What makes a good teacher? Your thoughts

We asked our alumni teachers what they think about their profession

They may all have the University of York in common but since graduating their vocation has taken them to all sorts of different teaching establishments, in all corners of the world. Our recent survey of York alumni teachers garnered responses from current and ex-teachers globally.

From reception to secondary, sixth form to University, specialist support teachers to those that teach teachers, the profession is as diverse as it is complex.

But what do they think? Here are just some of the responses we had to the questions at the heart of the research: “Why did you become a teacher?” and, crucially, “What, in your opinion, makes a good teacher?”

Why did you become a teacher?

“I saw that good teachers who looked beyond the merely educational to the whole child could make a massive difference.”
– Simon Biddlestone (Politics, Vanbrugh. 1999) was Headteacher at Heworth CE Primary School, York before retraining as a priest.

“To share my passion for psychology, particularly in relation to adolescent emotional development; as this can be a tumultuous period of extreme joy and excitement, but often it isn’t. Life can feel so very challenging without the necessary internal resources to sustain you.”
– Jane Clarbour (YCAP, Goodricke, 2000) teaches Higher Psychology at the University of York.

“I wanted to be able to pass knowledge on to future generations, to help them learn about the world around them; to learn about how things work or why things happen and to respect the world in which they live. I decided I wanted to work with young people, having helped out at a Cub Scout pack.”
– Pete Hollingsworth (Chemistry, Resources and the Environment, Derwent, 1979) teaches Secondary Science with Chemistry and Physics at Wilmington Grammar School for Boys.

“I wanted to make use of my degree subject, and work in a challenging job where I could feel that I would be making a positive difference to people’s lives. I also wanted to join the Teach First programme because I believed that there were too many participants from middle/upper-class backgrounds that had no real understanding or experience of the challenges that young people in socio-economically deprived areas face…”
– Viran Pandya (History, Goodricke, 2008), taught History on Teach First programme in SE London until 2014. He is now on the Daiwa Scholarship, working at the Organising Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What makes a good teacher?

What makes a good teacher?“Patience, tolerance, empathy, hard work and the ability to deal with change.”
– Nicolas Barber (English, Goodricke, 1982) teaches Secondary and Sixth Form English at Painsley Catholic College, Cheadle.

“Passion for the job, and endless patience, and an infinite capacity to find life entertaining.”
– Rosemary Waugh  (Language and Education, Wentworth,1976) teaches Secondary Latin, Classics and English at Queen Margaret’s, York.

“Being prepared to get up and do it again, and again and again, no matter what you are presented with, making sure you are positive and collaborative, not competitive and negative, so getting the best out of everyone.”
– Judith Dance (Biochemstry, Vanbrugh, 1988) taught in Oxford, Glasgow, America and Suffolk.

“A good teacher has a strong student focus, works to ensure that students develop the ability to learn autonomously and the confidence to question and investigate without dependence on the educator. A good teacher develops an accessible and open learning community to ensure students learn from each other and has the ability to inspire interest in the subject so students are motivated to develop knowledge.”
– Victoria Jack (French Language and Linguistic Science, Alcuin, 1996). Now teaches Tertiary: Academic literacy, transcultural communication and teacher training at the University of York.