Teachers, teachers. Before I get down to what students hate, I think it’s time we have an honest chat, a heart-to-heart conversation. Sometimes, sometimes, your students are downright awful. You heard me right, AWFUL. As a student myself, I know, that sometimes, we really do make your life miserable.
I could make excuses for us students. I could say that we’re constantly under the burden of societal pressures and parental expectations. I could say that we’re going through so many changes – puberty, existentialism and this odd in-between of not-really-an-adult but not-really-a-child either. I could say that years of being put through an inefficient education system (more on that in another article) has left us unresponsive to any attempt at teaching. But I’m not going to do that. We’re smart and capable enough to put these reasons aside, at least for a while, and focus on school. We’re capable of putting in the minimal effort it takes to pay attention in class.
Discovering the two-way street of teaching
However, shortcomings aside, we’ve got opinions and we want to be heard. Teaching is a two-way street, a result of the effort of both the teacher and the student. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. I decided to investigate this relationship more thoroughly to see what can be done to help improve it.
I conducted scores of mini-interviews with students from 9th to 12th grades studying under different boards of education in India and some college students as well. Two of the questions I asked them were, “Have you had any teachers that stand out in your memory and negatively so?” and “If there was one thing you could tell teachers, what would it be?”. The responses I received were varied and powerfully detailed. I’ve compiled a list of what teachers do that students hate. These are primarily grievances that students have had with teachers that have taught them and teachers in general.
But before I begin, dear teachers, I want you to know that I am not, in any way, trying to insult the sanctity of your profession or the effort you put in. I would never want to degrade your work as such, in fact, I admire and respect your role in shaping the future to no end. Through this article, I am merely trying to open the channel of communication between students and teachers in a way that has not been done before. After all, only when both parties listen with an open mind to both sides of the story, can true change be wrought.
Without further ado, teachers, take notes: your students hate it when you do this:
When I asked this 15-year-old what her teachers did that she didn’t like, her answer was instantaneous: partiality. About 10 of my student respondents expressed similar opinions. They explained that teachers tend to pick a favourite student who is usually a good performer academically and behaves well with the teacher.
A 16-year-old IB student noticed that when the ‘favourite’ and another student are in trouble, the ‘favourite’ gets off quite easily with a less severe punishment or reprimand. The unfairness of this is what irritates the students I interviewed.
The flipside of this is this instant hatred that some teachers feel towards their students. Several of these students realised when a teacher didn’t like them or their group of friends. Punishing them unfairly, grading them lower on tests and not giving them enough opportunities were a few instances highlighted.
Only the smart ones matter
Another form of this preferential treatment comes in the form of only helping one type of student (the academically gifted) and ignoring the rest. Two 17-year-old students who just finished their two years at junior college commented on this prevalence, noting that this is pointless, as the students who really need help are not being given any.
As an 18-year-old college student told me, maybe try to avoid this natural tendency, teachers? Students just want to be treated equally.
We live in an unfairly and unfortunately patriarchal society. For generations, we’ve been directly and indirectly told that men are superior to women. Several of my older respondents adamantly told me of their dislike of teachers forcing the same down students’ throats.
One way this sexism comes through is in sports. A 9th grade CBSE student recounted that boys are told to play more traditionally ‘masculine’ sports like football and basketball whilst the girls are directed towards less intensive sports like ‘kho-kho’.
Boys and girls are also frequently made aware of how there are things both boys and girls can do and things that only boys or only girls can do. These double standards include statements like “Boys will be boys, no?” and “As a girl, how can you do that?”. If a boy has illegible handwriting, teachers let him off a lot easier than a girl with a scrawl. Even with disruptive students, teachers seem to expect the ‘naughty’ student of the class to be a boy. When a girl is disruptive, the teacher’s disappointment is pointedly heightened.
A 19-year-old former CBSE student said she once had a teacher who made boys and girls feels uncomfortable around each other. This teacher would not let girls sit next to or talk to boys. This student and her classmates were all of 11 years old when this teacher decided it would be a good idea to enforce age-old conservatism on impressionable minds.
Who is dating whom?
The older students I interviewed mentioned that their teachers were constantly trying to find out which two students were ‘dating’ or ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’. First of all, this is a blatant invasion of privacy of the student. Secondly, this does not concern the teacher in any which way whatsoever. Even when a boy and girl were spotted talking to each other, it was assumed that they were ‘romantically involved’. Similarly, students of the opposite sex were and are not allowed to sit next to each other in class or on the bus.
When you do and say things like this, teachers, you are doing two things: one, you are teaching the youth of India that boys and girls cannot be ‘just friends’ and two: you are ignoring the LGBTQ section of your students, by implying that only heterosexual relationships exist. Is it any wonder that students hate it when you do this?
Teachers, students hate outdated conservatism being taught to them. Keep in mind that we, your students, are part of the informed and progressive next generation. In the 21st century, we possess ideals of equality, freedom and individualism. We implore you to respect that.
Teachers, teachers, us students respect you for what you do. But the minute you stop respecting us, we stop respecting you. We know that you grew up learning that it was important to respect any and all adults, especially teachers. But Gen Z (the generation you’re educating) believes differently. We believe that respect earns respect. If you yell at us for no reason whatsoever, force conservative beliefs on us, discriminate amongst students, etc., we automatically lose respect for you. If you still operate under the assumption that because you’ve “seen more sunrises” than we have or you “are much more experienced”, you are automatically warranted respect, I’m afraid you’re in for a rude awakening.
One 20-year-old rightly pointed out: just because you’re older, doesn’t mean you’re smarter. Another thing teachers tend to do is ignore students’ beliefs and opinions. Students hate it when teachers think that students are young and don’t know what they’re talking about. They consider students as ‘children’, and students, especially those from ninth to twelfth grade take offense to that. Older students still receive illogical reasons like “because the sky is so high” or “because I said so”. Both teacher and student are very well aware that this is not a valid justification. It makes us feel like idiots. Do you want to make your students feel like idiots, teachers?
Okay, so we older students believe that we are already fully functional adults and we know everything. I’m not commenting on whether that is right or wrong, I’m simply asking you to not indulge us but not try to convince us otherwise either. Treat us as equals, especially those of us in Grades 10 through 12. Remember, respect earns respect. We are of the opinion that age does not entitle respect and if you want to connect with your students, it would be better if you remembered that.
Teachers, this is Part 1 of things you do that students hate. Believe me, I’m well aware that there are things students do that teachers can’t stand! (PS: there’s an article about that coming out very soon). I’m just trying to be a messenger conveying both sides of the story.
While you wait for Part 2, check out our article “Good vs Great: Things Great Teachers Do Differently” for ways to avoid doing and saying things that students hate.
Finally, don’t forget to smile back at Shah Rukh Khan as he marvels at how hard you’re trying to be a better teacher: