I’ve often written about the need to give yourself and others permission to be human. Normally, the message is for students – that it’s okay to be a beginner, to make mistakes, and to ask for help. Or the message is for parents – that it’s okay to not be a perfect parent or to feel frustrated by how difficult parenting can be.
This time around, the message is for both students and parents, but it’s about teachers. Teachers are human too. So just as you must strive to give yourself permission to be imperfect, please do the same for teachers.
Teachers make mistakes.
They misspell things. They misspeak. They misplace things. They lose things. They forget things. They have bad days. All of this is normal and completely okay, so when it happens, don’t get upset with them. If you want them to be kind to you when you screw up, extend that same kindness to them.
Teachers are busy.
They’re short on time. They have lives outside of school. Granted, they spend much of that time planning lessons and grading, but they even have lives outside of that. Don’t expect instantaneous grade updates. Be patient. And just because you can message them outside of school hours doesn’t mean they’re obligated to reply right away.
Teachers can’t read your mind, and you can’t read theirs. Sometimes instructions or questions will be written in a confusing manner. Ask clarifying questions. Sometimes it won’t be clear why you received the grade you did. Ask for better feedback.
When you need help, ask. Show that you care by paying attention in class, taking notes, and attempting the homework. Do so, and they’ll be much more inclined to help you. Be nice to them, and they’ll probably be nice to you in return. It’s human nature to reciprocate.
Give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if you want them to give you the same. Assume they’re trying their best. Don’t assume they’re out to get you. Instead, assume they’d like to help you because, odds are, they do. And if it becomes clear that one of your teachers really isn’t trying their best and really doesn’t want to help you, remember that even bad teachers come with an upside.
Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014. Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris also offers habit coaching, helping busy adults with habit formation and productivity.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA, where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.