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[Educator Network] Students Answer: What Makes a Good Educator?

[Educator Network] Students Answer: What Makes a Good Educator?

May is National Teacher Appreciation Month, and what a perfect year for the accolades to flow. Among the myriad of educator responsibilities, stripped bare, the job of a teacher is the welfare of their students. Their learning and their wellbeing. How do strong educators do that? To find out we went to the source.

We asked Ms. Patty Blanchard, an elementary teacher for EdOptions Academy, to ask her students, “What makes a good teacher? What makes a good educator?” After a great conversation with her 5th grade students, many fantastic responses were given, and a few common themes emerged. See what they had to say:

Understanding

This was a strong theme. Students were looking for teachers to have fun, respect them, and provide them time to do the things they enjoy:

“I think a great teacher is a teacher is a teacher that is nice, and makes you understand questions or answers.”

“Having fun. Respects and teach the kids.”

“A teacher that respects your ideas and gives you time to do the things you love.”

Empathy

Feeling understood is not only a basic human need but it is also how we connect, help, and support one another. Empathy creates connection. Students crave that connection.

“A teacher who interacts with their students in a nice way, a teacher who makes learning fun and not just difficult, a teacher who can put everyone in a good mood or that can just create a fun setting.”

“A great teacher should be nice because then the students won't get anxious for tests homework and all that stuff. Teachers should also be understanding because students might need help with something. They should also be patient because if someone doesn't understand something they should be patient and help them.”

Kindness

Teaching kindness is essential, and the best way to learn it is to feel it.

“Kindness; understanding how students feel; giving students a fun time while learning, and helping students inside and outside of school.”

Humor:

We all know that teaching is serious business, but when we demonstrate humor and a willingness to laugh with our kids, we show our humanity. We create a positive social emotional learning environment, reduce stress, increase divergent thinking, and increase learning. There have been extensive studies on this very concept. Ms. Blanchard’s class may not be familiar with the studies, but they do recognize the idea.

“Humor is key. If you want me to pay the most attention, put it in words I’ll understand. Like humor.”

“Being able to engage students with humor, creative lessons and a strong classroom presence is an important part of what makes someone a good teacher.”

“When they help you. When they have a good personality. When they are funny.”

“A great teacher in my opinion is someone who is helpful. I also think a great teacher should be able to explain things clearly so that students can understand right away because then things would be easier. A great teacher should also be somewhat humorous in my opinion because a too serious teacher wouldn't be so fun.”

“I think what makes a great teacher is to have fun with his/her students.”

Instructional Style

Finally, we see the theme of instruction. However, looking deeper we see that the concept is less about the content and more about the delivery.

“I think that if you get to speak up in class. Being nice to students. And letting kids annotate in class for answers. Lastly letting everyone speak up to share an answer.”

“A great teacher always is kind to her students and teaches in a way that everyone will understand. Great teachers also work at a pace so that students don't feel rushed, and so that they don't feel that they are going too slow, either.”

In this not so scientific experiment, not a single student who was surveyed mentioned preparing for state tests. No one commented on standards and skills; everyone discussed learning, but only in terms of the importance of instruction based in compassion and respect.

Engaged students are learning. Simple enough, right? Keep the kids engaged and they will learn. They want to learn; they want to spend their time in school productively. Children are naturally curious, the job of the teacher, among so many others, is to flame that curiosity and create lifelong learners. And in there lies the magic.

We have the opportunity now to use the lessons students systematically and fundamentally are teaching us to tweak our instruction to focus on engaging students in our teaching. So, this summer, find a space to learn some new games, reignite your empathy and kindness. Reflect on the students who do not fit into the box and get excited with learning how to teach them.

As one student wraps it up in a nice bow with one last simple truth: “A nice teacher makes a good teacher.”

winnie.oleary's picture
Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently a Curriculum Manager for Edmentum. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she finds something new and exciting every day.