Good Teachers

What makes a good teacher?

We asked young people to consider what makes a good teacher.

We present an overall picture of what young people told us separated into 3 sections as follows:

In pulling together the views of children and young people we use a number of pieces of text or art work which they have sent. To see more artworks and larger versions please go to the Groups Taking Part pages.


A total of 93 young people from eleven of the projects participating in Trojan responded to this question.


The characteristics of a good teacher

The Good Teacher Pyramid game enabled young people to identify the most important characteristics of a good teacher, and to say why they mattered. We had provided a total of 17 possible characteristics, which were:

To our initial list young people also added:

Young people prioritised those characteristics they thought were most important. The priority order enabled us to score the characteristics. The top six were:

  1. They have a sense of humour.
  2. They are fair
  3. They stay calm
  4. They make learning interesting
  5. They listen to me
  6. They make me want to do my best

Overall, this is how the original 17 suggestions from us rated with the young people. The blue columns are the frequency of being picked, and pink columns represent the number of points scored.

Here are a selection of young people’s comments which explain why young people think these characteristics matter:

They have a sense of humour
It would be boring and depressing in a class where your teacher doesn’t have fun and a laugh.

They are fair:
It means they give you more than one chance.

Then they wouldn’t have a grudge, like if you do something bad in first year and they may not like you all the way up to 4th year.

They stay calm
If they stay calm it will be easier to control the class and they won’t loose their temper if you do anything wrong.

I will listen to the teacher when she is calm.

It doesn’t look very professional if you can’t control the class.

They make learning interesting
They teach by using videos, music and the likes and not just writing on paper.

They listen to me:
It means that they like me.

It makes me feel safe and great.

Teachers need to hear what people are saying and understand their problems.

Because sometimes they say ‘don’t even start, I don’t want to hear you’. I can tell my side of the story. They think I’m always wrong

They make me want to do my best
I would get poor grades if they let me lack in effort.

I feel happy when I do my best work.

They help when I have a problem.
Because I find some of the work hard.

They are good at explaining things.
A good storyteller keeps you interested.

Because if you feel awkward and confused it leads to poor behaviour.

If they talk in adult language some people might not understand.

They believe in me.
Then I can believe in myself.

This shows they trust me.

They know lots about the subject.
Then they can explain things.

There’s no point in them teaching what they don’t know.

They love being a teacher.
If they don’t like their job it may affect the pupil’s progress.

This makes me see them as a dedicated person to the job.

They like being at school, they listen to people, and they are interested in you.

They should teach people things that they love.

They are well organised.
This means they are tidy and they know where they put stuff.

They can’t teach if they’re stressed.

They care about me.
Then I don’t get hurt.

If you have any bother you can tell the teacher and trust them.

If they care you work harder.

They have rules that everyone knows and sticks to.
So that we know what we’re allowed to do… and we don’t do what we’re not allowed to do.

This makes me feel better.

The class is good when there are rules.

They ask me what I think.
The teacher needs to hear your point of view and listen to what you have to say.

They help with after school clubs and activities.
It helps build relationships.

It shows they want to be around us.

They are interested in my life outside school.
It means they think of me as a person and not just a number.

They can help you if you have trouble after school with your family.

They respect young people.
The teacher would listen to you and talk back to you, like a person and not just tell you what to do or shout at you.

If you have respect for the teacher they will respect you back.

They don’t shout.
If they shout I get a sore head.

If they shout it makes you shout back and you get in more trouble.

It’s okay if they raise their voice a little, but when they shout its annoying.
Young people from Levenmouth Links drew pictures of what their ideal teacher would look like, some P7s said their ideal teacher was a woman, under 30 years old who only shouted for a reason.

Click on the picture on the right to see more of what made up their ideal teacher – the head and brain is the knowledge which young people thought was essential for a teacher, the heart is the personal qualities a teacher should have, the arms are the tools/methods/ways of working and the legs are the supports a good teacher needs.

Some 13 year old boys from Levenmouth Links felt that a sense of humour and a “big” brain were important for their ideal teacher, so were listening and caring. Click on the picture to find out more.

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Experiences of good teachers

Having thought about the ideal and what would make a good teacher, did young people actually have experiences which matched the aspirations?

Many of them did. This is what they told us.
The young people at Right Track wrote about their favourite teachers. See their project pages for everything they told us, but click on the icons here for some responses from the group.

In describing and remembering specific teachers the following key themes emerged.

A sense of humour was seen as one of the most important characteristics a good teacher could have, One boy (at Levenmouth Links) said his best teacher had a sense of humour and didn’t shout, she was good at teaching him German, making him laugh and letting him finish his work in peace - she always cheered him up. He felt that other teachers should learn how to be fun and super and happy!

A young person at the Barnardos Cluaran project told us: “My best teacher ever let us do Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat - she had a sense of humour, loved her job and was always smiling and cheery in the morning. Other teachers could copy her sense of humour and could treat young people with more respect.

Good communication and fun came through in the pictures of teachers young people described in their responses. As a young person from Barnardos Linksfield project wrote:

“We had to use a pinhole camera and the teacher told us to look too close to the light which was really funny, I always remember that experiment.”
A member of Right track in Drumchapel told us:

“My favourite teacher was my fifth year English teacher. Even though I hated English all the way through school and never bothered to show up I always did in fifth year because he would make you learn without noticing because he had interesting and funny stories about educational things. If you were misbehaving or taking the mick he’d say something to show you up and put you back in your place and it was always a laugh. He was about fifty years old and knew everything there was to know even the things you wouldn’t expect a fifty year old to know. You could talk to him about a new dance tune that’s just come out and he would know it. He always brought in CDs of songs he knew we would never have heard of before then we’d end up with that song in our heads all day. One song that reminds me of my English class is Werewolves of London, I can picture him howling the chorus every time I hear it”.

The young people from Inveralmond XL Club felt that their best teachers ever gave exciting lessons and were good at motivating pupils. They also felt that the best teachers were always interested in what they did, were never boring and rewarded good behaviour.

A young person from Quarriers highlighted the importance of good personal relationships, empathy and how a teacher they knew was good at recognising and rewarding pupils when they got things right. Their best teacher was described like this:

“When I went to my new school all the other children told me she was nice but I still had a bit of doubt. Then when I met her she was nice and I was relieved. She always noticed the good things about me and not just the bad things, she was always fair when she marked my book. She gave rewards like stars and certificates. I always liked it when we were doing story time because she sometimes told us stories about her own life. I liked this because it made me think she could understand what I was feeling when I told my story. Other teachers could explain things better, show they have a sense of humour, be fair and be better organised”.

The good teacher was also one who had stayed calm and intervened to help in a crisis, as a young person from Crannog East told us:

“If I got into trouble with teachers in other classes he used to come and get me, calm me down and then give me jobs to do. Not shouting at pupils and staying calm is very important. He was good at compromising with people.”

Inspiration and empathy also come through as so important in the experience of a young woman from the Right Track project in Drumchapel:

“My favourite teacher is my trainer at the moment. He is my favourite teacher because he is funny and he has inspired me to learn. He also talks to us like young adults and does not treat us like children which the schools did. Also when we talk about stuff that is happening he knows what we are talking about and tells us stories about when he was young. He tells us that he was just like us when he was young and he used to get into trouble the same as us but he realised that he had to grow up if he wanted to do anything with his life and I have now realised that I have to do the same”.

Young people were asked to think about most important things teachers need to learn about to become a good teacher, and to put together a timetable for them.

This timetable was sent in by a young man from Barnardos, Linksfield Aberdeen:

THE CELEBRITY TEACHER
Young people at Right Track took the notion of an ideal teacher further, and made lots of suggestions about who might be their ideal for different subjects. Click on the icons to find out more, but here are some tasters:

MUSIC TEACHER
DJ English, because I like his music and want to learn more about him

My dad because he plays a few instruments, he’s not a brilliant musician, but I think it would be easy to learn from him

Liam Gallagher because he has an excellent band and he knows what he is talking about through his experiences

PE TEACHER
Wayne Rooney because he is good at what he does, he has good skill and is also quite young

Martin O’Neill because he coached the greatest team in Scotland and I think he would bring me to glory the same way that he did with Celtic

ENGLISH TEACHER
JK Rowling because she writes great books that make you want to read, also she has lots of money

Roald Dahl because he has great writing abilities and his books are a good read

MATHS TEACHER
Carol Vorderman because she has a good IQ

Johnny Ball (Zoe’s dad), I went to see him speak about maths with my old school. I didn’t really enjoy it, but he was funny at times

Albert Einstein because he is very intelligent and has a great use of numbers

ART TEACHER
Tracey Emin I like the way she has a laugh and her drawings never look perfect and I think she would be a really fun person to learn from

Picasso would be my ideal art teacher because he paints in a way which is not perfect. His paintings don’t have to be the best and he puts on paper what he wants.

HOME ECONOMICS
Gordon Ramsay because he’s a perfectionist but I would love to have an argument with him because I have really short fuse as well and I think that it would be an argument I would really enjoy

Jamie Oliver because he has a great style of cooking and is my favourite chef

MODERN STUDIES
Charles Kennedy, he’s Scottish. I don’t really know much about politics so I would need a politician that speaks my language to teach me

Tony Blair because he is a politician and I think it would be fun to be in his class

COMPUTING TEACHER
Bill Gates would be the best here because he’s a computer whiz kid and he’s made a lot of money out of them. His success could rub off.

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