Teaching is difficult. Excellent teaching is even harder. Building a strong connection with students, along with pedagogy, best practices…and sometimes a magic wand, is the foundation to any lasting teaching. During my first few years teaching, it bothered me that some students just didn’t seem to like me. I couldn’t figure it out. I thought I was such a likeable person. What was I doing in the classroom that was causing this reaction?
After a few years, I came to feel very comfortable with my classes. Students generally liked me, my classroom, and what we were doing. So I asked them, what’s the deal? I asked 60 students: What makes you like one teacher and not another?
They spoke candidly, honestly, and their answers were very informative. I wish I had had this information when I first began teaching. Hopefully, this can help some of you who are just starting. Here were their responses in order of importance of unappealing characteristics of a teacher (1 being the most important):
- Teachers who do not seem to like their students.
- The teacher that gets upset easily or yells often.
- The teacher that teaches a subject the students hate.
- They ignore their students.
- The teacher that demands all the power in the classroom.
- Teachers who pick on or single out the students who tend to get in trouble often.
- The teacher that does not have enough behavioral management skills or training to control a classroom.
- Teachers that don’t trust their students.
- The teacher who tries to be like, mirror, their students in a contrived manner.
- The teacher who chooses favorites
I wish I had this list when I first started. Without this feedback, I unknowingly fell into many negative patterns. Students see many teachers through their lifetime. They feel more comfortable and learn more from some teachers than others. But there are things, such as those listed above, that can help more students get the most out of their education. Sometimes I do find myself falling back into some of these habits. But I’ve made a habit of reviewing student feedback from time to time, and this information helps me quickly snap out of my old patterns. This process helps me get back on track and give students the type of teacher they need and deserve. Old habits die hard, but when we start speaking to students, we better ourselves as teachers, and in turn make our classrooms a better place for everyone.