This post is the last in a series that started with a suggestion I made that asking your students if their teachers like them provides a better insight into the student/teacher relationship more than asking if they like their teacher. Subsequent posts discussed two of three possible answers, "Yes." and "I don't know."
Now, I tackle the final answer, "No. My teacher doesn't like me."
Hearing this answer may cause some concern and it is certainly possible that there is a challenge that might need to be addressed with the teacher and/or school administration. However, before running headstrong into a meeting to talk about "why you do not like my child", consider the following suggestions and use what you learn to better support the relationship between student and teacher.
Suggestion #1: Ask what the teacher has done that makes the student feel that way.
Has the teacher said she doesn't like you or is it an assumption based on other factors? Listening to the reasons why this is the impression is important, especially if you hear explanations like, "She makes us work." or "She doesn't smile at anyone." On the other hand, a comment like, "She only points out what I do wrong." can be useful.
Suggestion #2: Ask what teachers like them and what is different.
The natural follow up to the first suggestion is to ask which teachers DO like them and to ask what those teachers do differently that sends that message. Again, are those teachers more positive? Smile more? Give less work? All of these answers provide great insight into how your student is thinking about their relationships with the teachers.
Suggestion #3: Separate difficult/challenging from not liking
As you work through this conversation, it would not be unusual to get the feeling that students equate "liking" with how much work (or little work) the teacher expects them to do. Having a challenging teacher with high expectations is a good thing. However, if the teacher is not providing enough support for the students, the tasks can feel overwhelming. As such, there is a good reason to feel "unliked." Separating challenging and liking is essential to understanding and connecting with the student.
No matter what you learn, if the student continues to feel "unliked" it may be necessary to bring this to the teacher's attention in a manner that allows the teacher to use the information appropriately. I suggest that you approach the teacher as if you are presenting data the teacher can use to strengthen the relationship rather than presenting it in a judgmental manner that puts the teacher on the defensive. Repeat how you are working with the teacher and that both of you want the same thing - for the student to have an excellent experience and learn. Remember, it is unlikely that the teacher actually doesn't like the student. On the other hand, one misinterpreted signal can send the student down a path of feeling disliked which, in turn, can lead to less than idea effort and results in class.