Teaching 101: From a student’s perspective

William Tong, Correspondent

Ask anyone who knows me if I am a teacher’s pet, and they’ll respond with a resounding “yes.”  I like to think of myself not as a teacher’s pet, but more as a teacher expert. After more than a decade’s experience as a student, I think I’ve garnered some useful knowledge about the kind of teacher we kids prefer.  

First, it’s paramount that teachers respect students’ time, and that’s not a blanket “students shouldn’t get homework” statement. I personally am not opposed to doing homework, even if there’s a lot of it, but the teacher needs to have justification when they give out formative busywork.  Some academic areas do require lots of practice to attain proficiency, but those hardly constitute the majority of the classes we take. Some teachers also substitute work at home for instruction during class. While both methods might equate to the same progress in knowledge, it makes students feel that they “learn nothing in class.”  They then put less effort into your class.  

We students like to throw around “I learn nothing in that class” a lot.  That may not be true, but it’s the psychology that matters. If a class is mostly skills-based, with little new content covered in the curriculum, it’s not outside of the teacher’s rights to add more knowledge, nor to change some of those skills-based tasks to spruce it up a bit.  If a class is boring and repetitive, we’ll say that we learned nothing. If a class feels too slow, we also say we learn nothing. Don’t be afraid to pile too much content onto students; they’ll speak up if it’s too much, but not if it’s too little.  

Part of respecting students’ time is also catering to our needs.  We are high school students, and our schedules are busy. Teachers therefore need to be responsive and be flexible for their students.  If there’s a pre-scheduled field trip, for example, which takes out half of your classes for a day, it’s probably not the best idea to keep a test on that day.  The optimally experienced teacher knows when to give loose and hard deadlines, and treats students’ time with their respect.  

That being said, it’s also important to treat students with respect as a whole.  Part of that involves viewing them as equals. Students like teachers who will banter with their class, not the cold, high and mighty teacher who makes sure that there’s a clear line between the educator and the educated.  

Finally, we like teachers that are responsive.  They don’t need to change their teaching style and relearn everything from teaching school to fit every class that they ever get, but they should be open to what students have to say.  There is a gray area, for instance, I may argue really hard to get a point back on a test, but if I was wrong, that’s not necessary. However, if majority opinion is not in your favor, maybe rethink that lesson or that test. 

At the end of the day, I know that teaching is hard, and I’m not telling you how to do your job.  I sincerely hope to all the teachers out there that these few points I’ve offered can improve your experience as educators.