What Makes a Great Teacher? A Student’s Perspective
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This old proverb resonates with the responsibility indebted to teachers: equipping the next generation of students with enthusiasm to learn, reason, and apply themselves to the world around them. Teachers prove an invaluable asset, but with a myriad of learning styles education can sometimes be lost in translation. So what constitutes a quality teacher? Looking back on life from pre-K to senior year, I noticed a consistent theme among my most memorable teachers….
1. Teachers should engage students on a personal level. There is a big difference between talking at someone and talking with someone. As a student, I felt more engaged (and less compelled to fall asleep) whenever the teacher actively included the students in his or her lesson. Tailoring classroom activities towards the audience will not only create a more engaging learning environment but will generate greater respect from students.
2. Teachers should maintain a controlled classroom. Throughout high school, my least favorite classes where those in which the teacher was evidently not the leader. Students would file their complaints about homework or tests and as a result there was no structure on due dates or class agendas. Public Agenda President Ruth A. Wooden stated on the organization’s website, “Rowdiness, disrespect, bullying, talking out, lateness and loutishness - these misbehaviors are poisoning the learning atmosphere of our public schools.” Publicagenda.org further reported: “A minority of students who routinely challenge legitimate school rules and authority are preventing the majority of students from learning and teachers from teaching.” All in all, teachers are the foremost authorities. Teachers ought to be open to student feedback, but ultimately should dictate the activities and tone of a classroom.
Students who are taught to respect authorities results in a more productive atmosphere conducive for learning. After all, school is an academic environment, not a day care center.
3. Teachers should be prepared beyond the textbook. One of my favorite classes was dual credit Western Civilization my junior year of high school. My teacher was an expert on the subject. It even became a game among my peers and I to try to outwit our teacher. My teacher’s quick rationale and familiarity with ancient civilization pushed us to learn more. By the end of the class I realized I had learned more by simply trying to outsmart my teacher than I did in other classes where I merely memorized material. The Center for Public Education reports: “Teachers’ knowledge of the content they teach is a consistently strong predictor of student performance, even though studies differ in how strong its effects are.” Passionate teachers familiar in their field are better equipped to translate their knowledge and enthusiasm to their pupils.
As a student, I often sought out dedicated teachers who were personally invested in my academic success and desired to see me excel. I respected the teachers who prioritized their duty to truly teach the material at hand. Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” I learned the most from teachers who valued my education and saw me as a worthwhile investment; not necessarily from the curriculum they taught, but from who they were as a person and what they pushed me to believe about my capabilities.