Not every teacher will be sympathetic every time. But most will listen sympathetically if you speak with themâ€”in advance, or as soon as you knowâ€”and explain the situation. Students who communicate with their teachers usually get the benefit of the doubt. If you have trouble talking with a particular teacher, find another teacher or school administrator who will listen, and ask for his or her assistance.
Teachers are not mind readers. It may be obvious to you that you have a problem, but your teachers may have no idea. Let them know. If itâ€™s something personal, you donâ€™t have to go into great detail. â€œMrs. Johnson, Iâ€™m sorry if Iâ€™m not my usual self today, but Iâ€™m having some personal problems, and Iâ€™m kind of upset.â€ Most teachers will be sympathetic, and quite willing to offer special accommodations, if you need them. Students who have been reliable and honest in the past will almost certainly receive sympathetic treatment in such circumstances. (Those who have not been reliable may have more trouble earning their teachersâ€™ trustâ€”another good reason to develop the habit of being reliable!)
In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again . . . . We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us.
â€”William James, American psychologist and philosopher (1842-1910)
Having trouble with homework? The same rule applies. Letâ€™s say the assignment is due, but yours isnâ€™t ready to hand in. What do you say when the teacher asks for your homework? If all you say is, â€œI donâ€™t have itâ€, what is the teacher supposed to think? Unfortunately, teachers will often assume the worst: that you were lazy, or disorganized, or inattentiveâ€”and maybe even that you donâ€™t really care about the class, or about school in general.
If youâ€™re reading this book, then you do care about school and want to do well. So how do you let the teacher know?
You probably donâ€™t want to have a conversation with the teacher during class. First, it will take up valuable class time. Second, it will probably be overheard by your classmates, and that might be a bit embarrassingâ€”or very embarrassing.
A better approach: if you donâ€™t have a good excuse for not completing the homework, write a note of apology and give it to the teacher at the start of class, or earlier in the school day if you can. (Apologize, fix it, and move on.) If you usually hand your work in on time, your good track record will encourage the teacher to go easy on you. Then finish that homework, and hand it in!
If you do have a legitimate reason for not completing the homework on time, write a brief note explaining the circumstances, letting the teacher know when you will be able to hand in the work and asking if that is okay.
Finally, if you know in advance that you wonâ€™t be able to complete the assignment on time because of some unusual situation, speak with the teacher in advance, explain the problem, and ask if you could have a time extension. If youâ€™re going to have the same problem in several classes, speak with your homeroom teacher or advisor and ask him or her for help in informing your teachers.
If youâ€™re honest, reliable, and responsible about communicating openly and courteously, you will have few problems with your teachers. Occasionally youâ€™ll meet one whoâ€™s just mean. In that case be as polite as you can and walk the other way whenever possible.