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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 09/15/2009

Students: What Makes a Good--and Bad--Teacher

By Valerie Strauss

Now that school is in full swing, The Answer Sheet asked some smart teenagers to answer this question: What are the qualities that you see in teachers you like the best, and the teachers you think are ineffective?

Adam Turay
Senior, South County Secondary School
Lorton, Va.

The best teachers are always those men and women who are passionate about what they teach. I have been in school for almost 13 years, and I find that this rule is almost universal.

When a teacher stands before the class, truly interested in the subject matter, he or she does a better job of getting students interested and engaged. My history teacher of last year had a great appreciation for what she taught us, and it was clear. Lessons were engaging, because she actively tried to impart her appreciation for history. Every teacher you have will teach you something, but only the people who are genuinely interested in what they are saying will teach you to love something.

The worst kind of teacher is intimidating and impatient. I acknowledge occasional impatience as a flaw present in even the best of us, but a snappish, exasperated attitude is one of the easiest ways for a teacher to lose a student forever.

I once had a brilliant teacher who taught an upper level course. As she constantly reminded us, we as students were expected to take initiative in studying and preparing for tests. She explained that the class would proceed at a rapid pace, but I was unprepared for her unwillingness to help students. The maddening impatience she had for taking questions made even the brightest students feel stupid. When students don’t even feel comfortable asking for help, it hinders the learning process and stifles the learning environment.


Nikki Kaul
Junior, McLean High School
McLean, Va.

A good teacher is someone who understands the environment their students learn in, someone who gives the students incentives and the extra impetus to excel. Overall, a good teacher is someone who listens and gets others to listen attentively. My personal favorite teachers have been ones that interacted with students beyond the curriculum, but when they did their job, they made sure the students were 110% ready for tests and exams.


Naveed Siddiqui
Senior, Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Greenbelt, Md.

A good teacher engages his/her students into the subject. From personal experience I can say that active teaching and things like class discussions make a HUGE difference. If I am just being lectured for an entire class period I am a lot more likely to let my mind wander and stare at the clock, but if the classroom environment is active and engaging from the very beginning I will get a lot more out of the class.

Bad teachers care more about discipline than actual teaching. If teachers concentrate more on the WAY they teach their lessons and how well they engage the students in them, then the discipline will fall into place by itself. Guaranteed.

If I could preach to teachers, I would tell them to make a positive impact right off the bat with the right attitude and a teaching style that works for them and the students. First impressions make a big difference for the whole school year. Let students know that there is no such thing as a stupid question and that you are willing to help them until they understand the material.


Hojung Lee
Senior, Mt. Hebron High School
Ellicott City, Md.

A teacher should be someone who knows the best way to make students absorb information as efficiently and quickly as possible. I have experienced many types of teachers from public to private, and from American to Korean.

Based on my learning experience for the past 17 years, I have concluded that a teacher should be able to make students study independently so that they don’t rely entirely on teachers and are able to grow their own method of studying. This becomes especially critical in colleges and large class environment.

Teachers should also make themselves personable — they should be willing to hear each student’s opinions and questions.

I have seen a teacher who goes too quickly without making sure that students are actually following what he/she says. On the other side of spectrum, there is someone who goes too slow that makes half of the class asleep. In order to keep the interests and participation high, teachers should be both flexible and dynamic.

A very good test for teachers to see if they are indeed teaching effectively would be asking their students because students are excellent indicators of a teacher’s achievement.


Aishwarya Venkat
Senior, Annandale High School
Annandale, Va.

I believe a good teacher is someone who can get down to the students’ level and explain complex concepts clearly. He/she should also be willing to help their students out with their problems inside and outside of class. Going into his or her class should be an interesting, engaging experience, and his/her anecdotes and activities should make a student WANT to attend her class.

I love teachers who relate the subject at hand to real-world examples, or in the case of history or social sciences, who tell interesting stories about their experiences. In high-school level classes, I also find that I learn a lot more from the teachers who allow us to debate relevant issues in our class. It always makes the class more interesting and thought-provoking.

I feel that the worst thing a teacher can do is to NOT know what he/she is talking about. As a student, I expect my teachers to be well-versed in the topic they are teaching, and ready to answer a variety of questions from inquisitive students like me. I expect teachers to be supportive of their students, and not to talk them down. They should also involve the class in interesting discussions, ask for opinions, and make their students think. It’s the most any student can ask for!

By Valerie Strauss  | September 15, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Teachers  | Tags:  bad teachers, good teachers, teachers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: CHECKING IT OUT: Studies on Homework and The Value of Parent Involvement in Education
Next: SPOTLIGHT: How Unfair Are Grades?


What an interesting article! It is the talk of Chattanooga.

Posted by: bethesda3 | September 15, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Back in about 1968, I had a sixth grade teacher, Mrs. L., who should have NEVER been given a teacher's license. She most definitely had her favorites (I was not one of them), and held me up to ridicule during "art class" one time, having the entire class laughing hysterically at me. Her "method" of grading was also incredibly unfair, making sure that her pets got high grades.
I bumped into her quite a few years later, and she probably wondered why I turned my back on her. Too bad she was so clueless.

Posted by: Alex511 | September 16, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

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