When I look back at the past 12 years I’ve been in school, I think of several teachers who significantly impacted not only my education, but also my life. They were the teachers who challenged me, encouraged me and supported me through middle school, high school and now college. They were the ones who let me sit in their room during their prep hour, the teachers who were safe for me to approach when I was struggling, the teachers who gave me stress balls, Altoids, and let me tear up notebooks. Those teachers made school a safe place for me and helped me discover my potential, passions and strengths.
I think many of us can remember teachers who have helped us become who we are, and can reflect on what made them so special. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I decided to celebrate these great teachers by asking around and seeing what people think is the most important quality a teacher should have. It turns out there are many qualities students appreciate in teachers, including:
Understanding. A teacher’s willingness to get to know students and their situations makes the classroom a safe and welcoming place, which is a necessity for learning. My friend, Stacy, said understanding is the most important quality a teacher should have. “If you aren't able to meet your students where they're at, no matter where they are in life or what they're going through, they're not going to learn. This tends to go hand in hand with compassion and kindness,” she told me. This relates strongly with the students that struggle with disabilities: my coworker explained to me that she looks for a teacher who has “a willingness to notice every student and realize their strengths and weaknesses.” She continued, “If I hadn’t had teachers who took their time to notice I was dyslexic, I would have had an even harder time in school.”
Passion. Watching teachers get passionate about what they’re teaching gives me the incentive to listen and learn more about the subject. Through teachers sharing their passions and interests, I was able to discover and learn about my own. “The most important teachers I’ve had were the ones who inspired me to pursue what I’m passionate about,” my friend, Seth, told me. Another friend, Mark, agreed: “I had an art history professor that was so passionate about medieval art, it made me do even more research outside of class.” That might be one of the most important things about a teacher’s job, to demonstrate the ambition and passion students can find for themselves.
Humility. I think there is a lot of humility in giving students the power to ask questions that you, as the teacher, might not be able to answer. It takes humility to accept challenges and be taught by them, to recognize and validate the insight and experience a student has, and to let them share that. It takes humility to realize that you are not the only teacher in your classroom. “I think the greatest thing for me was actually learning from my students,” former percussion teacher, Mark Hedlund, told me. “[It’s important to have] not a know-it-all attitude, but a ‘we’ll learn together’ attitude.”
Dedication. Lastly, as students, we recognize when teachers see us as a job, a year of work experience, or a number…but that also means we recognize the teachers who value and are dedicated to our success. My friend, Weston, explained it well: Quality teachers are “willing to go that extra mile, whether it is tweaking the lesson plan the night before, giving a student one-on-one instruction for another ten minutes, showing more grace to the student who annoys you day in and day out, explaining why you failed the assignment and showing how that can be prevented next time.” These teachers give their best to students, day in and day out, regardless of how they feel.
Most of us will always remember the teachers that showed us their best and can reflect on the qualities they had that made them so special and important to us. But for Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s go beyond remembering and reflecting. Let’s thank these teachers, too.
Asyana Eddy is a high school senior at the FAIR School Downtown, but is currently a full-time PSEO student at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. She is passionate about women's issues, health and art.
The MinnCAN blog allows Minnesota teachers, administrators, parents and advocates to share their thoughts on key education issues. Blogging fellows' and guest bloggers' views and opinions are solely their own.