What makes a good teacher?

There is no secret that teachers work extremely hard to provide education for students however, are some teachers better than others, and what makes them that way?

photo by Ben Russel, taken on October 3rd, 2007, some rights reserved, (license link) http://bit.ly/OJZNiI, (original link to work) http://bit.ly/1ROV5MC

There is no secret that teachers work extremely hard to provide education for students however, are some teachers better than others, and what makes them that way?

When a new school year rolls around, one of the most common topics of conversation heard from students is the discussion of what teacher everyone has for the new semester. The same questions and comments are made each year about the various attributes about teachers and their classes.

“This teacher is so mean.”

“How hard is this class?”

“I loved that class. That teacher is so nice.”

To put it simply, the qualities of teachers are very important to students. Many times, a teacher can even be one of the main factors in a student’s enjoyment of a class. Sophomore Lane Baylard comments on this saying, “I feel that a teacher is the second most important factor in my enjoyment of any subject, behind my own personal interest”. Typically students have a more positive experience with a class when they have positive experiences with that teacher and vice versa. It just makes sense; if a student does not enjoy a particular teacher, he or she will most likely connect negative feelings and not enjoy going to that class.

Though this raises the interesting question of where the line is drawn between a “good” teacher and a “bad” teacher. These descriptions are purely based off of opinion as every student can have a different experience with a teacher that could completely differ from the students around them. So can there every really be a “perfect” teacher in schools? In short, the answer is no. Every student wants or requires different qualities in educators and classrooms and responds best to different styles of learning.

Baylard remembers the qualities of one of her favorite teachers, “My fourth grade teacher was the most influential teacher that I’ve ever had, simply because she always seemed to love what she was doing. She came up with creative ways to teach the material, most of which I still remember today, and constantly reassured each student that they were important”. This one student’s experience indicates that her knowledge was retained better because of her teacher’s love of the job, resulting in a more positive classroom experience.

After typing in the question “What makes a good teacher?” in the Google search bar, I compiled the most common responses from the top six search results (note that each website did not phrase these answers the same way, some liberty was taken in fitting the answers into the different categories). The most common answer was the importance of a strong relationship with students. The Scholastic article “Weigh In: What Makes a Great Teacher” by Jacqueline Heinze shares a quote from Gene White, “They (teachers) must demonstrate to students that they care about them”. The next three responses all had the same rate of appearance: communication with parents, knowledge of subject matter, and setting expectations and motivating students to succeed. Other honorable mentions were qualities such as being passionate, flexibility, and being organized and prepared. Baylard comments on the importance of a teacher’s passion by saying, “If a teacher is passionate about what they are teaching, then I am more likely to take part in their passion, but if the teacher acts miserable, then I am more likely to be miserable in the class”. Amidst all these positive descriptors of teachers, there is always the other side of the coin that illustrates some of the more common negative qualities.

I went through this same process with the question “What makes a bad teacher?” and the number one answer out of the top five search results was not caring and a lack of motivation. This was followed up with a lack of people skills and communication and also a lack of organization within a classroom. Another prominent answer was a general lack of knowledge about the subject that educator is teaching. Between both the positive and negative attributes, the answers, for the most part, tend to line up. Answers revolving around an educator’s knowledge, communication skills, and passion tend to be the most popular. Baylard’s answers regarding these questions are also similar as some of her defining positive characteristics are “…productiveness and being knowledgeable about the curriculum…” while some of her negative attributes are “limited to no knowledge on their subject… and disrespecting students and/or faculty members”. Though there is no perfect teacher for every student, many people do seem to agree on general characteristics that set educators above the rest.

In my school experience, teachers are the most important factor in determining if I like a class, as I enjoy most subjects. Because of my general enjoyment, my teachers play a crucial role in how much I get out of a class. Personally, I have always responded best to teachers who are passionate about what they are teaching and seek out personal connections with their students. These teachers not only make me more excited to attend their class but also their passion can also make me feel passionate about that subject as well. In terms of bad experiences with teachers, the hardest characteristic for me to connect with and enjoy is not respecting the students and either not being well versed in the subject matter or having difficulty actually teaching the material, as this can make the classroom environment frustrating.

Though there is no one single characteristic or type of teacher that can be described as the “best” or a defining characteristic of a “bad” teacher, there are common answers to the qualities of “good” and “bad” teachers that the majority of people tend to agree upon. Every student requires something different of a teacher and sometimes it is just not possible to please everybody. With this information though, it does not take away from the fact that teachers play an extremely crucial part in the success of a student in school and should try their best to create a positive and helpful classroom setting. Though it may be cliché, teachers really do help shape the future generation and that is not something that should be taken lightly.

What is your favorite attribute of teachers?

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