Last year, I wrote about the advice a group of recent high school graduates gave to a group of pre-service teachers in the CT Alternate Route to Certification program. This past weekend, I spoke to this year's group of ARC candidates about urban school issues and educational technology and there was a group of high school seniors there to give some input on what they feel makes a good teacher.
It was a great discussion with the students giving information, advice and opinions and the ARC candidates asking questions and asking for the student's thoughts on different topics and issues.
The first comment made by a student was that students don't like, and will become unmotivated to do work, when a teacher doesn't have a plan, is unprepared, and "wings it" each day for lessons. The discussion moved on to homework and how it has to be meaningful, should not be too long (quality vs. quantity), should prepare students for tests, and should not be due the next day. Students have many different classes and activities and need multiple days to get homework done. They also said that they like it when a teacher posts the homework ahead of time so that they can start it early if need be. They also said it was important in math and science to have the answers or solutions available so that the students can check their homework and learn from their mistakes instead of getting frustrated.
Many students remarked that they have teachers who give out busy work for homework and classwork (like puzzles and way too many problems) and that this does nothing to help a student learn. They stated that they feel like the class was a waste if that was all they did.
An ARC candidate asked the students how they thought teachers should handle discipline issues in the classroom. The consensus was that teachers need to address students who are disturbing others, but should take them aside and not berate them in front of the whole class. It was mentioned though with some students that is the only way they listen. They stated that teachers should be nice, but serious, and not feed a student's anger or get into an argument with that student. It was interesting to hear this coming from students since this is a concept taught to teachers.
One student stated that they absolutely hate when teachers don't get work or tests graded and back to the students in a timely fashion. They said it's hard to know how you are doing in a class if you don't get any feedback. True That!
Most of the students agreed that the best teachers are enthusiastic and excited about what they teach, make it fun and interesting, use projects in class, and make their classroom a safe place to be. "If the teacher isn't excited about the material, why would we be?"
Projects were listed as something they all loved. The were able to apply what they learned to something and not just sit in class doing problems or writing a paper. They all agreed that they learned more through projects than just listening to a teacher talk or doing homework.
Technology was also discussed with the students wanting teachers to use technology to communicate with them, post resources, and make learning more fun. Facebook was brought up, but most students saw Facebook as a social thing, not necessarily for education. They did like when teachers use web sites and email though and want teachers to be accessible via email for help.
Along the lines of help, they stated that teachers need to be available after school for help, especially the day before a test. Students have to have access to teachers for help as much as possible.
Mutual respect was also a big topic. Students wanted to see teachers interested in their students as people, trusting their students to do the right thing, and talk to the students with respect. Teachers need to make students feel comfortable in asking for help in class.
It was a great discussion and I was pleased to see that what the students want in a teacher is what we try to teach teachers to do.
A note: these students were all high level, self-motivated students, but I think that their advice is good for all levels of classes.
Thanks to the 2009-2010 ARC Class, Science Methods Instructor Glenn Couture, and special thanks for their time and insight, high school seniors Emily Lavins, Kenzie Bess, Nick Quadrini, Andy Rumore, Will Marr, Dom Kruszewski, Matthew Lee, Jason Parraga, and Anthony Lato.