I’m a student in a religious morality class, and my teacher picks on me. Often she will yell at me for not having my book when I'm actually sharing my book with someone else, or she'll yell at me for my messy homework, saying that she took off points for doing it at the beginning of class even though I’d finished it the previous night. She also told me "Well, your grade is an 86, but well see what it drops to after this test.”
She often calls on me to ask my opinion, and I'm always polite, but if I disagree with her — which I think I should be allowed to do — she'll either dismiss it or twist it so it sounds like I’ve said something else. I'm also of Japanese descent, and though I have never actually been to Japan, she still talks slow to me like I don't speak English, and she asks me very stereotypical questions like if I ever did karate or if I'm good at math.
I found out I have her again next year and the way classes are set up, there's not a single other class I can move to. I want to let her know that I feel disregarded, personally attacked, and that she's treating me so much worse than everyone else. I'm very hurt, and very frustrated with this woman. Please help!
Okay, Sparkler, but first, let me answer your question with a question: namely, you want to tell your teacher that you’re hurt, frustrated, and being treated terribly by her... why? Because you think you’ll be telling her something she doesn’t already know?
Because darling, it’s not that she doesn’t know what she’s doing; it’s that she doesn’t care. This woman is perfectly aware of her own behavior—and not only that, she’d probably claim that it’s perfectly justified, because you’re a disrespectful and arrogant little twerp who disrupts class, questions her authority, and needs to be taught a lesson.
None of which is true, of course, but it’s what teachers tend to seize on as an excuse for indulging in power plays and petty takedowns with a student they don’t much care for. And in all likelihood, that’s what’s really going on here: all the nitpicking, put-downs, and passive-aggressive slights are window dressing for the fact that this woman just plain doesn’t like you. And since that’s the case, you’re going to need to weigh your options, proceed with caution... and, much as it pains me to say it, avoid confronting someone who could easily retaliate by making your life miserable well into 2013.
Which is not to say that you have to put up with every last iota of her meanness; it’s just that you have to pick your battles, and pick them carefully. For instance: should you be allowed to express your honest opinion on the subject of morality, even when it differs from your teacher’s? Yes. Is it particularly smart to keep doing it, knowing from experience that she’ll use it as an excuse to twist your words and treat you badly? Um, no. You gain nothing by challenging this woman; it just gives her ammunition for her ongoing vendetta against you, and it distracts from the more pressing issues at hand.
Like, say, the fact that your teacher’s false accusations and racially-charged remarks are crossing the bounds not just of intelligence and good taste, but potentially ones of school policy as well. Most districts have anti-discrimination measures in place, and it’s there—on the offense that’s so egregious, there’s no possible way for her to spin it—that you want to place your focus.
So, what happens now? For starters, let your parents know what’s going on. You need them informed and in your corner, in the event that your teacher escalates her asshattery. And then, start both documenting and addressing each and every problematic comment as it happens. When she makes a nasty or off-color remark, look confused and say, “Why would you say that?”—and if she says something more explicitly linked to your Japanese roots, say, politely, “I don’t appreciate being stereotyped based on my ethic background. Please don’t do it anymore.” (And make sure you say it loud. You need witnesses, both to her behavior and to your attempts to deal with it.) And on every other front, make yourself unimpeachable: turn in your homework as soon as you walk in the door. Make sure she sees you with your book at the beginning of class. And politely correct her when she accuses you of something you didn’t do, but otherwise, do your best to stay off her radar.
...All of which will pay off in spades when, after taking the time to build your case, you waltz into your principal’s office armed with a pair of pissed-off parents and a file full of incontrovertible evidence of her terrible behavior. And while you may have to wait until next year to have your revenge... well, we all know it’s a dish best served cold.
Have you ever had a teacher who just plain hated you? Tell us how you handled it! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: The Reluctant Teacher's Pet