Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Students Want From Their Teachers


Inspired by Angela Maier’s posting on 12 Things Kids Wantfrom Their Teachers and her participation in a recent #ptchat  , I decided to see what students at my high school want from their teachers.

So over the course of several lunch periods, I went from table-to-table, asking, “What qualities do you look for in the best teachers? The best teachers (blank)…”

While my methodology will cause my college statistics professor to cringe, the students were remarkably honest. I interviewed about 200 students and fewer than 5 answered “no work” or “allows us to sleep in class.” The answers reaffirmed that students really do want to learn and be challenged. Not surprisingly, the answers didn’t differ much from Angela’s list either.

To the best of my abilities I grouped the answers together and they are listed by frequency of response.

We want teachers who make class engaging, interesting, captivating and fun.
This was the run-away winner with more than the next three responses combined.

Students used words like variety, creative, hands on, participation, fun, and real to describe the best lessons.

I want the subject to connect to my life.
I like the classes where we (students and teachers) are equals and share the responsibility for learning.
Allow us to participate in the learning.
Make the class fun. Allow us to move around and be active.
I like the classes where we play games that help us learn.
Let us use technology.

We want teachers who are chill and lenient
I was initially surprised by how many students used the word “chill” to describe their best teachers and I initially discounted the answer wrongly assuming that students meant teachers who allow them to sleep in class, don’t have high expectations, or are easy. After hearing chill mentioned several times by several different students, I pressed the students further for what they meant.
Teachers need to realize that we have our own lives and their class is not the only one we take.
Like, if we can’t complete a homework assignment for a good reason, the teacher should understand and not just give us a zero.
Ms. XYZ looks at her tests and if a bunch of students miss the same question, she doesn’t count it against us. She teaches it again. I wish all teachers did this.
Chill teachers work with us


We want teachers who are enthusiastic.
While this answer definitely correlates to the top answer, it seemed as if students were referring as much to the teacher’s personality as they were to the lesson.
Students used words like passionate, energetic, exciting and committed to describe enthusiastic teachers.
We can tell when a teacher doesn’t want to be here.
Teachers who love their subject.
Ms. XYZ meets us at the door with a smile. She’s excited to see us and teach us. 


We want teachers who relate to us
This differed from relating the subject to the students’ lives and instead focused on the relationship between students and teachers.
Personable
Understand who we are
Ask about me
Teachers who take the time to get to know who I am

We want teachers who make sure we learn
Students used words like helpful, clear, and feedback.
Teachers need to be patient.
Show us, take the time to explain and if necessary re-explain.
Make sure we get it before moving on.
Let us know how we’re doing
Wants us to do well and is willing to make sure we do well
Work with us

We want teachers who are respectful
Students referred to respectful teachers as those who listen, care, communicate, positive, approachable and nice.

We want teachers who are knowledgeable of the subject matter.
Teachers who have the knowledge bring the subject alive.
Ms. XYZ can explain it so well because she is so knowledgeable.
Ms. XYZ knows [her subject] inside-out

Several of the students who answered this answered it negatively, referring to teachers who do NOT know their subject matter. This answer surprised me. I guess I was naïve. 8 students mentioned it, so it’s not an insignificant number. I pressed the students on this one a little—without wanting to know whom the teachers were.
You can tell when they don’t know because they can’t answer your questions and they just read from their textbook.
She always is correcting herself the next day.

Other answers mentioned by more than 4 students:
Stays focused
Admits their faults
Values our time
Organized
Good class management

We want teachers who don’t lecture.
Several students also answered with what the best teachers don’t do: lecture. As a matter of fact, avoid excessive lecturing would have been the 3rd ranked answer. While the students recognized the role of direct instruction in learning, they differentiated between the good and the bad.

Teachers can lecture, but they can’t lecture for the entire class (our classes our 90 minutes) and expect us to learn.
We want to be taught. Don’t just worksheet and read off of a PowerPoint.
The worst is when a teacher just uses a pre-made PowerPoint.
Teacher X lectures a lot, but she involves us in the lecture. It’s lively and she uses lots of stories. She makes it real.
I hate the cookie-cutter lessons. Lecture, worksheet, read from the book, answer questions from the book. Repeat.


What would you add to the list?


5 comments:

  1. Reed,

    Thanks for sharing this post. I especially like the comment about the teacher gives a test or a quiz and sees that all of the students missed the same question -- he/she re-teaches the concept. Clearly something was missed and students shouldn't be punished for our poor teaching.
    Thanks,
    TS

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  2. You have demonstrated the most important quality in this post, Reed---students want to be heard. Thank you for taking time to listen to your students, honor their responses, and move forward with conversations that help teachers cultivate the kind of learning and relationships that not only improve learning but leave legacies in student lives!

    YOU MATTER!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Angela. Whether it was as a teacher, coach or now as an admin, I always tried to listen to the students. Sometimes it backfired, but it always paid off in the long run.

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    2. I wish I had written this great piece! Thanks!

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  3. It is great that students know what they like and want. Now, Id like to see students carry out a similar survey to find out what teachers like and want from them!

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