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What Does Your Child Want in a Teacher?

What Do Students Want in a Teacher?Remember second grade, when your teacher was dear sweet Mrs. McGregor? She was a quiet and understanding person, she loved children, and she encouraged her students to succeed—which meant that your second grade year was a wondrous time of educational discovery. Then there was third grade with Miss Jackson, who never listened and had no patience for students who needed extra help in understanding a concept.

Looking back, you probably have far happier memories of second grade than you do of third grade. Perhaps at the time you didn’t consider why Mrs. McGregor was your favorite teacher and Miss Jackson wasn’t, but those reasons can be important: a student-teacher relationship is a powerful component of a child’s educational experience.

If we were to take a poll of the characteristics that children appreciate in a teacher, we would likely hear responses like these:

  • Friendly toward me
  • Doesn’t yell
  • Understands that learning can be hard sometimes
  • Listens to me
  • Cares about me
  • Is enthusiastic when I achieve something or get something right
  • Notices when I try
  • Encourages me when I'm having difficulty
  • Respects the fact that I am not like everyone else all the time
  • Makes learning exciting

When you look at the situation from a child’s perspective, this list makes sense. These are essentially the same qualities that you would want in a teacher if you were learning something new. Now if you consider your own child’s perspective—coupled with the fact that he or she must live with the teacher (you!), year after year—then the importance of a positive student-teacher relationship gains even greater significance.

A young friend of mine posted on Facebook: “Well, my homeroom teacher is Ms. ____. My eighth grade year can’t get much worse!” How unfortunate. The student’s focus has shifted away from the joy of education due to a particular teacher with an unfavorable reputation. But consider this: what would your children say about having you as their teacher?

If you suspect that your teaching style might more closely resemble that of Miss Jackson than of Mrs. McGregor, take steps to improve the situation. Consider the influence of your words and remarks, and endeavor to be positive and empathetic. Listen to your child’s frustrations, offer suggestions, and think of new ways to present the material that is causing your child difficulty. Pay attention and remark positively when your child tries hard, and gently encourage him to keep trying if he seems distracted.

And most importantly, aim to cultivate an atmosphere that celebrates the joy of learning in your home. Create an encouraging environment of delight and enthusiasm in which your child can thrive, and not only will your child love you as a parent, he’ll love you as a teacher, too!