FUNNY! The #1 Quality Students Look For In A Teacher?

Funny the top #1 number 1 quality students look for a teacher

What Qualities Do Students Look For In Teachers?

Top 10 qualities students look for in their teachers, in order of importance, according to students:

  1. Funny
  2. Helpful
  3. Good Listener
  4. Friendly
  5. Fair
  6. Approachable
  7. Kind
  8. Passionate
  9. Inspiring
  10. Knowledgeable
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TES Report Give Students a Voice; And They Say FUNNY!

The list above is taken from a Times Education Supplement (TES) report where 3,000 primary and secondary school students were asked to rank the characteristics they valued most in their teachers.

Asking students what they think about this topic is actually under-reported as most articles you will read on this topic provide lists of qualities which have been suggested by teachers – not by students. 

Whilst both teacher and student perspectives are obviously important, it is very interesting to get feedback directly from students. 

The responses varied between primary and secondary school pupils and the two separate lists are outlined below.

However, the number one reported characteristic that students looked for in their teachers was consistent across both stages of education:

#1 - FUNNY

TES also reported that it was in no way a close race – FUNNY won by a landslide!

It could be argued, and it sometimes is by teachers, that teachers should be judged on their ability to teach, irrespective of how they may relate to students and behave during lessons. 

However, the academic research quite conclusively supports the fact that student-teacher relationships and positive interactions are central to effective learning and development. 

Humour, and being funny, certainly link to this notion but when you assess the other qualities listed by students they are all generally associated with interpersonal skills, such as, friendly, fair, kind, approachable, etc.

According to these 3,000 students, FUNNY appears to be the quality at the pinnacle of their need for positive relationships with their teachers. 

Let’s break these findings down by exploring the top 25 qualities for primary and secondary students individually. 

What Qualities Do Primary School Students Look For In Teachers?

The top 25 qualities that primary school students look for in their teachers:

  1. Funny
  2. Helpful/Supportive
  3. Good listener
  4. Friendly
  5. Fair
  6. Approachable
  7. Kind
  8. Passionate
  9. Inspiring
  10. Knowledgeable
  11. Patient
  12. Organised
  13. Fun
  14. Rewarding
  15. Trustworthy
  16. Respectful
  17. Happy
  18. Understanding
  19. Creative
  20. Genuine
  21. Believes in you
  22. Reliable
  23. Good at explaining
  24. Strict ‘at the right time’
  25. Generous

What Qualities Do Secondary School Students Look For In Teachers?

The top 25 qualities that secondary school students look for in their teachers:

  1. Funny
  2. Fair
  3. Understanding
  4. Helpful/Supportive
  5. Good listener
  6. Inspiring
  7. Knowledgeable
  8. Patient
  9. Passionate
  10. Fun
  11. Respectful
  12. Good speaker
  13. Trustworthy
  14. Confident
  15. Reliable
  16. Approachable
  17. Organised
  18. Kind
  19. Rewarding
  20. Friendly
  21. Gives chances
  22. Accepting
  23. Calm
  24. Good at explaining
  25. Adaptable

What Does FUNNY Have To Do With Learning?

The association between humour and learning has been investigated for many years. 

Although humour is reported within the academic literature as having both positive and negative impacts on learning, when asked, students typically express a positive association with humour.  

The impact humour has on teaching and learning differs between authors however there is overall support for the use of humour in education when applied in an appropriate manner.

Humour and Cognitive Performance

Humour is associated with various cognitive functions, including:

Humour and Group Dynamics

Humour is associated with various social and group dynamics, including:

What The Students Said In Support of FUNNY

It was students who selected FUNNY as the top quality they look for in a teacher so their comments are obviously overwhelmingly in support of humour being used in lesson to support learning. 

Here’s what they had to say…

"Teachers should be funny because you don't want kids to think school is too serious and boring. It makes the lesson interesting and you want to learn more."

Primary School Student

"Funny teachers are more personable and connect with you more. Because of this, you feel more respected and you feel comfortable going to that teacher with your problems because there's less pressure."

Secondary School Student

What The Teachers Said In Support of FUNNY

Feedback on FUNNY being the top quality students look for in teachers was more mixed from the teachers. Some could see the positives in using humour in lessons to support learning. 

Here’s what they had to say…

"Teachers should go home and laugh about their teaching day, whether it's been a good day or a bad day."

Primary School Teacher

"Wit and humour help to build between student and teacher."

Secondary School Teacher

"Being able to mix a light-hearted tone with moments of seriousness helps students to understand how to behave in different situations."

Secondary School Teacher

But Not All Teachers Agree with FUNNY

There was some concern raised over FUNNY being the top quality a teacher should have to meet the needs of the student. These teachers can see the potential pitfalls in teachers using humour in the classroom. 

Here’s what they had to say…

"I've worked with excellent teachers who are not in the slightest bit funny, as well as with hilarious performers who couldn't get their pupils to learn anything.

Head Teach, Secondary School

"The ability to have a laugh is important in creating a classroom atmosphere that's conducive to learning, but may be more important in the minds of pupils than it is in promoting real educational gains."

Primary School Teacher

"There are some dangers if teachers try to be funny to win popularity and then struggle to maintain discipline or objectivity."

Head Teach, Secondary School

Should We Take What Students Say Seriously?

Although there was disagreement from some teachers on what students said, it is important to give students a voice and to listen to what they have to say. 

We could take the position of dismissing these student comments completely. After all, they are just children, what do they know? All they want are easy, fun lessons and they don’t care about learning. 

However, this would be very patronising and extremely narrow-minded. This is not to say that we need to listen to students and accept everything they have to say without question, but teachers do need to ensure students have a voice and that a meaningful dialogue is achieved. 

There are plenty of examples in the academic literature where humour is seen to be highly conducive to learning and perhaps these student are subconsciously aware of this when they suggest the need for FUNNY teachers. 

Whatever your view is on the use of humour in lessons, this is certainly an interesting finding and one which we should all consider exploring in more detail. 

Author: Jonathan Sandling

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