What pupils want from teachers: kindness and humour

Survey shows students prize kindness in teachers and the ability to see the lighter side

Roger Baird

The government should fund colleges to offer GCSE and A levels for all learners, regardless of age, to help plug the country’s skills gap, a new HEPI report suggests

Kindness is the single most important quality students want in their teacher, according to a new survey.

In a survey conducted last month, pupils identified the traits they looked for most in a great teacher. A kind nature was backed by 27 per cent; good listening skills were seen as important by 15 per cent; while organising fun lessons, or being funny, was rated top by 13 per cent and 10 per cent of children respectively, according to YouGov.

Only 9 per cent of students thought being knowledgeable was important, with 3 per cent adding that not shouting was a virtue. 

The survey involved 586 children, aged 6-15, being questioned in the first week of August.

Pupils' prizing of humour chimes with Tes survey, conducted last year, of 3,000 students from primary, secondary and special schools on what made the ideal teacher. It also found that being funny topped the list.

A primary student in the South West of England told the Tes survey: “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.”

A secondary student in the Midlands added: “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.”

The ability to be funny headed the list of the 25 most popular teacher traits among both primary and secondary students.

A number of other qualities were valued across both age ranges: in total, 18 characteristics appeared on both lists.

A great teacher requires a mix of the personal touch (“accepting”, “kind” and “a good listener” were popular characteristics), combined with essential teaching skills (“organised”, “knowledgeable” and “fair”), according to the Tes survey.

Primary pupils’ ranking

Tes asked students to list the characteristics that every teacher should possess:

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. Believe in you

22. Reliable

23. Good at explaining

24. Strict ‘at the right time’

25. Generous

Secondary pupils’ ranking

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

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