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fireside's avatar

What are the qualities of a good teacher at the high school level?

Asked by fireside (12273 points ) February 25th, 2010

I’m thinking about going back to school to get my Master’s degree in Secondary Education, with an English concentration, and wanted to know what the collective thought about teachers.

—What were some of the qualities of the better teachers you had in school?
—What about the qualities of the not-so-great teachers?
—Were there any particular lessons or methods of teaching that stuck with you, either in a positive or negative way?

My son just had his school turned into Oceania for a week to give the students a memorable lesson about the novel. They had students assigned as Thought Police and rules they had to follow to avoid being “tortured” or “vaporized” and he seems to have really gotten something out of the experience.

When I was in school, we did a week or two where the class was divided into Xs and Os to demonstrate the realities of segregation and I still remember that experience.

—Do you have any stories about experiential, innovative or unique teaching methods that might be useful or entertaining?
—What are some of your favorite moments or projects or papers you wrote during high school?

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23 Answers

Val123's avatar

No fear!

Actually, the same qualities that make a good teacher at the elementary level, are the same qualities that make them a good teacher at the HS level. Ability to genuinely relate to the students, to care about them, to know their stuff, to be fair, but firm.

SeventhSense's avatar

I used to teach. I wouldn’t recommend a grade school classroom for any intelligent person unless you’re suicidal and looking to push yourself over the edge.

mollypop51797's avatar

Someone who can be loose and respectful of students, so they can at least have a good impressions. Someone who really knows their stuff, and are able to make learning fun. Someone who can reach down to the same eye level as the students, so they can get on the same level of understanding. Someone who is able to get a grip on rowdy students. Someone who cares about them, and can relate to them, but not be too motherly (as I’m sure they get enough of that at home). But basically, someone who is able to relate to them, and make their environment of learning, friendly, easy, understandable, but most importantly, someone who is able to offer them a challenge.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If you walk in on the first day with a holstered, high-caliber and high-quality automatic pistol and a marksman’s badge, then that would be a big plus, I think. (I don’t recommend that the weapon be loaded, but have the ammunition handy.)

But seriously, a relaxed and confident air (born real confidence, intelligence, humor and adaptability) as well as a willingness (a “conspiratorial willingness” will go far) to overlook small and stupid school rules in favor of “real” learning and curiosity will stand you in good stead. That, and a flashy car.

SeventhSense's avatar

Yes “conspiratorial willingness” and a burning desire for conformity and an abandonment of any real, true or novel approaches to education. And a complete abandonment of any ideals of education that are taught you in school. And an unbelievable willingness to subjugate any urges to kill vapid administrators and parents. Just rise at 5:30 and strike yourself with a ball peen hammer in the temple for a year to get acclimated and you’ll be fine. :o)

marauder76's avatar

Set firm boundaries. Enforce them fairly, consistently, and w/o anger. Hold yourself to the same standards of behavior as you do your students. Give tons of positive encouragement. Make class fun. If you don’t have fun, no one will. The kids should want to attend b/c they are excited to see what’s next. Don’t be the “sage on the stage.” Instead, be the “guide on the side.” Smile. Challenge yourself to get to know each student.

I’m like you. I got an MA in Secondary English Ed. The best course I took in grad school was “Dramatic Activities in the English Classroom.” All about teaching in role. Some of my best lessons/units ever were based on what I learned in that class. Feel free to contact me if you want full details, lesson plans, etc. I’d be happy to share. Good luck!

fireside's avatar

@SeventhSense – lol, what did you teach? The other advantage of the Master’s is that it would allow me to teach undergrads at the college level. I’m not sure entirely where I will end up, but know that early childhood would be a real test for me. Teaching kids to stand in a line and hold hands seems more tiring than trying to connect with older kids.

lilikoi's avatar

I think the world would be a much better place if teaching was not allowed to be a first career. I think personal experiences contribute to self-improvement and that someone fresh out of college just doesn’t have a deep enough well of wisdom to be giving out meaningful advice or teaching memorable lessons. All of the teachers I’ve ever encountered that were very young were not spectacular.

I think it is crucial for a teacher to know and understand personality typing. If one doesn’t know how people differ in their learning styles, they will only ever appeal to the single style of learning that they know. I am a hands-on learner, and the education system was a drag for me because it largely relies on conceptual learning that is not hands-on.

I have four immediate positive memories from my 17 or so years of public education that truly stand out. In sixth grade, my teacher took us out to a grassy field behind the school and let me bisect angles in chalk and draw lines out there to make a volleyball court. It was the first time within the public school system that theory was practically applied to a real world, tangible problem. In high school, I had two great biology teachers – one fed a pet bass live mice which was pretty darn cool, and the other took us down to a nearby stream to take water samples and test water quality. In college, I asked a calculus professor to let us do a hands on project to apply the stuff we were learning – he told us to calculate the angle at which light must enter a water droplet to form a rainbow. It wasn’t the kind of hands-on project I had in mind (I wanted to build something) but considering how theoretical mathematicians are and how little professors regard good teaching skills, I think that was pretty generous of him.

I had one extraordinarily bad experience in those 17 years. That was being thrown out of a lab for no reason and with no warning while trying to do a project. One faculty member even suggested that the reason I had been treated so poorly and unjustly was because I was not technically a student within that department (and yet we were all within the same college), that faculty politics was the reason I was being denied an educational opportunity. All I needed to finish my project was a few square feet of space in their lab to store things for another week or so – they confiscated this space without warning one day and refused to budge. I terminated the project and have never been so disgusted in my entire life. I will not be donating any funds to that college, ever. They have lost all of my respect.

Val123's avatar

@fireside Oh, it is!! It’s hard. They’re so dang squirrel, and up until about 3rd or 4th grade they all have to come and tell you what some other kid is doing, even if it’s not affecting the tattler at all!

fireside's avatar

@marauder76 – I like that word play. I definitely would rather teach by walking with someone rather than expecting them to ascend to my level. I’m sure I’ll be in touch about lesson plans and more ideas.

What was one of your favorite lessons to teach that seemed to get a good response from the kids?

@lilikoi – I agree that real world experience can make someone a better teacher. Now that I am 35, I have a much better grasp on how to connect with people and how to relate lessons to practical applications. I can’t imagine trying to do that at 25 without the experiences I have had since then.

@Val123 – that is the kind of stuff that would drive me to the ball peen hammer that SeventhSense mentioned.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

One of my favorite teachers acts just like a student sometimes. He plays pranks on students and jokes around. He is my AP History teacher. The fact that is a genius in history and can make it fun by the jokes he tells and how he acts is what makes it great.
Just be able to joke around with the students and make learning fun.

marauder76's avatar

@fireside – My favorite unit overall was probably a debate unit I did at the end of each year w/ my 9th graders. It really gave them a chance to sythesize their research, writing, and speaking skills. It was also a ton of fun to teach.

Cupcake's avatar

@fireside I’m glad you finally got back on fluther.

I love you and think you’ll be a great teacher. If you improve one kid’s life 1/100th of how much you have improved mine… it’ll be worthwhile.

ChaosCross's avatar

Listens to the kids
Be their friend, but not before you are the teacher
Have mercy often

KatawaGrey's avatar

Do not take yourself too seriously. All of the best teachers I’ve had have been the ones who can make fun of themselves sometimes. Also, remember that high school kids are still kids. It’s fun to build atoms out of marshmallows and toothpicks and it’s really fun to act out the Shakespeare fight scenes with yard sticks.

The most important thing to remember is that the kids are not your enemies.They may not want to be there, but you have to find the balance between acknowledging that they don’t want to be there and that they have to be there.

Christian95's avatar

most important they must be funny to keep students interested(look at Walter Lewin I never get bored at his video lectures even if he says something less interesting he’s always funny)

mattbrowne's avatar

Passion, empathy, social facility including synchrony.

zephyr826's avatar

Showing the students that you care about them. I know it seems like an obvious thing, but the worst experience I had with a teacher in high school was a math teacher who had still not learned my name when parent-teacher conferences came around in March. My best classes have been the ones where I’ve been able to make a connection with the kids outside of class, attending their games and concerts and showing them that I care about the things going on in their lives outside my 50-minute window.
Be prepared to explain things a hundred times more than you ever thought would be necessary. Have different ways to explain things. Repetition is important, but being able to adapt to someone who doesn’t learn the same way you do is also key.

SundayKittens's avatar

GRAMMAR. SPELLING. Organization. Mulit-tasking ability. Empathy. Consistency. Patience. Hip flask.
@SeventhSense BAHAHAHAHA.

dogkittycat's avatar

In my english class we read the book Anthem by Ayn Rand, I found it a very thought provoking book and I’m really excited about the discussion on Monday. I think having students read books like Anthem, Fahrenheit 451 and Shutter Island is great. Each of the books I’ve listed were quite an experience and provoked some interesting discussions and later video projects recreating a part of the book, or writing the sequel. I enjoyed each project like the latest one doing a report on the subject of banned books and how it plays a role in Fahrenheit 451. (while doing this project I realized that nearly every book that my teacher is having us read has been banned at some point or another)
*As for the qualities of a good teacher, Try to make the class unique by doing strange projects, giving students a bit of freedom to change the projects that they do to let them be creative.
*Qualities of a not-so-good teacher, is one who just has students read a book, take notes and submit a report on the book. A teacher should already know all about the book since they read it, projects should be about what the student gets out of reading the book.(which also may encourage students to actually read the book since they can’t get away with a summary off the computer)

evandad's avatar

The best teachers at any level are one who can make the subject interesting.

Val123's avatar

@fireside No kidding. All day long it goes like, this, “OK, what is two plus two? Please raise your hand, no shouting out.” Hands go up. “Jimmy?”
“Mikey is sticking his tongue out at Sarah when she’s not looking!!”

SeventhSense's avatar

I loved the little ones though. They were so eager sweet and open to try anything new . But 7–9th grade…Meh…

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