How To Handle A Student Who Doesn’t Like You

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They seem happy around their classmates. They do their work. They follow directions.

But it’s clear they don’t like you.

You never get a smile. You rarely get eye contact. When you speak to them they return one-word answers or nothing at all.

If you’re being honest, it bothers you. In fact, you can’t stop thinking about it. So you try to get to the bottom of it.

“Did I do something to upset you?”

“Hey, what’s bothering you?”

“If I offended you, please let me know.”

But going to the student, approaching them and pushing for an explanation, is a mistake.

Here’s why:

It has nothing to do with you.

Unless you berated them, criticized them personally, or chided them with sarcasm, it isn’t about you. It’s about adults in general.

Perhaps they don’t trust teachers because of previous experiences. Maybe they’ve been abused, hurt, or neglected by family and are now distrustful of authority figures.

You’ll push them away.

You must let them come to you. This is our advice at SCM when building rapport with all students, but especially those who are shy or wary of adults.

When you go to them with questions and conversation starters you make them uncomfortable and associate yourself with the fake charmers who disappointed them in the past.

You begin taking it personally.

It’s only natural. When someone rejects you, it hurts. It bugs you and gets under your skin, especially if you feel slighted day after day.

It can make you want to get revenge. Not so much consciously, but as a defensive reflex. And you can’t hide resentment. Before long, they’ll know that you don’t like them right back.

What to Do

The solution is to focus outwardly toward all your students and create a classroom they like being part of. This has so many wonderful benefits including a growing appreciation for you.

You only need to be consistently pleasant and in time even the most distrustful student will come around. It’s a phenomenon that has been proven over and over (and over) again here at SCM.

It’s so predictive, in fact, that it’s our most powerful and efficient strategy for building rapport and behavior-changing influence.

Try not to judge or concern yourself with student reactions, especially in the beginning of the year. Be oblivious to them.

You are the leader of the classroom and must maintain a level of professional distance.

Be great at teaching and classroom management. Do your job well and demand high standards for yourself and your students. Be ordinarily kind and pleasant, no more, and ignore any dirty looks or non-reactions to you.

Have the courage to do what is right and best for your students long term, every day, and they’ll learn that it’s true. They’ll come to know that you’re not just another cranky or wish-washy or phony adult.

But rather someone they can trust and admire.

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