In the 1984 film, The Karate Kid, wise old karate master Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that there is “no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” Is this true?

What Mr. Miyagi is trying to emphasise is the importance of good teaching. Of course, the value of an inspiring, dedicated and experienced teacher cannot be underestimated. However, what Miyagi fails to take into account is that learning is a shared responsibility. No matter how good or bad a teacher is, a large portion of the responsibility must fall on the student. Ideally your child and their teacher are a team, working together to achieve a common goal. Today, I provide some examples on ways that teachers and students can work together to ensure that their time in the classroom is as successful as possible!

1. A good teacher… provides clear explanations.

Every great teacher I have ever had was able to explain difficult and unfamiliar concepts in a way that was easy to understand. They used real life situations, concrete examples and clear diagrams. They modelled methods and clearly demonstrate that what they are teaching you makes sense.

A good student… actively engages with explanations.

However, no matter how good a teacher’s explanations are, they will ultimately be unsuccessful unless your child is willing to actively engage with the explanations. This means they have to do more than just sit and listen. Actively engaging means taking notes, asking questions and trying examples. A good student will take it upon themselves to ensure that they have done everything in their power to understand what has been explained.

2. A good teacher… makes time to help each of their students individually.

Every student needs a bit of extra help once in a while. A good teacher is one that ensures that they set aside enough time to give each and every student the one-on-one assistance that they need.

A good student… knows how to make the most of this time.

When teachers sit down with a student to help them individually, they are usually faced with two types of questions:

1) “I don’t understand any of this. Can you help me?”

or

2) “I didn’t understand question 5c. I think I got the first bit correct, but I don’t know how to find the value of y.

As you can probably tell, the teacher will find it much easier to help the second student, because they have clearly taken the time and energy to work out specifically what they need help on. A teacher’s time is limited; the more your child can think ahead, reflect on their own weaknesses, and give ask specific questions, the more likely they are to receive the help that they need.

3. A good teacher… gives constructive criticism.

A good teacher never gives a mark on an essay or an assignment without letting the student know exactly why they got that mark. The more feedback a teacher gives, the easier it will be for students to improve in the future. The best kind of feedback is constructive criticism; it lets the student know what they did wrong, but also provides positive advice on how they can improve next time.

A good student… takes responsibility for their own performance.

Unfortunately, a lot of students like to fall back on excuses when it comes to feedback. They say things like “the teacher didn’t say why I got such a bad mark” or “they just gave me a bad mark because they didn’t agree with my opinion.” While this may be true in a very, very small minority of cases, these complaints more often come from students who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own performance. A good student makes sure to take all feedback on board and actively tries to incorporate it in their future work. If the feedback is unclear, a good student will politely ask their teacher for more advice on how they can improve.

4. A good teacher… sets high standards for their students.

Some of the best teachers I ever had, especially in my VCE years, were the ones who never let me relax. No matter how hard I worked, they always set higher goals for me and encouraged me to achieve more. The best teachers are the ones who know exactly how high to set the standards for their students in order to keep them constantly motivated to improve.

A good student… sets higher standards for themselves.

However, this is not enough. A good student should set their own standards and follow their own goals. No matter how motivating a teacher may be, your child should learn how to take control of their own performance and develop valuable self-motivation skills.

5. A good teacher… respects their students.

A good teacher values the opinions of their students, understands the pressure they are under and always tries to make them feel safe, secure and supported within the classroom.

A good student… respects their teacher.

A good student understands that they and their teacher are on the same team. A good student respects the effort that their teacher puts in to educating them and rewards that effort with their attention, their dedication and their hard work.

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