I Don’t Hate You, I Just Hate You

Every semester without fail, a student somewhere in the world will meet a teacher that they hate. And somewhere else in the world a teacher will meet a student that they hate. But what’s really a barrel full of drunk monkeys is when the student and teacher in these two scenarios are sharing the same classroom.

One of my co-workers told me that “You can’t please everybody”, and she is right. Sometimes you simply just don’t get along with a person, and you don’t have a lifetime and a deserted island to help you to gain that better relationship. So what do you do when you have a student/teacher that you just don’t like? Try this:

  1. Change Why You Are There: I had a teacher tell me that they were in the classroom to help students learn, but I soon learned that this was not the real reason. The classroom had become a boxing ring where they could come to let off steam–and the students were their sparring partners. I once had a student who had no control over anything in their life: no freedom at home, no freedom in their relationships, and no freedom in their mind. So they decided to exercise their verbal protests and fight for freedom in my classroom. Both of these examples led to a tremendous amount of conflict and both of them claimed that their reason for being in the classroom was for education. You have to get honest with why you are really in the classroom and here are a few reasons that students/teachers have given me after they finally got honest:
    1. “My husband/wife doesn’t let me make any decisions at home
    2. “My loved one is in the hospital and it has been very stressful on me so I needed something to take my mind off of it”
    3. “I just went through a divorce and my parents said that this would be a good idea”
    4. “I just had a kid and I gotta get a job that pays”
    5. “It’s the only thing that I could think to do other than go into the military”
    6. “If I stay home with the kids it will drive me crazy”
    7. “I hate corporate America so I chose to do this instead”
    8. “The benefits are better than my last job”
    9. “I’m in control”
  2. Why Do You Need This Class?: Yeah, I already know that you need this class for your major but do you even know why your college is making you take this class? Have you spoken to anyone else who has already gotten a  job with your major to find out if they are using this class? Dealing with people that you don’t like in a space that has no purpose creates anxiety, and that anxiety leads to frustration and anger very quickly. I know a student who is graduating with an Accounting degree and for each of his classes he speaks with professionals about what skills they gained from those classes. It gives him alot of drive to succeed, and this drive has been praised by one of the Vice Presidents at his college. He certainly doesn’t love every class, but now the classes have purpose. You can’t let the purpose of taking every class to be simply graduation. If you are not taking classes to reach a greater end result, then every class becomes an aggravating wall between you and your goal.
  3. Personalities: If the teacher/student has a personality that is polar opposite to yours then you already have the perfect environment for someone to become offended. However, the offense occurs next because of selfishness and not just the environment. Forget about trying to change for the other person, focus on changing for the environment. Whether you are the student or the teacher both of you will have alot of pride so here are a few quick points:
    1. If you are the student then you must remember that the classroom is not yours and it is not your responsibility. Your personal space is your responsibility as well as your words and actions.
    2. If you are the teacher, then remember that your responsibility is delivery of the material and the classroom environment.
    3. As long as both of you focus on your defined responsibilities and not attempting to critique the other you will avoid initial conflict.
    4. Begin each class respecting the others role. For the teacher, the student is here to learn and receive, so make sure that the student has an excellent learning environment and receives from a good instructional method. For the student, you must submit to the authority of the teacher or friction is guaranteed to happen. The student isn’t giving up their rights, but they are giving the teacher permission to do their job.

You can use these tips before an offense occurs or after–but the effects of these tips will be weakened a great deal if you purposely and ignorantly offend the other person. If things have gotten to this point then you might want to meet with them outside of the classroom to have open discussion about the situation. A great way to deal with this is to request a mediator, a third person who is neutral that can listen to what both sides are saying and guide the argument. At the end of the day everyone wants to be respected and everyone wants to be treated fairly. If you cannot provide that for others within the classroom, then you are bound to find yourself in a world of trouble.