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What’s important in a teacher?

Minton, L. (1999, September 12). Fresh voices: What’s important in a teacher? Parade Magazine, p. 23.


Parade’s Lynn Minton asks teenagers provocative questions. Several high school students responded to the question: "What’s Important in a Teacher?"

The most important thing in a teacher is respect. Teachers are always asking, ‘Why don’t you show me respect?’ when they don’t show you respect. If they want respect from you, then they should show respect to you. (Michael Norman, 18, Bakersfield, California)

A good teacher makes time for you. My French teacher…always took the time to spend two or three minutes with me if I needed to talk about anything going on in my life, whether it was at school, at home, or at work. She made me the most important priority in her day for those few minutes. (Stephanie Terwelp, 18, Morton, Illinois)

My math teacher…was the kind of teacher who would understand if one day I forgot to do my homework or if I didn’t have a good night’s sleep and was not in a working mood. He had qualities I hope for in all my teachers. (Zach Schwitsky, 16, Tucson, Arizona)

Respect, genuine interest and involvement, and understanding are important in the teaching process. Many students feel the lack of these at home and school.

Other suggestions from students include the following:

  • Make things interesting.
  • Make things clear.
  • Be well organized.
  • Get students involved.
  • See both sides of a story.
  • Have a loud, clear voice.
  • Have a good sense of humor.

Kyle Morrow, 16, from Oregon, comments further on the last point, " ‘When a teacher cracks a joke or tells a funny story, it makes me relax more, and I can learn better.’ "


  1. Are these students making good points about effective teaching? What would you add or minimize from their suggestions?
  2. Would it help if all teachers reflected on these points and tried to improve? Might these suggestions be the substance for a creative teachers’ workshop?
  3. What factors hinder teachers, who want to do a good job, from improving on the above?
  4. What further suggestions do you have for improving teaching?


    • Real teaching is based on a relationship between a teacher and a student and among students.
    • Discipline is also a necessary prerequisite to effective classroom teaching. At least one student above recognized that fact.
    • Teaching also must be relevant and applicable to a student’s present and/or future life.
    • Besides exams, educational bureaucracy and unions, it is important for students, parents, and teachers to discuss what goes on in the classroom. Neither students, parents, nor teachers have the full secret to teaching excellence. We need to hear from everyone involved in this important process of socialization.

Dean Borgman cCYS