A student speaks: What makes a good teacher?

During my studies I read a lot from professors and other teachers about what makes a good teacher but I never hear from the most important people of all, current students! So I have handed  the microphone to ‘lessons to be learned,’  a year 9 student, to give a guest lecture to future and current teachers on the topic ‘what makes a good teacher?’

School is a very prominent thing in a child’s life. It is also a very important thing, although some students don’t realise it. If a child doesn’t enjoy school, it impacts a great deal on their life.

Teaching, I think, is one of the hardest jobs there is. Because really, it isn’t just one job. When you are a teacher, you are also a doctor, a counsellor, a role model, a diploma (on a slightly smaller scale, of course.) Many teachers that haven’t actually started on the job yet are probably thinking wait, this isn’t in my job description. But it is. And, unfortunately, it isn’t in the fine print. You don’t realise until it is too late.

I have been very lucky with the teachers that I have had in primary school. Most of them have been OK, if not good, one has been bad, and three have been incredible. I can easily say this, but to articulate why they were good bad or in between isn’t as easy as it would seem.

I still remember my reception teacher. A lot of you would have no idea what I mean, so for those that don’t, it is a different name of prep, or, in New Zealand I believe that the first year of primary school is called grade one. She was one of my favourite teachers. I am still glad today that I had a good teacher for my first year of school. She was kind and friendly, and had this amazing quality; she never talked down to us. She never got angry when we needed extra help, or she had to repeat something. This really, when teaching a bunch of 5 year olds, is crucial. Patience is a must, and getting angry or yelling at younger children really doesn’t work. You just end up with kids that will, and can, cry you a river.

So what makes a good primary school teacher? Well, there’s the $154 question right there. I’ll let you put an amount on my answer. The best teachers I have had have many things in common. They all were confident, professional, and could communicate things extremely well. They could look at things from different angles, so that if a student did not understand what they were saying, they could explain it in a different way.

Please, do not ever underestimate the importance of knowing what you are doing. Or at least looking like you know what you are doing. If you aren’t confident, kids won’t take you seriously. Finding a style of teaching is what will help you do this. And of course, that is going to take some practise. Making a mistake, might I add, is not going to destroy your career either. It’s the way you deal with it, that is what is going to count. It helps to break down the barrier between teacher and student, and says, look kids, I’m human too. Two important things that I would like to advise are do not try to be funny until you know your class, and don’t be ultra-strict and then start to be nicer, you have got to be consistent. And don’t let them walk all over you. It is about balance. That balance is going to depend on your class, and the kids in your class.

My favourite teacher was funny, and has a great personality. The classroom was relaxed most of the time, and when it wasn’t, it was because a serious issue needed to be addressed. She bended the rules a bit, she pushed the boundaries, and didn’t make us do things if she thought they were boring. She would push students where she thought they needed to be pushed, and took time to get to know the students in her class. Her classes were interesting, and she knew how to play on people’s strengths and weaknesses.

So what makes a good teacher? What makes a bad teacher? Keeping lessons interesting is crucial, and being liked is important to become a ‘good teacher’ in your student’s eye, but of course there is no accounting for taste. If you aim to be your idea of a good teacher, then I think you will be miles ahead of many other teachers. But, all of the really good teachers I have had were liked by most, if not all students in their class. It is possible.

10 thoughts on “A student speaks: What makes a good teacher?

Add yours

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the post, I think it had great insight and some careful reflection on your classroom experience. Having done that as part of the teacher training course I know how hard that can be.
    I know as teachers we look back on who taught us when we were young and that has a great impact on how we think of “good” and “bad” teaching and the kind of teacher we decide to be. Many aspects and attitudes of teaching have changed though, and I don’t think that you can go wrong by asking your current students “Am I doing a good job?” and listening to them.


  2. Well, first up I’d like to congratulate the guest writer of this post – you write with a style and perception beyond your years.

    As a new teacher, I couldn’t agree more with the points you raise about “what makes a good teacher’ – the need for consistency, the need to be human, the need to “at least look like you know what you’re doing”!

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on our work – too often our students’ voices are drowned out and ignored in our schools.

    And who knows? Perhaps YOU might become a great teacher as well 🙂


    Michael Graffin
    Perth, Western Australia


  3. Dear Lessons to be Learned,
    Thank you so much for your wonderful post. I think it is important for teachers in the younger years to be very patient with our students as it is a big transition into school.

    Thank you again for your wonderful post.



  4. Thank-you, everyone, for your comments and your kind words. I hope that this post has helped give some insight into a current students mind, and am thrilled to know that you have enjoyed it. And thank-you, Stephanie, for this opportunity. It has been a pleasure.


  5. I am sharing this with all the teachers at my school – great piece of writing to make teachers think about what they do and why they do it.


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