Learning and Teaching

When students dislike you

In my role as an academic, I have had the opportunity to help, support, encourage, challenge and inspire students to be the best they can be. Through dedication and care, I have had the privilege of working with students who have gone on to excel in their studies. Many of those students often show their appreciation in different ways; however, true fulfilment and satisfaction comes when I hear about them, hear from them or see them go on to do great things after graduating. It is this sense of joy, fulfilment and satisfaction that inspires and motivates me to do more for students whenever I get the chance. While I would love to say that I have been able to positively impact all my students and all my students love me, the reality is that this is not the case. So what do you do when you have some students who don’t particularly like you?

The concept of likeness is not one that is readily discussed within academia because teachers are expected to focus on teaching and support, while students are expected to focus on learning and excellence. This means that whether students like or don’t like their teachers and vice versa, students and teachers should focus on the common goal of learning and teaching, without necessarily paying attention to personal preferences. Nonetheless, there are times when the concept of likeness manifests within the learning environment which can lead to various outcomes for staff and students alike. In a situation where there is mutual likeness between the teacher and the students, this can potentially create an environment that facilitates learning and teaching. However, when the reverse is the case, the outcome could include discomfort, demotivation and possibly disengagement.

As an academic, I’ve taught on modules where it seemed that some students did not like me. The first time I experienced this, I was very concerned – my students are very dear to me; as such, I do everything possible to ensure that they get the best from me, so why is this not reciprocated? After much thought and feedback from colleagues, I came to realise that although we have been brought together by a common goal of learning and teaching, as individuals, we have our preferences, expectations, etc. Therefore, when our preferences or expectations are not met, this can come across in different ways – our interaction, feedback, non-verbal communication, etc. Should I then allow myself to be weighed down by a few students who don’t seem to “like” me? Moreover, there are a number of other students who have provided tremendous feedback about the positive impact and difference I’ve made and are truly thankful for the help and support they have received. So, rather than being worried about why certain students don’t like me, I focus on improving the quality of service I offer to students. As such, if there is anything I can do to improve the learning experience of my students, including going the extra mile for them, I do it, irrespective of how they feel about me. Is it always convenient or easy to achieve this? No, but I derive motivation in knowing that at least, one student is truly worth it.

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