More on Good Teachers

equationThis time from the younger students.

Last academic Year I asked my then Year 9 (age 13-14) students about good Mathematics Teachers, their thoughtful and often sophisticated replies can be read here.


This year I thought I would begin by asking some of Year 7 (age 11-12) who joined the school in September. In their own words, here’s what they have to say….

A good teacher:

  • Knows what they are talking about
  • Must have a good understanding of everything!!!
  • Explains things clearly
  • They take time to explain
  • Will explain again if necessary
  • Explains things in a variety of ways
  • Changes their style of teaching for people who need help
  • Has to be wise and clever
  • Loves questions
  • Guides you through the steps
  • Makes sure every child understands
  • Always recaps
  • Recaps and revises previous topics
  • Makes it memorable
  • Encourages students to like the subject they teach – they share their enthusiasm
  • Asks us questions to see if we are listening and understanding the topic
  • Gives us even harder work to build our confidence and get better. Challenges us
  • Explains homework and classwork in full detail
  • Is a knowledgeable and helpful guide
  • Always encourages students to persevere and try their best
  • Gives advice
  • Gives you tips
  • Marks work fairly and correctly
  • Recommends helpful skills
  • Gives useful criticism in class
  • Gives useful comments in books
  • Gives targets and writes down areas of improvement
  • Listens to everyone
  • Lets all the students engage
  • Lets you work the way you feel it works
  • Lets you express yourself
  • Gives people a chance
  • Doesn’t talk for the whole lesson
  • Helps everybody who needs help
  • Finds helpful ways to assist each student
  • Helps with struggles
  • Someone who makes you feel that learning / studying is fun

Our disposition, how we come across is so important:

  • Is happy to teach
  • Smiles and cares about us
  • Believes in us
  • Speaks softly
  • Makes the group feel comfortable
  • Is cheerful
  • Is caring
  • Gets excited
  • Is always joyful
  • Is funny
  • Has a passionate and kind voice
  • Is calm
  • Is supportive and enthusiastic
  • Is fair and respectful
  • Is approachable
  • Is patient
  • Is nice but firm
  • Is strict when needed yet kind hearted
  • Is approachable but when you step over the line they are strict
  • Reminds students to listen to each other
  • Reminds students to respect each other
  • Has a laugh with the students
  • Must be organised

That comment about guiding through the steps reminds me of one of my Sixth Form many years ago who said:

“What are the baby steps Mrs Young?”

There is some repetition here, but so many students came up with similar themes it seemed worth repeating their statements. They remind me of the earlier Year 9 comments in that once again, it seems to me that their thoughts fit well with the key components of this extremely worthwhile read: What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research. Robert Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major October 2014.

Like Year 9, their comments seem to fall into these categories:

  1. (Pedagogical) content knowledge (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify students’ common misconceptions.”

  1. Quality of instruction (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely 3 and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high quality instruction.”

  1. Classroom climate (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“Covers quality of interactions between teachers and students, and teacher expectations: the need to create a classroom that is constantly demanding more, but still recognising students’ self-worth. It also involves attributing student success to effort rather than ability and valuing resilience to failure (grit).”

  1. Classroom management (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes)

“A teacher’s abilities to make efficient use of lesson time, to coordinate classroom resources and space, and to manage students’ behaviour with clear rules that are consistently enforced, are all relevant to maximising the learning that can take place. These environmental factors are necessary for good learning rather than its direct components.”

I’ll head for the other end of the school and ask the Sixth Form next!