Surely every teacher has had times when it feels that students dislike, or even hate everything you do. Sometimes it’s just temporary and not something you should worry about, but if this feeling is repeating over and over again, maybe there is something you can do about it.
I went through some research and found a couple articles that have something to say about this subject. My main source article is this, in which they have asked students and teachers write about characters of a good teacher. I’ve reformed this information to questions. Below each question section, you can see the exact wording from the essays.
So, let’s begin with the checklist:
Am I speaking clearly and loud enough?
This first one is the easiest in the sense that you can almost always improve your articulation and maybe speak a bit louder (not too loud, of course).
Listed traits: Clear, accurate, explanation, controlling if everyone understands, verbally competent
Am I interested in students?
Students can’t see everything on teachers mind but they are very good at sensing whether the teacher cares about them and their personality. Very many answers reflect this in some way. However, it is possible to overdo this; if you suddenly become extremely interested about students’ issues that will feel weird. If you feel this might be the problem, try to improve gradually; focus on listening to what students tell you but don’t ask too many questions.
Listed traits: Takes time to listen and to pay attention, shows interest in people, is available for non-school problems, shows respect, sensitive for pupils’ needs
Is my classroom work organized?
Are you the teacher who is always in search of the important paper while students wait? Or do your lessons flow naturally? Disorganized workflow can lower students’ respect for their teacher. Part of this is planning the lessons properly, but keeping the classroom clean also helps a great deal. Then you won’t lose your on-topic papers under the piles of other papers. Solution: Keep only the necessary papers on the desk and use a clear font for the lesson plan and other papers you may need to read during the lesson.
Listed traits: Care of classroom, organises work, keeps up with the times, plans work
Can I stop talking when I have given the task to students?
Every one of us has probably encountered one when still in school: Teacher who gives you an assignment that should be done quietly and … keeps talking and talking. Luckily the solution is easy: becoming aware of the situation and being quiet.
Listed traits: Does not distract pupils
Am I being physical?
It’s hopefully clear to everybody that physical punishments are off the table, but refraining from touching in general would also be advisable. All people don’t like touching and if you are thinking of a classroom with dozens of people in it, it’s quite sure that there are some that only want to be touched by family members, not teachers.
Listed traits: Not touchily, no physical punishments or aggression
Is the amount of homework reasonable?
This one is not as easy as some of the previous ones. If you know that you are giving students three hours worth of homework every day while your colleagues only give one hour worth, there is surely something there causing negative feelings in students. But more often you can’t really compare that way. If you think homework is the problem, you can try to be more picky and avoid giving too many assignments of the same type. (For example, if you have some reading and some writing you want to assign, keep the both types but consider shorter parts of text for example. In maths, I always used to pick three different task types for homework, such as one mechanic, one applied and one verbal.)
Listed traits: Not too much homework, not too difficult & expecting too much, not too many or difficult lessons, not doing only nice & easy things, not working too hard
Can I spot my own errors?
Everyone makes mistakes and it’s perfectly normal. However, not spotting any errors in your own work means that you may have a blind spot that prevents you from evolving.
Listed traits: Displays self-criticism
Do I use various types of assignments?
Let’s face it: People have different learning strategies. There may be discussion in the field of education about different learning styles and how changeless they are, but we can safely say that at any given time, there are different types of learners in the classroom. Giving various types of assignments helps more students to feel engaged.
Listed traits: Not all assignments entail autonomous work
Do I have clear rules in the classroom?
For most students, being clear about the rules makes it easier. It is easier to focus on the subject when you don’t have to worry about what you can and cannot do.
Listed traits: Makes rules, Maintains order, Not forbid too much
I’m I too authoritative?
Just like lack of rules, being too authoritative can also drag students’ attention away from the subject. The most dominant feeling will be fear, which naturally overrides the willingness to learn.
Listed traits: Not verbally aggressive, not authoritative, does not look down upon pupils
Can I create a positive atmosphere?
Not being too negative is a good start and the next step is creating a positive atmosphere. That’s harder to do, I know. If I’m being honest for most of my teaching career, I’ve probably reached only the “not being negative” -step. But if you could create an environment where everybody can openly discuss their thoughts without taking all the space, you are a super teacher! But we can all keep this goal in mind and work towards it.
Listed traits: Puts things into a positive perspective, enthusiastic, creates positive work climate, friendly towards pupils, organises nice things, makes pupils co-operate, encourages responsibility of pupils, rewarding, motivates pupils, distributes tasks among pupils
Is my grading fair?
This won’t be the first thing students notice about you, but if it turns out that the grading feels arbitrary, that can be bad for your reputation. I think it wouldn’t hurt to state the grading factors out loud when the course starts and again before grading or the big test takes place. You don’t need to spend too much time on it, but give a quick reminder how you are going to give the grades. That will decrease the amount of pupils surprised by their grades with almost no cost to you.
Listed traits: Marking well, gradings reflect pupils’ abilities, warns pupils in advance, not spending too much time on marking
Am I too moody?
Students don’t respect a teacher who is too moody and gets angry easily. Smaller students will be nervous and afraid and older students will make a joke out of that.
Listed traits: Manners, does not vent his mood on pupils
Am I practicing what I preach?
Yes, there are different rules for students and teachers, but you should only appeal to this when really necessary. A teacher browsing their phone all the time is not a good example.
Listed traits: Example for pupils
Can I learn more about pedagogy and life?
Students have respect for a teacher that seems to know a lot.
Listed traits: Has a lot of experience, Well educated, Writing well, Telling nice stories, A good storyteller
Is my teaching at the right level?
Surely, there are a lot of learning goals issued from outside, but if the teaching is not adjusted to the listeners level of understanding, the outcome won’t be any good.
Listed traits: Extra help for pupils who need support, helping slow learners, takes pupils’ understanding seriously
Do I use pupils’ solutions?
It’s a more meaningful experience for students if their solutions get attention. The solution doesn’t have to be perfect, but if it has some interesting angle it’s good to go through it, if possible.
Listed traits: Applies pupils’ solutions, discussing mistakes
Do I have a favorite class?
Most of us know that having a favorite student is not politically correct. However, you still see today that sometimes teachers have favorite groups. That can discourage the other ones, too.
Listed traits: Does not compare pupils or classes
Other things worth mentioning
Not all traits earn their own question, but are still worth mentioning. Those are: Maintains good contact with parents, helps with problems, pedagogically sound, handling conflicts, invests a lot of effort, and is well groomed.
Some of these listed traits are more personal in nature, and here they are: Quiet, creative, flexible, stable, humorous, patience, serious, intelligent, not severe, a bit severe, severe, sporting, nice, socially competent, no bad temper, attending, careful, sociable, reliable, respectful, pleasant, meticulous, and fair. You may notice that you can’t please everybody anyway, because there are: not severe – a bit severe – severe, so no panic about these traits.
I have left about 20 listed things out of this blog post, because they don’t offer any relevant information.
Student’s success and relation to teacher
There is another research which concludes that students that do well, tend to have better relationships with their teachers. Of course, a teacher can’t do too much about it, but the research suggests that feedback after failure (in a test etc) would not be accompanied with person criticism.
Students dislike me checklist:
Here are the questions once again in one list, if you want to quickly analyze what might be the problem.
- Am I speaking clearly and loud enough?
- Am I interested in students?
- Is my classroom work organized?
- Can I stop talking when I have given the task to students?
- Am I being physical?
- Is the amount of homework reasonable?
- Can I spot my own errors?
- Do I use various types of assignments?
- Do I have clear rules in the classroom?
- I’m I too authoritative?
- Can I create a positive atmosphere?
- Is my grading fair?
- Am I too moody?
- Am I practicing what I preach?
- Can I learn more about pedagogy and life?
- Is my teaching at the right level?
- Do I use pupils’ solutions?
- Do I have a favorite class?