Interviews with nearly 400 inner-city, low-income middle- and high-school students yielded nearly identical responses from students. Students said teachers were the main factor determining how much they learned. They agreed that good teachers push students and make sure they do their work; they maintain order; they are continually willing to help students; they explain assignments and content clearly until everyone in the class understands; they vary classroom activities to include small-group work, discussions, reading to the class, and hands-on activities; and they take time to get to know and understand students and their circumstances.
Good teachers were teachers who cared about their students and made sure that they learned. Significantly, students did not confuse teachers’ personal qualities with their professional ones. The described “mean” good teachers and “mean” bad teachers; “funny” good teachers and “funny” bad teachers; and “boring” good teachers and “boring” bad teachers. If a teacher had the qualities that they identified as making a good teacher, then the teacher’s manner, sense of humor and charisma were unimportant. These interviews revealed just how much students care about school. Students had a single minded uncomplicated focus on how good teachers make school better and help them learn.
“What Urban Students Say About Good Teaching,” Educational Leadership, Volume 60, Number 1, September 2002, pp. 18-22. For the in-detail report of these interviews, see Listening to Urban Students: School Reform and the Teachers They Want, State University of New York Press, Corbett and Wilson, 2001.
Published in ERN November 2002 Volume 15 Number 8