Boost Your Grade By Forming an Academic Alliance

by Zena Smith

When it comes to our children’s educations and futures, it goes without saying that good grades are always in season. The desire to improve in the classroom is perhaps as old as the classroom itself, but our understanding of how to make it happen continues to change. While traditional determiners such as note-taking skills, study habits, and old-school discipline continue to be part of the equation, more recent thought suggests that the best grades lie not only within our students, but in the way they interact with others—specifically, their teachers. 

teacherThere is real academic value in student-teacher relationship building. Students who know their teachers, trust them, and share similarities with them (in personality, interests, or otherwise) perform better on homework, quizzes, and tests. Of course, building healthy and meaningful relationships, particularly with adults, isn’t something that’s taught at any level. Whether it’s due to timidness, underdeveloped social skills, or simple lack of interest, many students never open up to their teachers and superiors. Whatever the hurdle, it is worth overcoming as a lack of student-teacher communication could be the final obstacle between your student and the grades you both covet.

Remember, the only person who wants a student to succeed as much as the student himself/herself (or their parent) is their teacher. Students can use that to their advantage by following a simple lists of DOs and DON’Ts to form a  beneficial academic alliance with their teachers.

DO be conversational.
Simple “hellos,” good byes,” and “how was your weekends,” go a long way to humanize you as a student—to show your teacher that you care about them not only as your teacher, but as a person. Similarly, sharing information about your mood, interests, or extracurricular activities helps your teacher get to know you as an individual and learn about what makes you unique as a student. The more you discover about one another, the more likely you are to come across mutual interests. And as we’ve stated earlier, studies show that students get better grades when they share similarities with their teachers.

DON’T pry or overstep boundaries.
There is a limit to how friendly students and teachers should become, and that limit is defined by the boundaries of professionalism. Some subjects—like asking your teacher about their personal problems, sharing information about boyfriends or girlfriends, or making adult jokes—are simply inappropriate for the classroom and are unlikely to contribute positively to a student’s performance.

DO honor your academic obligations.
Teachers are responsible for the grades and wellbeing of as many as thirty, forty, or fifty students at a time. That task can be more stressful than it appears. By fulfilling your obligations with homework, take home tests, and writing assignments, you become a convenience and source of trust for your teacher. They learn that they can count on you to finish your work on time, and that means a lot to a busy teacher. Honoring your obligations as a student is often the first, and biggest, step in forming a meaningful academic alliance with your teacher.

DON’T “just get it done.”
There is a difference between helping your teacher out by turning in your homework on time and causing additional stress by turning in low-quality work. The point is not to “just get it done,” but to do so to the best of your ability. Your teacher will notice if you’re not putting effort into your work, and that will weigh negatively on the student-teacher relationship.

be honest.

Part of the benefit of developing a strong relationship with your teacher is gaining their trust for the occasions when you need it. If you’ve had problems at home, difficulty understanding or completing the homework, or (on rare occasion) simply lost track of a due date, be honest and explain what happened. More often than not, a teacher who has a strong relationship with a student will be understanding and forgiving when a deadline is missed. By showing that you trust your teacher enough to share your weaknesses or mistakes with them, you’ll reinforce that relationship.

DON’T abuse your teacher’s trust.
Explaining that you forgot a due date or failed to complete an assignment isn’t something that should happen all the time. If this becomes a regular occurrence, your teacher will sense that they are being taken advantage of. This is the quickest way to destroy the integrity of your education alliance.

DO ask questions.
If you didn’t understand part of the lecture or aren’t clear on the homework assignment, stay after class to ask for clarification. By asking questions, you not only demonstrate a true interest in the material and your obligations and grade, but you’ll likely save time for you and your teacher. Your teacher will be impressed that you show this kind of initiative, and that will help form a positive impression in their mind.

DON’T become a liability.
While most teachers will be happy to answer your sincere questions about the work or material, you should get in the habit of figuring things out on your own when possible. In other words, asking for additional explanations should be a secondary resource. Your first option should be listening as well as possible and giving the material a second thought. If you are constantly asking for extra help, you may become a burden on your teacher’s time, and time isn’t something that teachers have a lot of.

As you can see, forming an academic alliance with your teacher is all about moderation. In most cases, it’s about being responsible, asking questions, and finding the sweet spot between friendliness and excess. If your student can manage these dos and don’ts, they’ll be well on their way to a healthier and more successful classroom experience.

If your student feels they have additional academic woes that can’t be solved with a few questions or after-class sessions, we at MASTERs Plus would be happy to get them back on track. Just call, email, or visit us at our South Suburbs tutoring center, and we’ll develop a customized program to address their trouble spots. Not only will your student catch up to the class; they’ll be proud to show their teacher what they’ve managed to learn on their own.


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