What Makes a Good Teacher?

By: Ryan Smithers

Having a great teacher never comes easy. Throughout my days, I’ve had good teachers, bad teachers, skeptical teachers, and teachers who are just plain odd. Everyone remembers a time when they first looked at their new schedule and saw that they had a teacher with a bad rap. It’s actually dream crushing. But within comes new experiences, stories, lessons, and another person that could make an impact on your life. Not every teacher deserves a shiny red apple on their desk each morning, but I think we as students lose sight of the true influence teachers have on our lives.

Now, I’m nowhere near qualified to be critiquing the hard, dedicated work of a teacher, but I’ve done the crime and I’m almost done with the time. With that, I think I’ve seen enough to know what a bad teacher looks like.

I feel that the ability to personally connect and actually TEACH students is crucial when trying to become elite in the teaching profession. Some teachers just don’t have either, and it all shows on day one. On the first few days, teachers get a chance to personally connect with their new students. This could be through common interests, views, or even jokes/sarcasm. Some teachers go right into the class material and wonder why they lose the attention of their class so early. Students sometimes feel intimidated or disrespected when they are instantly bombarded with work, when the teacher hasn’t even learned their name. From personal experience, these types of teachers have made me lose motivation in the class. I would still do the work, but not to the best of my ability. The work I submitted was basically feedback to the way I was being taught. This could be a result of the way a teacher runs a class as well. A teacher who is moody, disorganized, or just not on top of his or her game is a recipe for disaster. Students love a clean, well set-up structure to the class. This includes how notes are presented, examples, discussions, or other ways to get kids involved in the class. How well a teacher prepares his/her students is another asset to consider when discussing the likes of a teacher. You could ask any student in Wake County if they’d prefer a study guide before taking a test, and I guarantee all of them would say yes. Though for some reason, many teachers shy away from creating a study guide or reviewing before a test/quiz. They throw out the content and let us fend for ourselves. Students want a reciprocal relationship with teachers, meaning they get the same effort they give in return. This idea doesn’t work well with a few teachers, which doesn’t make much sense considering it’s their job.

It’s very different on the other side. Notable teachers just have that voice or “swag” to win over the attention of their students. They make a statement on day one explaining how they are as a person, teacher, and how they run the class. It creates a clear path for students and their goals in the class without any curveballs. Most of these teachers put in max effort, creating their own powerpoints, worksheets, and other activities. Their notes are easy to follow and include examples and information that are needed for assessment. Their class activities get students involved while learning simple tricks and tasks relating to the subject. Their enthusiasm and drive to make it a great day, every day, is how they win their students over. It’s not all about what we learn. Kids really only want good notes, practice, and tests on what they actually learned from the “school” part of school. The rest of the puzzle is the personal influence a teacher can have on a student’s life.


Students can only see the true impact teachers have on their own lives, and it goes way deeper than just equations and vocabulary. Patience is essential on both sides, and students should be grateful when a teacher has patience and time to try and understand where they’re coming from. It’s basic empathy that all teachers SHOULD have. The best teachers are the ones that can put themselves back into the shoes of a student. They understand when a student just isn’t there mentally, and are ready to help when need be. I’ve never gotten this “treatment” personally, but I’ve seen it happen. When a student has his/her headphones in the whole period and isn’t doing their work, the teacher walks over and calmly talks to them, coming to an agreement on how they can finish their work. There has been videos and stories of teachers taking students under their wing when their home life is rough. They give them rides home, make them lunch, and most importantly, converse to try and positively guide them to a better life. It’s admirable. It’s a true life lesson. It’s care.

Now, I’m not saying to be a good teacher you have to take a struggling student home and cook them a five-course meal. You don’t have to give them an automatic 100 for assignments they miss. But you have to understand. Not every student is in the same position. Not every student wants to be there. Not every student CAN be there. Not every student is the way you are or were. The best thing you can do is understand. The best teachers I’ve ever had I’ve developed personal relationships with. I’m not the type of person who would go to them and ask for advice. But would they if I asked? Of course. Students, you need to understand that teachers want the best for you. It may not seem like it, but they want you to succeed. It’s surprising, but yes, they actually care about you. Teachers, take a moment and think about a student who never tried his/her best, never participated, or was rarely present. Did you do anything to help? Did you immediately assume that the kid just didn’t care about school? It’s goes much deeper than you think. Teachers are one of the most hard-working, dedicated, and caring people in the world. They aren’t losers.



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