What makes a great teacher? Pupils have their say

A ‘get in to teaching’ advert by the Department of Employment in The Guardian took the unusual approach of including interviews by pupils about what makes a great teacher. More and more studies indicate the most important factor in determining the quality of education a child receives is the quality of his or her teacher.

Teaching is a vocation and most of those entering the profession do so because they want to make a difference. Being a great teacher though requires more than a desire to make a difference. There are a number of additional qualities that come naturally to the best teachers.

Here are 5 attributes and skills pupils at one London High School say make a great teacher:

1 – Enthusiasm and support

Good teachers are enthusiastic and supportive, and can make a big difference to how well you do”, says Tayla-Rae, 15. She went on to say, “when you get a teacher who inspires and really cares about you, then it makes a big difference.”

2 – Passion

When teachers are passionate about their subject it invariably rubs off. On support and passion, one pupil says “I never used to like maths, but Mr Datta has given me a lot of extra support at lunchtime and after school. He is really passionate about maths, which is infectious.”

3 – Respect and trust

Great teachers have to have a connection with their students. In the Department of Employment’s advert, Joe, a 15 year old pupil from the same London High School says there has to be a symbiotic relationship between teachers and students. Another pupil went as far as saying really good teachers are almost like a friend.

For teachers to engage with children about how they were feeling was also seen as important by the pupils. Another pupil said “I feel I can talk to Ms Berry about anything, about academic work or things that have happened in school. I trust her as a mentor.”

4 – Praise

Teacher praise is a powerful motivator for students if used correctly. Praising effort and accomplishment using specific examples does help students to see a direct link between their effort and the outcome of a task. One pupil who had given up playing the piano was inspired to take it up again when her music teacher told her how good she was at it after the class were all asked to play a piece on the piano as part of a music lesson.

5 – Engagement

A great teacher can make even the most boring of subjects interesting. One pupil interviewed said of her teacher “Mr Jones gets everyone’s attention by the way he moves. He doesn’t just stay in one spot, but he’s all around us. His lessons never get boring.” Sometimes it can be something quite simple that makes a teacher stand out. Ultimately, teachers who can get the whole class engaged in the lesson have a much greater chance of making a difference to the outcomes of all, rather than just a few.

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