Student Perspective: What Makes Teachers Great

Male teacher giving a high five-to a female elementary school student

Every teacher begins each new school year with one intention: To be the best teacher they can be. So what separates a great teacher from an unremarkable one?

We’ve all had teachers who weren’t the best, and we all have had teachers that were so outstanding that we still remember them. What makes those teachers memorable? Was it the lessons they created? Was it the grades that they gave us?

To find out, I thought who better to ask than students? So, I asked some of mine and here is what they had to say.

Q1: If you could give teachers one piece of advice of how to be the best teacher, what would you tell them?

“Don’t worry about being the favorite. It will just stress you out trying to be the best. Just go with your gut feeling, if the kids don’t listen, discipline them so they don’t do it again. For me the best teacher is one who can handle their students” – Christopher, 12

“Don’t just think like a teacher, think like a student. Find what drives them and what keeps them moving forward” – Anonymous, 11

“Just be yourself. You don’t need candy or prizes to make students do what you want.” – D’aja, 12

Q2: Think about your past teachers. What are some of your favorite activities that you remember doing in their class?

“They gave us choices to pick what we needed to work on. If we needed help with math, they gave us multiple options to do related to math.” – Anonymous, 10

“My favorite activities are when I get to choose what to do, or when I can help somebody else complete the work” – Aislin, 12

Q3: If you had magic powers, how would you change the classroom to make it better?

“I would make people say only positive things, because the things you say to others can affect them or make them change to something they are not” – Rachel, 12

“Self-learning for students. Let students teach themselves about a subject and test them on it to see if they can complete the task.” – Christopher, 12

Q4: What is the most memorable piece of advice a teacher gave you?

“I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not” –Imran, 12

“My 3rd grade teacher always told me to think like someone else would have never thought to think. Think like a Philosopher or a genius” – Aislin, 12

“That if I had worked hard, I would get farther than I ever thought that I would. Because of that advice I am now more conscious of my life choices and try to my best extent to give my all in whatever activity I do. – Christopher, 12

Q5: How do the best teachers make class interesting?

“They make connections to the student’s lives, but also their own life.” – Anonymous, 10

“They choose stories or show videos about the obstacles that students are facing in their class” – Anonymous, 13

“By making it into a competition. They do this to get kids interested in what they are doing. The best teachers say “this is a competition.” Then, the kids get excited and they have fun, but are learning at the same time.” – Anonymous, 12

Q6: How do the best teachers encourage you to be yourself?

“They inspire me to be true to myself. I should never try to be someone else. If someone makes fun of me, just tell them that this is me, and that is all I am trying to be.” – Marisa, 12

“They show you to never change because of someone else. Being yourself always make you perfect” – John, 12

“By letting me speak my mind with no judgment, and pushing me to be creative and use my imagination” – Javonna, 12

Q7: If you could choose one teacher to be like when you are an adult, who would you choose? Why?

“I would be like my math teacher, because when he’s not correct, he admits he made a mistake or keeps trying until he knows he’s certain with his choice.” – Anonymous, 12

“If I could choose one teacher to be like when I am an adult is all my teachers combined. All of my teachers have been supportive to me to be successful in the real world.” – Anonymous, 12

“My teacher has been to a world political meeting to discuss world problems. I don’t want to do that but I want to do something equally as amazing” – Imran, 12

So, what makes the best teachers?

The best teachers are those who create a culture of individuality, and encourage students to be their best through honesty and transparency. The units that my students loved were the units that I was most passionate about teaching. It is important to choose topics that the students will be engaged in, but more importantly, choose topics that you are engaged in as a teacher. Notice how most of my students didn’t mention what they learned academically from their teachers. They mentioned the character traits that their teachers have, that inspire them to be the best students they can be. As teachers, we have a greater impact than we realize. We are more than just teachers and role models. We are parents, siblings, coaches, and friends. Our job is more than teaching academics. It is more than creating lessons and getting the students to pass the test. We teach honesty, culture and responsibility. We teach kindness, acceptance and passion. Most importantly, we teach our students the importance of staying true to yourself, and not being afraid to be who you are.



About the Author
Sari Goldstein

Sari Goldstein

Sari Goldstein is a graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in political science and a minor in psychology. She spent most of her 3.5 years in state college, PA, but also spent one semester studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. After graduating from college she began working for Teach for America in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. She teaches middle school language arts, and is hoping to continue making a difference in the lives of students nationwide. Her passion is creating educational equity and higher literacy rates within Title I schools.