material and developing an invaluable networking connection later in life.
5. Use online resources.
If you don’t have access to a qualified mentor — or even if you do, this can’t hurt — go to places like YouTube and watch videos that explain the material in greater detail. You might also check out specialty blogs.
You’re talking to a dummy when it comes to math, yet when I had issues on an assignment involving quadratic functions, I was able to find a website that worked a problem for me and explained each step, giving me insight that I wasn’t able to glean from class time.
As you’re going, compile a list of most valuable resources by subject. Consult this frequently, any time you have an issue with bad teachers now or moving forward.
4. Ask better questions in class.
Some teachers are only as good as the level of engagement they are able to draw out in class. If you have questions you’re not asking, then not all the fault can be on the shoulders of the teacher. It is your job as a student to take advantage of the instructional time you have at your disposal.
Don’t be too embarrassed or shy. Raise your hand at appropriate times. Ask sincere questions. Most — even bad teachers — mean what they say when they say, “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”
Chances are, anything you ask will be a question on the mind of at least one other person in your classroom. Be bold enough to show you don’t know something, and you could end up with a lesson you’ll never forget.
3. Partner up.
Sometimes bad teachers are simply bad, and there is no getting around it. That doesn’t mean you will be unable to find a workaround to achieve an adequate level of understanding. One of the most overlooked workarounds could be sitting in the seat next to you.
Well, maybe not in the literal sense, but not far from it. Think about the smartest person in your class. The person who makes the best grades and never seems to find an issue they can’t overcome.
Go to that person and partner up. Form a study group and show that you have a willingness to know what they know. Students often learn better from each other than they do themselves, so keep that in mind before you give up.
2. Keep moving forward.
If you don’t have adequate resources to learn something and those bad teachers aren’t helping you, keep in mind that you can fix later any problems that you may encounter in the present.
When you have exhausted every avenue, keep moving forward. Get the grade and get out. But don’t allow yourself to forget the things you need to be learning in order to progress in a field of study.
“If I can just get out of here with a C,” was a rallying cry for many in my college classes. Let’s fill in the rest of this sentence, shall we? “If I can just get out of here with a C, then I can learn next semester (or over the summer) what I should have learned this semester.”
In other words, some bad teachers will force you to cut your losses and just work for the grade. Don’t allow that to become a substitute for learning, though. Be honest about what you don’t know, and attack it with a fresh mind when circumstances improve.
1. Avoid becoming an adversary.
The worst way to deal with bad teachers is to actually become the enemy of one. When that happens, you make it rather difficult to keep moving forward. Realize that you can have disagreements with people without burning bridges. Don’t ever put yourself in the situation where you call out a bad teacher publicly. Simply do the best you can to understand the material, and regroup.
Now that we have those tips out of the way, here are 7 mistakes that you should avoid regarding bad teachers.
1. Giving up
When you give up, they win. Not that it’s the intention of bad teachers to win anything. Most simply want to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and go home.
But it can be tempting to give up on material if you feel that the classroom is your best time to learn it and the teacher is your best resource available, and it’s just not happening.
If that feeling starts to set in, remember the eight tips we’ve shared above. Determine your weak spots. Seek outside help. Use technology to your advantage. And most of all, try to connect with the teacher one-on-one and explain the issues you’re having in a non-adversarial way.
2. Leading a witch hunt
Some students make the mistake of leading a witch hunt against bad teachers. What this does is negatively use energy that could instead be reapplied to the situations we’ve already mentioned.
Instead of taking it upon yourself to point out to the world how bad teachers are, harness that aggression toward finding new ways of dealing with your lack of understanding. If you are doing just fine in spite of the teacher and simply don’t like them, fight the urge to take it out on them and instead help someone else better understand or work ahead.
3. Absolving yourself of responsibility
In life, you will face situations where the cards are stacked against you. Giving up and refusing to take responsibility for finding a better way won’t do you any favors. Realize that education is a contract between two parties — you and you. The teacher can and should be a part of the process, but if he/she is not living up to their requirements, it still doesn’t absolve you of finding a better way.
In the end, a future employer will not care that you couldn’t learn x skill because you had a poor teacher in the ninth grade. He/she will simply care that you don’t know it, and they will find someone who does.
4. Working more for the grade than the understanding
Believe me, I get it. Sometimes things don’t go your way. You’re surrounded by people with limited knowledge and you got the short end of the draw with regards to your instructor. When that happens, it is understandable if you go into survival mode and live to fight another day.
By survival mode, of course, I mean you simply do enough work to get the C and move on. However, there is a danger in that and you don’t want your educational future to succumb to it. Realize up front that no matter what your transcript says, the quality of your education is in understanding, not some test score or homework assignment.
If you do have to simply get by on a grade, make sure you’re honest with yourself about what you don’t know, and try to rectify that as soon as you can, either in future classes or independent study.
5. Convincing yourself you hate the subject
Some students have bad experiences with bad teachers and then transfer that hate toward the material instead of judging everything based on the unfortunate circumstance. That’s a mistake.
You must separate the subject from the teacher. One bad teacher does not mean all science classes or math classes or English classes are terrible. It simply means that teacher and you could not connect for a small length of time.
Get back on the proverbial horse and try again. Just like experiencing bad teachers is inevitable as you go through elementary, junior high, high school, and college, so, too, is experiencing good teachers. In fact, you will find more who know what they’re doing than otherwise. Have patience with the bad, and you will get to the good.
6. Thinking you can’t learn anything from bad teachers
Bad teachers are just as good at “teaching” you as good teachers. The lessons just come at a more challenging pace. Whenever you do experience a bad teacher, you get insight into yourself — what you like, what you’re capable of, and what works/doesn’t when it comes to approaching unfamiliar material. Glean those lessons. Don’t simply chalk it up as a loss because it isn’t.
7. Allowing bad habits to take hold and advance to other classes
If you aren’t careful you can develop bad habits in dealing with bad teachers that transfer to other classes. Judge each experience in a new way. Don’t hold future teachers responsible for the sins of your past instructors.
While bad teachers are and will always be a part of the education system, they are more often than not a convenient excuse for students not doing their part or giving up at the first sign of adversity. Don’t be that student. Realize it’s as much your responsibility to learn as it is their responsibility to teach, and you will make it to the top of your class! Now your turn: share your horror stories regarding bad teachers you’ve faced. What made them bad at their jobs, and how/when were you finally able to overcome? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image via The Stampede]