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What Students Want From Their Teachers, in Their Own Words (Opinion)

Today’s post is the latest in a multiyear series in which students answer the question:

What has been your best experience in the classroom, and what action or actions did a teacher take to help you make it happen (if they did)? Please be specific. What can other teachers learn from this experience?

Be Considerate

Dayannie Espinoza is a junior at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:

One of my best classroom experiences was my 9th grade PE class. This says a lot because physical education has never really been my best subject. I’m not athletic in the slightest and I’m not a sports person. However, my 9th grade PE teacher made my PE experience enjoyable.

My freshman year, I had PE first period, so you would expect that to be awful for me since it was bright and early in the morning. This teacher was very good at his job. He was chill but wasn’t fully laid back to the point he let us do whatever we wanted. He still had set expectations for us, and it was his goal for us to reach them.

One thing I don’t like is when teachers force us to do things that we genuinely don’t feel comfortable doing. This teacher never really forced us to do anything we didn’t want to do, but with his teaching methods, we never felt forced to do his work, we genuinely wanted to.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being in a co-ed PE class with a bunch of boys, it’s that they take everything as a die-hard competition. As someone who is willing to do the work but hates being judged by the boys if I didn’t pass a ball well enough or was too slow, I loved the fact that my teacher had two separate groups for us. The try-hard group: the ones who genuinely enjoyed a sport and were supercompetitive and the noncompetitive but were still willing to do the work group.

We always had a choice in which group we wanted to be in and we still got points because either way we were participating and practicing our skills for that unit. I don’t like having to always play sports and feel like my life depended on it, but my teacher freshman year made us feel comfortable in his class and didn’t force us to, which I’m extremely grateful for.

I believe that teachers can learn to be more considerate of their students. I understand that this method may not work for all classes, but this is definitely what helped me pass this class and didn’t make me dread going to class everyday.

Making A Connection

Jasmin Lopez-Hernandez is a 9th grader at Luther Burbank High School:

In my opinion, school is boring overall, but there is one class I never thought I would like, and that class is theater.

I’m pretty sure it might just be the teacher. She always has little activities in her class that she will make you do. The only difference is that she lets us do it at our own speed, she doesn’t rush us like other teachers.

She doesn’t seem like a teacher to us—she seems more like an older sister or like a friend but still have a lot of respect toward her.

I think trying to connect with your students gets your students to like you or just feel like you’re there for them.

Starting Small

Sydney Syda is a junior at Luther Burbank High:

My best experience in the classroom is group work because it has improved my collaborative/community skills with others. One teacher made this happen by assigning a lot of group work and had us present in small groups, which is a good way to start off slow and made me feel more comfortable presenting in front of the class. We also slowly got to know other students without being forced.

Other teachers I had, they would speed through things and barely prepared us for anything, it was more of hurrying and getting things done, which was a lot harder to process and build relationships with them.

The things teachers can learn from this is that forcing students to share in front of the class all the time will not always help them get better but scare them and make them more anxious than how they were when they started.

Some people have a different pace when feeling comfortable expressing themselves, especially with a large group of people, so all this group work helps them slowly get to know one another and build a community.

At first, I didn’t like the thought of presenting, but as I got to present in small groups, it has made me less fearful of presenting in front of the class. It has also helped me build a bond with my classmates and have comfortability, which I have always struggled with. Also, the way his class is structured and the positive attitude/environment he has for his students really plays a part in this. He is the only teacher who has ever made me feel comfortable speaking, and I have spoken more in his class than all my other years of school.

Patience

Omar Melchor is a senior at Luther Burbank High:

My best experience in the classroom probably had to be this year in 7th period (after-school) guitar class. I was having some fun playing some music with my friends and I can tell that one of my friends was struggling playing chords.

Then Mr. Green began telling my friend how he should position his fingers on the fretboard of his guitar. Though my friend struggled at first, he eventually got the hang of it. Though this experience wasn’t happening directly to me, it was still a really good experience from a teacher since Mr. Green treated them with the utmost patience.

I remember Mr. Green saying that “everything takes its own time for everyone,” and this quote stuck with me because it’s something that I could apply outside of school and it could be on anything, not just music.

I believe that all teachers should have that level of patience for their students even if they can’t grasp the material in their first try. Another thing that teachers could learn from this is that it’s good to be adaptable. Not all students have the same skill sets so its good to be flexible around that.

Thanks to Dayannie, Jasmin, Sydney, and Omar for contributing their thoughts.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at [email protected]. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Just a reminder; you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email. And if you missed any of the highlights from the first 12 years of this blog, you can see a categorized list here.

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