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Student's View:
What Makes a Good Teacher?

In a recent newspaper editorial, high school junior Kaya McRuer (Mercer Island High school) addresses the question: What makes a good teacher?

Unfortunately, in her essay, she shifts to discussing what makes a favorite teacher in the eyes of her student peers. I would suggest there is a difference between the criteria "favorite" and "good."

Nonetheless, Jaya lists these criteria for favorite teachers:

  • They allow for student creativity and independence in the classroom
  • They understand and explain to their students why it is important to learn the curriculum
  • Rather than give easy A's, they challenge students and encourage inquisitiveness
  • They make every effort to give clear, easily understood instructions and explanations
  • They help any student who needs it
  • Rather than cause antipathy, they can make students fall in love with their subject
Though Kaya makes several good observations, I enjoyed most her comment: "The subject being taught does not define whether the students will like the class, rather it is the teacher who makes the subject interesting or not." So, in her eyes, mathematics still has a chance given the right teacher...and I agree!

But, I think Kaya's remarks are somewhat simplistic, and from the point of view of a "good" student...often unaware of teacher struggles with the "other" students.

For example, not all students can handle creativity and independence in a classroom setting. Also, many students would prefer the easy A, and it is the teacher's fault if roadblocks such as challenges, extended problem-solving experiences, etc. are placed in their way. And, too many students who need extra help do not want it.

I should note that the crux of Kaya's essay is to promote the idea of secondary students being involved in the teacher evaluation process. I do not necessarily disagree or agree, as most of the "good" teachers I know regularly ask their students for feedback.

But, the teacher evaluation process can be misused by students. Ask anyone who has observed the feedback given by vindictive students via online sites such as Rate My Teacher.

Source: K. McRuer's editorial "What Makes a Good Teacher?" Seattle Times, 1/28/2012