A Good Teacher

In teacher training, applying for jobs and CPD we tend to think a lot about what makes a good teacher, albeit from quite a technical aspect. A good teacher has a good rapport with their students, can explain language clearly and concisely, or, if multiple job adverts are to be borne in mind, must have ‘a good standard of personal hygiene’.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of a lesson on modals ‘must’ and ‘mustn’t’ with my Grade 4 class, I asked them for their ideas on what makes ‘a good teacher’. Their answers were both humourous, sensible, and at times insightful. Here is the edited version of ‘what makes a good teacher’.

A good teacher must:

  • Be smart. Also be intelligent. They’ve included these as two separate points, and although I know their level of English isn’t high enough to understand the nuances between the two, I think they might be onto something. Often when we think about intelligence we think about being ‘book smart’ – and it’s true that a teacher won’t get very far without good subject knowledge. However ‘smart’ on its own is also necessary; it takes a particular type of ‘street smart’ to engage a tired class, or to forsee at least some of the challenges a particular group may throw at you.
  • Be happy. It’s not always easy, or even always possible. But our attitude, be it positive or negative, can have a real impact on what goes on in the classroom.
  • Have a good class. This is where I think my students show wisdom beyond their years. Sometimes your class will be angelic, everything will go perfectly to plan, and you’ll come out of the lesson feeling like the best teacher in the universe. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how good a teacher you are – some classes are just plain difficult.
  • Sometimes be quiet. Another insightful point, I feel. We are constantly warned about limiting TTT, but talking or being quiet isn’t just about that. I have to admit to not always being open to my students wanting to chat, I’m thinking about what I hope to achieve by the end of the lesson, or their upcoming test, or the grammar point they really struggled with, and if we listen to the story about Ema’s trip to the cinema we simply won’t have time to fit it all in. When I do remember to be quiet and listen, though, I’m always glad I did.
  • Eat. On the face of it, it looks like a ridiculous one – all of us need to eat, teachers or otherwise. However, although I know it’s far deeper than they intended, I do welcome the reminder that I too am human, and I do need to look after myself.

A good teacher mustn’t…

  • Be shy. This is an interesting one for me, as I do tend to be quite shy when faced with new people (excluding students). For me this is a reminder that my students are still young – they are growing and changing and their personalities are and always will be a complex thing.
  • Put their pen in their nose. I’m glad something I tell them repeatedly has obviously sunk in.
  • Be stupid. Again, this one made me think. Being stupid could simply be seen as lacking subject knowledge… but it could also be choosing to plough on with an activity when it’s apparent it isn’t working, or expecting the students to complete a task that is completely inappropriate for their age or level. It’s something I admit to being guilty of from time to time, as I’m sure we all are. But I’m learning, and it’s something I hope to do less and less.
  • Be late. A given, really – I’m sure their school agrees too!
  • Kill students… let’s face it, we’ve all fantasised about it…

Have you ever asked your students what, in their opinion, makes a good teacher? What did they think?


5 thoughts on “A Good Teacher

  1. Such a nice post, congratulations

    I wanted to a share a study which I did a while ago (You can read it here http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/2010/02/14/what-kind-of-teacher-are-you-are-you-in-your-students-hall-of-fame/ )

    The two things that struck me most in my young learners’ responses were

    1/ their awareness that homework was really just busywork designed to ruin their play time and
    2/ their delight in teachers whose lessons have ‘surprises’ – I loved that comment

    Keep asking them – they have a lot more to say to us 🙂



    1. Thanks for your comment Marisa, I’ll have to look over your study when I’m a bit more awake, it looks really interesting!

      I love that the adults ranked ‘being creative with materials and techniques’ as being really important, where as the YLs didn’t – I’d bet they probably do consider it important (and would notice if it were lacking) but are perhaps are unaware of the amount of creativity that goes into teaching. I know it’s something I never thought about until I became a teacher!



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