What Makes a Good Teacher

By Colleen Humfreville
Staff Writer

As you sit in class, with the hard, uncomfortable plastic of the seat pushing into your back, all you can hear is the teacher’s voice droning on and on. Reminiscent of the faceless teacher who’s “wuah wuah wuahs” added to the mysterious nature of the adults in “Charlie Brown,” it’s difficult for you to understand what they’re even talking about. Why don’t they say something interesting?
Everyone is familiar with ratemyprofessors.com, but that can’t possibly encompass every accurate description of a teacher. When you look up the name of your professor on the website, people’s comments mention that the class can be tedious at times, but he did get rated a 3.5 on “Clarity.” You had no idea it would be this bad, though.
We’ve all been in this situation, when you’re expecting a professor to organize a class a certain way, only to have your hopes shattered the very first class of the quarter. The question is, what makes a good professor?
For second-year Alec Snavely, the answer is clear: “[A professor should be] enthusiastic along with passionate!”
In this case, “passion” means more than a professor simply enjoying what he or she does. It has do with a true adoration for the topic and spreading that knowledge.
“I feel ‘passionate’ means more that they really love their subject and want to talk about it, while ‘enthusiastic’ means that they really love their subject and want to teach about it,” adds Alec with emphasis.
In fact, Alec feels that he has a professor that fits this description perfectly. His math 2E professor, Neil Donaldson, is “loud and expressive, pointing and gesturing, and asking questions and making jokes throughout the class,” says Alec. “If I think back on what teachers made an impression and [who] I liked, it was the teachers who made it feel like a small classroom setting despite the fact that the lecture contained 100 or more students.”
Other students feel the same way as Alec: the key to a successful professor is passion.
“My ideal professor is one who is open-minded and passionate about what they’re teaching,” agrees Abraham Kou, a second-year student.
They also need to be willing to learn from the students themselves. Learning is, after all, a two-way street. A reciprocal relationship is the best way to accomplish this: one in which “both the student and teacher function cohesively and are dependent on one another,” adds Abraham.
In fact, Abraham feels that discussion and debate are integral parts of a class, especially when trying to establish your viewpoint on a certain topic. If he could, he would extend his English class to more than 50 minutes.
“It is simply not enough time to present most viewpoints within a given text in this amount of time,” he adds.
There is one thing, though, that is perfect about the class already. “The structure is brilliant in that it is free discussion and often, debates occur [because of that],” says Abraham.
Without this discussion, though, students are merely dependent on regurgitating the professor’s opinions, which is tremendously biased. Plus, there is no opportunity for the discussion of differing ideas.
Second-year student Jomar Ebalida looks not only for this two-way street of learning, but also for a professor who is willing to work with students to make sure they comprehend the subject matter.
“I feel that an ideal professor is an individual that seeks to learn from the students, a teacher that is willing to [work with] the weaknesses of students,” says Jomar, a smile lighting up his face.
The professor that stands out to him is his professor of C163 ethics and law, Akhila L. Ananth.
“She was kind enough to indicate how to succeed in her class by posting ways on how to take notes and how to approach difficult reading materials,” adds Jomar. “She understood that there were plenty of transfer students that might not be used to the rigor of the class.”
What it comes down to is passion, dedication and enthusiasm. No student can program a teacher with certain traits and characteristics like an engineer can program a robot. It’s not that simple. As nice as it would be to simply say, “I’d like someone who is caring, approachable, intellectual, understanding, but nonetheless pushes me to try my hardest,” — that’s not the reality we face. For those professors that make a difference in their students’ lives, and leave impeccable impressions, then, it is all the more meaningful — no online rating necessary.