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‘My teacher doesn’t like me’ … from a teacher’s perspective

Teaching for over 27 years to all ages of students, I have seen many generational trends through the years. The concept of ‘My teacher doesn’t like me’ is definitely not a new phrase but I feel like I have been hearing it more and more lately.

I am not only a teacher but also the owner of our dance academy. When our customers come to me with any concerns, I am there to listen and to help navigate them to a solution. And of course, my concern is having a safe, healthy atmosphere for all our dancers. As the owner I am also the manager of our staff and we discuss many topics that are important to the well being of our students at our studio such as injury prevention, teaching to a variety of learning styles, how we speak to our students, making sure all students are getting a quality education, first aid, suicide awareness, eating disorder signs, motivational tools and so much more besides the actual teaching of the dance steps.

My heart hurts when I hear ‘My teacher doesn’t like me’ as I don’t want any of our students to feel that way. It sends me immediately into my problem solver mode because I want to find out what is exactly going on for them to feel that way because here is the thing… I don’t believe that their teacher doesn’t like them. There, I said it! I know all of our teachers at Allegro very well and I know that not ONE of them actually dislikes their students and wants to go out of their way to make their students feel badly. I believe this about teachers everywhere. Teachers are selfless people that sacrifice so much for their passion and simply want to make a difference in their students lives. We are NOT perfect people as we are human and do make mistakes, but our intentions are sincere. I, personally, would feel terrible that a student leaves my class feeling that I don’t like them.

So… when I hear that statement from a student or a parent, I validate the student’s feelings as they are important and real but I want to help to lead them to a more logical understanding of the situation. My very first ‘go to’ solution is that the teacher in question has yet to figure out how to reach this student. Yes, besides teaching dance steps, dance teachers try to read their students, figure out how to motivate them and figure out what their learning styles are. Different students need different things from us as teachers. Some dancers are motivated by constant correction or compliments or with high expectations or even more personal, individualized interaction. When we try different tactics with certain dancers, it is usually clear when something does NOT work with a dancer as body language is a pretty strong tell. Therefore, we move on and try a different tactic. It is possible that we don’t always figure out the student right away as it might take some time. It is also possible that we misread the student and while we think the teaching tactic is working, it isn’t if the student feels if the teacher does not like them. HOWEVER, we are not mind readers.

I want to make sure we give teachers credit here… as they are trying to figure out the way to get through and motivate each of their students, there are other factors that also come into play that throws a wrench into their plan. For instance, a dancer’s mood/emotions on a particular day, if they are having a bad day or even if the dancer has grown up and evolved with how they are motivated but the teacher is not aware of how the established tools that have previously worked… has changed. Holy cow… that is a lot for a teacher to take in as they try to work with the whole class and the lesson plan that they need to get to! So when a dancer feels like they are not liked by a teacher, there is a lot more to take into consideration in order to get down to the reasons that they feel that way.

We recently had a team parent meeting at the studio and had a great discussion about this subject. Many parents chimed in on how they address this with their child when it presents itself. One parent suggested allowing them to be emotional and share to get their feelings out and then offered the other perspective when they calmed down. The consensus with the parents was to not have a ‘pity party’ with them. Listen to them and allow them to express themselves but don’t join in on the assuming… especially assuming the worst. Helping to guide them in the direction of what other possibilities might exist instead and to give them tools to handle it. Some tools mentioned were presenting thoughts from the teacher’s perspective (such as what was mentioned above), asking how they can be accountable for the situation as well, encouraging them to talk to the teacher to respectfully to express their concern or as one mom put it ‘work harder at the relationship and learn how to deal with different personalities that you don’t click with.’

As a teacher, I think the biggest takeaway that I want my students to have from their training with me are tools for their future success as an adult. We always say that ‘dance training is life training’ and this situation is a perfect example of that. It is certain that there will be people in their future that they don’t get along with, don’t ‘click’ with OR feel that they aren’t liked by them. Professors, bosses, managers, co-workers are just a few examples and the tip of the iceberg. If we allow them to accept ‘my teacher doesn’t like me’ and just come to the conclusion that the teacher is not good or not caring enough, we are taking away their ability to negotiate through these situations in the future and creating a false sense that it’s always someone else’s fault without any accountability. There are certain personalities that will immediately connect and get along. When a relationship is not as easy, we do need to learn how to function together and put effort in… to work at it!

Granted this is written from the perspective of a teacher but it is meant to be helpful for parents and students. I hate to think that young dancers might feel this way but, worse, accept it and do nothing about it. I know that I, as well as many other teachers, would appreciate a conversation about this if it’s an ongoing scenario that the student feels is not improving. We, as teachers, deserve the chance to make a change and be informed on how our students are feeling, especially if it is affecting their ability to learn and be comfortable in our class. I would appreciate a parent of a younger student or the teenage student themselves respectfully sharing with me about how they feel. It creates a conversation and allows us both to share and work towards a resolution. A response from me might be, ‘I had no idea you felt that way, I don’t want you to feel that way so tell me how I can better motivate you/connect with you in class.’ On another hand, it might allow me to share my perspective based on reading their body language such as ‘When I give you corrections in class, I feel that you give me attitude and are not open to having me help you.’ These conversations can be hard to have and might bring up topics that they don’t want to hear just as it’s hard for me to hear that one of my student’s might think that I do not like them. However, hard conversations are another essential life tool and they need to learn to have them. Hopefully after the hard conversation is over, they will have learned more about the situation and can move forward feeling better as well as learning that hard conversations are helpful to finding solutions. AND I can promise you that the teacher will feel a sense of pride for the student coming forward to advocate for them self as we do realize that it takes bravery to have a hard conversation with us.

So… blogs are supposed to be short and that was my plan originally. Once I got typing, there was so much to share, and it felt that it all was valid and needed to be included. I hope you made your way through it to this paragraph… kudos to you if you did! Clearly, I feel passionate about this topic and hope that this is helpful in some way to all involved; parents, students and teachers alike. I like to think the best of people’s intentions and want to encourage us all to give each other the benefit of the doubt, be kind to one another and to communicate openly and honestly to continue having healthy relationships with one another. Our youth is our future and it is our responsibility to lead by example and to give them life tools that will be a part of the future success in whatever they choose to do!

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