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What do you think makes a good teacher?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on December 22, 2006

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Photo of Erika Muth

“A good teacher is someone who is organized, caring, compassionate and can deal with just about anything.”

Photo of Holly Shepard

“They should be able to incorporate different learning styles, because not everyone learns the same. They should also encourage independent thinking and good decision making.”

Photo of Bryan Anderson

“The person must care about their students. They should be understanding, but also have a high level of expectation and be knowledgeable about the subjects they teach.”

Photo of Ryan Montana

“They’re personable, have good listening skills. They are responsive to the desires of the class, but still stern.”


trinity 10 years, 3 months ago

a whip&a chair. hah, kidding-sorta.

to teach today's kidlets, oh dear-i think that the criteria for a good teacher is different than it was 30, 40 years ago because back in the day teachers&school administrators had support from parents; now, not so much. i can't imagine being a teacher in today's world. parents seem to have such high expectations, yet are ready to jump and cry foul the minute that their spawn get a bad grade or in some sort of trouble.

trinity 10 years, 3 months ago

hah, yes jonas, that is me today! ;)

i just haven't had nearly enough coffee yet. plus i have to go get in to the chocolate&flour&etc and make more goodies. sigh such is life!

canyon_wren 10 years, 3 months ago

All four interviewed had pretty good comments about what qualities teachers should have, but only Anderson mentioned that they should be knowledgeable. Having taken a degree from one College of Education and having worked in two others, I question whether, in elementary education preparation, we are requiring enough subject matter courses for our elementary school teachers--the programs seem steeped in methods classes and woefully lacking in real substance. Obviously, there are some fantastic teachers out there, but there are also 'way too many who go into teaching because they have neither the self-discipline for rigorous subject matter nor the curiosity to learn some basic world facts on their own--and our children's scores are showing that.

I agree, though, that because of the different climate in schools today, good teaching is a lot more difficult.

juscin3 10 years, 3 months ago

Someone that treats the students fairly. Not punish the whole class because of one or a few students want to disrupt the class. A teacher that respects their students as well as the students respect them. I know from experience that my daughters teacher a few years ago called the class stupid. Of course when confronting her about it, she denied it. Amongst other things too. Typical. In the long run, she was FIRED! She got what she deserved. May sound harsh, but it was totally wrong on her part and she knew it.

EasilyAmused 10 years, 3 months ago

The ability to eat lunch in five minutes

sublime 10 years, 3 months ago

Fair treatment is huge.They should make time for one on one for the students that are slower learners.

southerngirl 10 years, 3 months ago

I am a special education teacher and I can tell you that orginization and a sincere love of mounds of paperwork are a definate must. I work 10 hour days and still take paperwork home on weekends and holidays...and I have 3 assistants to help me with my 16 special needs students!! I actually got carpal tunnel syndrome this year!!! Oh, and loving every child for who and where they are is very important. The stinky kid and the kid with the high maintainence parent need love too! d

ohjayhawk 10 years, 3 months ago

I agree wren. I think teachers, especially teachers of higher grades who specialize in a subject or two, should be required to spend a week or two during summer break in an "internship" that directly relates to that subject. I put internship in parenthesis because I'd even be inclined to say pay them for that extra couple weeks.

For example, someone who teaches business math might spend a couple weeks in an accounting department at a local company. This way the teachers who become teachers right out of college have an understanding of how the things they are teaching are actually applied once their students enter the workforce.

jonas 10 years, 3 months ago

They should have an intact head. I've found people teach fairly poorly when they don't.

salad 10 years, 3 months ago

Here's what society expects: 1. Must be willing to go through 5 years of college and pay for it, when everyone else only has to do 4. 2. Pay full tuition that last year and work for free, we'll call it student teaching. 3. Be happy with a starting salary comparable to a trash collector, except your salary will only increase about $300/yr. for the next ten years. 4. Be greatful for unpaid extra assignments and committes that accomplish nothing useful in the long run. 5. No complaining that the elementry ed. major-sorority girl who partied through college (and barely passed) gets paid the same as the honors student girl who double majored in Physics and chemistry and teaches advanced placement in highschool. 6. No complaining that irresponsible pregnant highschool girls get free day care and social services from the district but responsible teachers with stable families get zip. 7. Must agree that there is no such thing as too many administrators and no administrator can be paid too much for whatever it is that they do. 8. Have the general disposition and powers of Jesus Christ himself: actual humans need not apply.

heysoos 10 years, 3 months ago

wren and ohjayhawk--

Many of them do, especially those teaching in math and the sciences, enroll in specialized continuing education courses.

ms_canada 10 years, 3 months ago

I think the four pictured above said it all very well. What more can anyone say. Love of children I think is all important.

southerngirl 10 years, 3 months ago

ALL teachers have to renew their teaching certificate every few years which requires ongoing training-much of it at their own expense. How many other professions at this pay level are expected to do that? Salad, I hear ya, we have all had those feelings, but the fact is, we go back day after day because of that kid that finally "gets it" after countless hours of teaching and reteaching, because of that hug and the "You're my favorite teacher" from the kid who gave you the most gray hairs and for the occasional "I appreciate everything you do for my child, thank you." from a parent. Besides, where else can you sing, Old MacDonald, glue, cut, read all of the classics (The Gingerbread Man is on the plans for January) trace all of your letters and numbers and have snack at work!! That's the fun part. It is all of the "stuff" that you mentioned that really burns the best teachers out. Focus on the positive!

salad 10 years, 3 months ago

Teaching elementary is easy and fun, I could have done it forever. Teaching Jr. High and High School is ALOT less fun: there are no hugs (for male teachers), no snack time, no "fun" allowed. Seriously! I've had administrators question what I was doing in a High School for using the same "fun" method I was praised for using with 6th graders. Elementary teachers wouldn't believe what their "little sweeties" have turned into at 17.

Confrontation 10 years, 3 months ago

"Must be willing to go through 5 years of college and pay for it"

You may not know that teachers can have certains federal student loans forgiven after 5 years of work. This is given to teachers who work in low-income districts and those who teach subjects where there is a teacher shortage.

Confrontation 10 years, 3 months ago

I think a teacher must be able to put up with some idiot parents and their idiot children. For example, I know a girl who complained to the principal and her parents because she said that a teacher called her "ugly." Actually, the teacher said she was "pig-headed." I think he could have called her a number of different words.

southerngirl 10 years, 3 months ago

Salad, I have a 14 year old at home who has become a demon, so I know all too well that change that occurs. I am sorry that moving up a level or levels has killed the fun for you. I do have to say, that NCLB has made it harder to work the innovative lessons in, even in a 3-5 year old sped classroom. It's skill-drill rather than focusing on the lessons that are fun for both teacher and student and the student will truly retain. Confrontation, most teachers are made aware of the student aid available, but let me tell you about working in an at risk district...In our county school system, I have a VERY large sped classroom at 16-it will be divided next year and I get more assistants as I get more children. My colleagues in the city schools have 20 sped students and no assistants. Equipment is out of date, or lacking. oversight is lax, the pay is lower and teachers are not safe to teach. This year teachers in our city schools have been strangled, robbed, car-jacked and beaten. Thanks, I'll pay my student loans even though I am in a high risk field.

Confrontation 10 years, 3 months ago

southerngirl: I totally understand your situation. A friend of mine worked in a scary KC school district, but she was lucky to be in teaching at the elementary level. There are definitely drawbacks to working in these areas, but many teachers need this option to get out of debt. We all know that most teachers couldn't make high loan payments without other financial support (spouse, parent, etc.).

beatrice 10 years, 3 months ago

The ability to stay one chapter ahead of the students in the assigned reading.

sunflower_sue 10 years, 3 months ago

To Mr. Yates (now in Heaven): You were my favorite!!! Math was actually fun in your class. You treated us kids like little humans and every day was a joy. Too bad you went too soon. So many kids will not benefit from having known you! You were the man!

To Mr. Price: Who ever knew Physics and Chemistry could actually be a good time? Throwing bowling balls out of a third story window is something never forgotten. (I still remember the lesson, too.) You rock! And the fact that you have a rock band makes you even more cool!

To Mr. Reynolds: The fact that someone is not the athlete they once were is no reason to give them average grades. It was Literature...not track! I'll never regret calling you on it. I appreciate that you were at least man enough to own up and finally give me the grade I earned. I still think you were a horrible teacher.

And to the unforgetable Mrs. Northup: You telling me: "(Sue), If I had my way with you, I drag you by your hair, fling you up against the blackboard, and beat you to death with an eraser" was one of the best lines I've ever heard in my life. I couldn't help but laugh. The mental image was just too precious and it is very much in me to find the humor in things. Sorry it made you mad that I laughed so hard and for so long. If you had had a sense of humor, we would have gotten along great. Your loss. I sincerely hope you've acquired one, or gotten out of teaching.

A good teacher is someone that appreciates all the kids for who they are: the shy ones, the class clowns, the angry rebels, the attention seakers, the nerds, et al... and just makes the class enjoyable because they, themselves are enjoyable. If a student comes out of a math class not understanding the basic concepts of math, but the teacher showed that student compassion and understanding...the student still learned something, and the lesson will probably serve them better than the quadratic equation.

Good grief I'm wordy today! Sorry!

Tony Kisner 10 years, 3 months ago

What would happen if we gave all students/parents the tax dollars spent on public schools and asked them to decide what a makes a good teacher and reward those good teachers with their patronage. Like deciding where to make all your other important purchases, what would happen then? Would good teachers that deliver a good product to the customer be rewarded with more patronage (money), would bad teachers find themselves needing to make changes in response to decisions made by the purchasers of the product? Nothing to be feared in letting the person buying the product to have input in the buying decision, a free exchange of value would identify the best providers and reward same.

southerngirl 10 years, 3 months ago

Bea, Not a requirement, we have teacher's manuals for that!! SS, That is what keeps us teaching! Easy, So then the athletes and their sideline coach-parents would reward the teachers that ensure that Johnny Halfback plays on Friday night and gets the grades that will make him a shoo in for a Division 1 school even though he didn't learn a thing. NCLB is a huge headache, but I would rather be rewarded as a highly qualified teacher from a national standard rather than a local standard.

Tony Kisner 10 years, 3 months ago

South girl - if that is what they want for the kid that is probably what they will choose regardless. Is there possibility good teachers could create a school where athletics and education are both important, math and art are important? I don't assume that a rational purchaser would choose to make an irrational decision. My clients may want to maximize profit today regardless of future implications. The value I can add to the decision process is to point out short sightedness risk. I think the good teachers would do that, would they not?

betsy 10 years, 3 months ago

To the "no visible tatoos" [sic] poster:

I graduated with honors from a Top 5 Education program. I earned a full scholarship to an English PhD program and have over 70 hours of English courses under my belt. My principal has called me the best 1st year teacher he has ever seen in his 34 years of education.

And yes, I have tattoos on my upper arms which occasionally peek out through my professional clothing.

southerngirl 10 years, 3 months ago

Easy, I predict that schools of the future will be more like those in Europe where schools are only for academics and athletics, the arts and music are through private clubs. Towns root for their local soccer club much like we root for our high school teams. Agree or disagree, I believe that this would solve our problems with school funding and with those few who put athletics ahead of academics. And before you ask, my son plays varsity baseball, my other son plays football, my daughter plays soccer and I am a former high school gymnastics coach and former gymnast. Sports are a very part of our family life.

beatrice 10 years, 3 months ago

Well, isn't betsy just about perfect. With a Ph.D. in English, I'm glad she was able to spot the incorrect spelling of tatoo [sic]. What surprises me is her incorrect use of such simple words as "over" and "which."

I imagine she meant to write that she has taken "more than" 70 hours of English courses, rather than "over" 70. Over indicates a spatial relationship, while more than suggests an amount. Example: My hand is over the stack of books. There are more than 70 books in the stack.

Further, she writes, "I have tattoos on my upper arms which occasionally peek out through my professional clothing." "That" should have been used in this instance, rather than "which." "That" is the defining or restrictive pronoun, while "which" is the non-defining or non-restrictive. The use of a defining or restrictive pronoun would define the tattoos that occassionally appear. To use which properly, the sentence should read, "I have tattoos, which occasionally peek out through my professional clothing, on my upper arms." Perhaps she lost this basic knowledge in her pursuit of advanced degrees. A simple rule of thumb is this: if a comma seems in order, use which, if not, then that is likely correct. It may be time to review Strunk's "The Elements of Style." We don't want the incorrect knowledge being passed on to the children.

You see betsy, if you are to pick on the spelling and grammar of others around here - unless doing so for attempted comic relief - expect it to come back at ya.

sgtwolverine 10 years, 3 months ago

Ha! Bea, I love the conclusion of your post. Everything is about proper English, and then your very last word is "ya." That was wonderful. It would have been funnier only if you had said "back atcha."

trinity 10 years, 3 months ago

lol, you go bea! that was an awesome post which/that/whatevs i loved! ;)

southerngirl 10 years, 3 months ago

Now now Bea and Trinity, put away the red font, let's remember that we are writing in an informal setting, not writing a research paper in a.p.a style. I dont think she was picking on anyone's spelling or grammar, just making a point that tattoos have nothing to do with being a teacher. In the spirit of the holiday you celebrate, could we all get along?

beatrice 10 years, 3 months ago

southerngirl, picking on spelling was exactly what betsy was doing, hence [sic]. She is the one who broke the holiday cheer, not me. I just brought into question the true worth of her honored, full-scholarshipped, Top 5, PhD education. Honestly, for the best new teacher in more than three decades, I was just surprised she could type while patting herself on the back with both hands.

But in the spirit of celebrating Boxing Day, I'll let it drop. :-)

southerngirl 10 years, 3 months ago

LOL, okay, point taken Bea...but you're not off the hook yet. You need to contact your former english teacher (the one who made you diagram countless sentences for no reason) and apologize to him/her since you recognized poor spelling and grammar in others thereby answering the question that you MUST have asked "Why are we doing this?" I'll NEVER use this!"

Incidently, Boxing Day is also my much older brother's birthday-Happy (almost) Birthday to the only one who ever picked me up by my ears!!

Py, you are exactly right, teaching is one of those professions (along with doctors, lawyers and politicians) that discourages personal style. My tattoo remains hidden. I also stand and applaud your statement on payment based on one's impact on society. Right on! Whoo, whoo, whoo!!

betsy 10 years, 3 months ago

Bwahahahahahha! Beatrice: I'm sorry my descriptive, rather than prescriptive, use of grammar bothered you. I do use less than impeccable language on informal Internet forums.

All I was saying is that people are not necessarily the sum of their skin color(s). I wasn't picking on nudist's grammar usage, I was merely attempting to quote the person correctly.

I'm not holier than thou, I'm merely defending teachers. And I'm definitely not even close to "just about perfect"; I have many, many flaws. I just love what I do and try to do it the best I can. :)

Thanks for the person who called for peace on the boards. I wonder if people who get nasty would do so in real life? If so, yikes! I'm new here, but I thought Lawrence was supposed to be a friendly place to live.

beatrice 10 years, 3 months ago

betsy, Lawrence truly is a friendly place to live. Please don't base your judgment of the town on anything I might write -- I no longer live there. Also, don't take anything I might write too seriously. It really is intended for humorous purposes only -- sorry if it seemed too harsh, especially when in response to somebody new. And if you have many, many flaws, as you claim, you will certainly fit in well around here. Welcome aboard, and happy holidays!

Bone777 10 years, 3 months ago

I have been on a huge fire in my hometown and I haven't been able to converse on here for days. Nice to be back.

A good teacher is someone who has something others want to learn.

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