The following blog post was written by Penelope Placide, a ninth grader who works for Fordham one day a week through her school's Corporate Work Study Program. Not only is Penelope a wonderful asset on a daily basis, she possesses invaluable insider knowledge as a current student immersed in the everyday realities of American schooling. With her bubbly personality (which is certainly reflected in this blog post), Penelope consistently shared stories of the many positive experiences she has had with teachers throughout her educational experience. In light of the current teacher-quality debates, Penelope realized her potential, as someone who is best able to speak to what really matters to students. What started out as a casual discussion about the creation of a blog post that would express her point of view quickly evolved into the development of a mini-survey of Penelope's classmates. As she describes in her blog post below, Penelope was not satisfied with simply reiterating her own beliefs about the qualities that a good teacher possesses; she wanted to explore a sample of student perspectives on the topic and share them with the education policy realm. Penelope's hard work and initiative allowed her to produce this compelling blog post.
Hi! I am a 9th grade student who has worked at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute since September 2010. Recently, I was given one of the coolest research projects ever! I was asked my opinion of what makes a good teacher, a mission that had never crossed my mind until now. To me the top three qualities that make a good teacher are: 1. a teacher who answers all questions and makes sure every student understands the material; 2. a teacher who takes time aside from school time to give extra support and help; and 3. a teacher who is fun and enjoyable to be around. Instead of just writing about my own opinion, I decided to ask some of my classmates and then explore the question of what makes a good teacher. In my experience, children's advice on how to run a classroom isn't always valued. This is why I wanted to involve other students, so that young student's voices could be heard, loud and clear.
To get started with this project, I created a list of the top ten qualities I believe an effective teacher should have. To make this project even more interesting, I took my top ten qualities and turned them into a survey to give my classmates. This survey listed the ten qualities I believe make an effective teacher and asked the students to rank the qualities in order of importance on a scale from 1-10 (1 being the most important, 10 being the least important). I gave the survey to five randomly selected English classes of 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students at my school. Of those surveys, I randomly selected 50 surveys to collect data from and analyze. By choosing random surveys, it allowed the data to represent a spread of opinions. The fact that students were selected randomly makes this project more representative and effective.
According to the 50 surveys I randomly selected, the top three qualities that make up a good teacher are: having a positive attitude (25/50 students ranked this in their top three), checking for understanding (24/50 students ranked this in their top three), and staying after school to help his/her students (20/50 students ranked this in their top three). Also according to the data, the quality that was least important to students was giving very little homework (30/50 students ranked this last in order of importance). I chose to analyze the three top qualities because I was very curious to see if the qualities which are important to me were important to other students. As an interesting comparison, I also chose to analyze the least important quality.
Well, I am not sure about anyone else, but I expected that giving very little homework would be the top quality most students thought a teacher should have. I am glad that little homework was the least important quality. What that says to me is students really do want to work. Students want an education; it is a priority for students, which I find absolutely amazing! Something that caught my eye was that the top three qualities have a great deal to do with how devoted a teacher is to teaching and students. I don't believe this means teachers and students have to be best friends forever, because that would be super weird. Instead, the top three qualities suggest a teacher should be a welcoming and reliable person. The fact that half of all respondents indicate the importance of a teacher's positive attitude shows that an interest for children and sharing knowledge is essential. Basically, the data shows that students appreciate teachers who go above and beyond their job descriptions to ensure that all students have a great understanding of course material. Good teachers answer questions no matter how many are asked. One of the coolest ways for me to learn from a teacher is when the teacher brings the problem or lesson to life, explaining why it is an important subject and how it ties into life. The data collected show teachers should be one of a kind and should make the classroom a home of learning.
Research shows that student opinions really matter, and it's time that they are heard. Teachers of the present and future: The survey's data clearly show that students think teachers should be dedicated to their job. Teachers need to be able to reach children emotionally and academically, making sure the material taught is understood. If you're not good at showing emotions, try, and if you're not good at making the classroom a home, put a welcome mat outside. Do all you can to provide a safe and warm environment for students, because according to the data, it makes a great deal of a difference to students. From a teen's perspective, a good teacher is one with a good personality and a person who wants what is best for all students. Not only do I know this is true by looking at the data, I know it because I have seen it.
Just an extra tip: Students love treats!
- Penelope Placide