Traits of a Bad Teacher

What qualities can deem a teacher ineffective or bad?

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One would hope that all teachers would strive to be excellent, effective educators . However, education is just like any other profession. There are those who work extremely hard at their craft getting better on a daily basis and there are those that are just simply there never striving to improve. Even though this type of teacher is in the minority, just a handful of truly bad teachers can hurt the profession. 

What qualities can deem a teacher ineffective or bad? There are many different factors that can derail a teacher’s career. Here we discuss some of the most prevalent qualities of poor teachers. 

Lack of Classroom Management

A lack of classroom management is probably the single biggest downfall of a bad teacher. This issue can be the demise of any teacher no matter their intentions. If a teacher cannot control their students, they will not be able to teach them effectively. Being a good classroom manager starts on day one by incorporating simple procedures and expectations and then following through on predetermined consequences when those procedures and expectations are compromised. 

Lack of Content Knowledge

Most states require teachers to pass a comprehensive series of assessments to obtain certification within a specific subject area. With this requirement, you would think that all teachers would be proficient enough to teach the subject area(s) they were hired to teach. Unfortunately, there are some teachers who do not know the content well enough to teach it. This is an area that could be overcome through preparation. All teachers should thoroughly prepare for any lesson before they teach it to make sure they understand what they are going to be teaching. Teachers will lose credibility with their students quickly if they do not know what they are teaching, thus making them ineffective.

Lack of Organizational Skills

Effective teachers must be organized. Teachers who lack organizational skills will be overwhelmed and, as a result, ineffective. Teachers who recognize a weakness in organization should seek help in improving in that area. Organizational skills can be improved with some good direction and advice.

Lack of Professionalism

Professionalism encompasses many different areas of teaching. A lack of professionalism can quickly result in a teacher’s dismissal. Ineffective teachers are often tardy or absent. They may fail to follow a district's dress code or use inappropriate language in their classroom. 

Poor Judgment

Too many good teachers have lost their careers due to a moment of poor judgment. Common sense goes a long way in protecting yourself from these sorts of scenarios. A good teacher will think before acting, even in moments where emotions or stressors are running high. 

Poor People Skills

Good communication  is essential in the teaching profession. An ineffective teacher communicates poorly, or not at all, with students, parents, other teachers, staff members, and administrators. They leave parents out of the loop about what is happening in the classroom. 

Lack of Commitment 

There are some teachers who simply lack motivation. They spend the minimum amount of time necessary to do their job never arriving early or staying late. They do not challenge their students, ​are often behind on grading, show videos often, and give “free” days on a regular basis. There is no creativity in their teaching, and they typically make no connections with other faculty or staff members.

There is no such thing as a perfect teacher. It is in the nature of the profession to continuously improve in all areas, including classroom management, teaching style, communication, and subject area knowledge. What matters most is a commitment to improvement. If a teacher lacks this commitment, they may not be suited for the profession. 

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Does Your Child Have a Bad Teacher?

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Truly bad teachers are unusual, but they do exist. Today, most states require a college degree and a mentored student-teaching internship before someone can teach in the classroom. The path to becoming a professional certified teacher is challenging enough to stop most people who do not belong in the profession from even pursuing the job.

Occasionally, however, someone who might not be fit to be a teacher gets the credentials and a teaching position—or stays in the position long after their enthusiasm for the job is gone. When your child complains about a bad teacher, it's natural to worry about how they are doing in school. You may wonder what they are learning, if they are feeling anxious or sad, and if they will be ready to move on to the next grade level.

Remember, you are not seeing firsthand what happens in the classroom. You are getting a very limited view of what is going on.

While these concerns are certainly valid, there are ways to cope with this situation and help your child feel good about their teacher and their school day.

Types of "Bad" Teachers

What is a "bad" teacher, really? Is the label justified? While some teachers are victims of the rumor mill and develop an unfounded reputation as mean or ineffective, other teachers are just that.

The following are some of the most common types of teachers that get a reputation as being "bad" among kids:

  • The Boring Teacher : This teacher goes back and forth between lecturing the class and handing out worksheets. While more engaging teachers do give lectures and worksheets from time to time, they also incorporate hands-on assignments, projects, and group discussions to inspire their students.
  • The No-Control Teacher : This teacher's classroom feels more like a party than an organized learning environment. Students chatter during lessons, talk back to the teacher, and may even throw things during class. Some students may like this teacher, but can't tell you what they are supposed to be learning in school. Other students may complain the classroom is noisy, chaotic, and even stressful or overwhelming.
  • The Lightweight Teacher : This teacher doesn't teach the material to any depth. Your child may complain of being bored or say school is too easy. You may notice that your child's schoolwork is much easier than it has been in the past and requires little effort to complete.
  • The Mean Teacher : This teacher views children as always out to take advantage of others any way they can, all the time. A mean teacher is unwilling to make exceptions for students who are truly struggling. This teacher will do the minimum required on an IEP , or not cooperate at all. They may yell at kids, roll their eyes when asked questions, and make fun of students. They seem to dislike children.

How to Find Out More

Every teacher has bad days—but one bad day does not make a terrible teacher. The truly awful teacher falls into one or more of these categories on a regular basis. Before you act, you need to find out more about the situation.

Gather Information 

Usually, parents who worry their child is dealing with a bad teacher are concerned for one of two reasons: Either the child has come home from school telling them terrible stories about their day, or the parent has heard awful stories from other parents.

Your first instinct may be to jump right in and make changes—don't. Instead, pause and try to gather the information you need to fully understand what is going on before you do anything else. The stories that you have heard from your child or friends may not be the entire story.

Your child may have misunderstood what the teacher was telling them, or they could be repeating a silly rumor that is going around the school between kids. Your friends who don't like the teacher may not have been willing to consider that their child may have had a hand in causing problems at school .

Talk With Your Child

Getting your child to think about the material they should be studying in school can pique curiosity and become a learning practice. An ineffective teacher may be giving out assignments, but not following up to make sure the material is clicking.

You can help at home by asking questions to get your child to think at a deeper level about their classwork.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • Can you teach me what you learned about today?
  • Are you wondering anything else about what you learned?
  • How do you think you might use that knowledge in the future?

This kind of discussion not only gets kids thinking more about their studies, but it also gives parents invaluable clues about their teachers and what is happening in the classroom.

Give kids some time to decompress when they get home from school. Before asking about their day, consider making them a snack or going for a walk—they may be more likely to open up.

What to Do When There Is a Problem

Once you have a bit more information, there are several steps you can take. Your child has been assigned to this class for this year. Everyone benefits when parents have a positive relationship with the teacher and the school. Choosing the best strategy to take when handed something that does not meet our expectations can prepare us—and our children—for challenging problems we may encounter in the future.

Support Your Child

Help your child by first asking them to pinpoint exactly what the issue is and what they think might make it better. Suggest some coping techniques they can use in the classroom to deal with the problem.

For example, if the teacher doesn't answer questions, can your child find the answer in a book, from their classmates, a website, or their notes? If the classroom is chaotic, can your child move to a quiet spot in the room or the hallway to do their work?

If the schoolwork is boring, can your child nicely suggest to the teacher to assign additional projects? Try a role-playing scenario where your child can practice approaching their teacher about the problem. Or, you can coach them with a few talking points they can use on their own when talking to the teacher.

Above all, it's important to support your child and assure them you take their concerns seriously. Let them know you understand and will be there to guide them every step of the way.

Talk With the Teacher

Schedule a time to talk with the teacher. It is best to do this in person, if possible. Let the teacher calmly know what your child has shared with you, and give the teacher a chance to respond. Be careful to present what your child has said without being accusatory.

For example, you could say, "My son seems to think you don't like him, he says that when he asks for help with his math you just tell him to try. He feels lost in math. How can we work together to improve his experience?"

The teacher may have a different explanation of the events. They may be totally unaware of how they are perceived. After hearing how your child feels, they may be moved to reflect upon their behavior and take a fresh approach.

It may not be easy to hear, but you may learn your child is part of the problem. For example, their teacher may be unwilling to assist them because your child refuses to pay attention, participate, follow directions, or take notes in class.

Always be respectful when talking with the teacher. Avoid being accusatory and playing the blame game, which may cause the teacher to shut down rather than respond productively.

Feedback enables the willing teacher to improve and exposes the truly bad teacher. If nothing else, reaching out to the teacher lets them know your child talks to you about what is happening at school. If they are an inept teacher, they may rethink their methods, knowing an involved parent is watching.

Observe the Class

Very often, watching the class in action is enough to help parents understand all the dynamics at play. Every school has different rules about parent visitors, so check with the office and the teacher before you schedule a day to stop by and observe. Don't worry that the teacher will be on their best behavior just to impress you. A genuinely bad teacher will have a hard time faking it.

Talk With the Principal

Administrators are extremely busy and generally defer to their staff members as professionals to resolve issues within their own classroom. Keep in mind that involving the principal is essentially complaining to the teacher's boss. The teacher may resent you "tattling" on them, and a petty teacher may hold this against your child.

However, it's more likely the teacher will feel more cautious around you and your child, inhibiting an open and honest dialogue about your child's progress moving forward. But if a teacher really is really problematic, you may need to take this step.

Begin by calmly and clearly stating in one or two sentences what you see as being the problem. Be prepared to explain how you know what you know. Talk about what happened and how it affected your child.

For example, you might say "Mr. Smith's classroom is unruly and my child cannot learn. My child has told me several times she feels stressed out by the noise and cannot complete any school work. I came and observed twice for 20 minutes during the reading lesson in Mr. Smith's room. Several students talked loudly while Mr. Smith tried to teach, and a few students were throwing things across the classroom. Mr. Smith clearly saw what the students were doing and did nothing about it."

Don't expect the principal to go into specific details about how they plan to handle any issues with the teacher. Any disciplinary action is likely to be handled with discretion.

Always document any communication with teachers and administrators. It's important to keep a paper trail to show the school is aware of your concerns.

Ask to Change Teachers

Switching teachers is a last resort. Changing classrooms means adjusting to new peers, a new routine, and different classroom rules. Some schools may not be able to provide a different teacher due to staffing limits or district policies.

If you can't change teachers or schools, do your best to fill in any learning gaps as quickly as possible. Look into tutoring or other options to provide learning outside of school . This way, your child will be up to speed and ready to move onto the next grade the following year.

Give your child some coping skills for navigating the situation so they feel empowered to advocate for themselves. Check in with them often to make sure the situation hasn't become worse and to monitor your child's emotional and mental well-being .

A Word From Verywell

Keep in mind that while an entire school year with an ineffective teacher is far from ideal, it is not the end of your child's education. Other subjects and other school years will bring different teachers into your child's life. View their experience as a lesson in how to handle difficult situations and difficult people—skills that will be very helpful throughout their life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can i deal with bad teachers in elementary school.

In the formative years, it is especially important for parents to step in to help address a situation involving a bad teacher. Your child's early elementary school experience can influence how they go on to feel about school and learning in general. Listen for clues your child is unhappy at school, share concerns with the teacher, and reach out to the administration if things don't improve.

How do bad teachers affect students?

A bad teacher is more than just a boring or impatient teacher. A truly bad teacher can have an impact on a child's emotional health. Research shows the way a teacher runs their classroom and engages with students plays a big part in how kids feel about themselves and their education. A positive classroom environment is a primary reason why kids want to go to school and enjoy learning.

How can you avoid bad teachers?

Unfortunately, the odds are your child is going to come across a bad teacher at some point. Instead of trying to avoid a bad teacher, which is most likely to be out of your control, teach your child coping skills to deal with their frustrations.

Take further action if a teacher is seriously affecting their academic performance, self-esteem, or mental health, in which case, you might consider contacting the school administration to request a change as soon as possible.

How can I deal with bad teachers in middle school?

As children approach the tween and teen years, it's natural for parents to take a step back and let kids handle tough situations on their own. Guide them by offering tips on approaching a teacher with their concerns.

The reality is, teachers at this level expect more independence from students and may not respond well to a parent's intervention. However, if there is a serious problem with a teacher, you may need to step in and contact the school at some point.

U.S. Department of Education. Certification requirements by state .

NewSchool of Architecture and Design. What are the benefits of hands on learning ?

The Center for American Progress. Do schools challenge our students ?

Understood. My child's teacher is mean to her. What can I do ?

Edutopia. 15 questions to replace 'How was school today?'

Healthy Women. How to get along with your child's teacher .

Scholastic. How you can help children solve problems .

Slate. My daughter's teacher is atrocious: What should I do ?

Grade Power Learning. 13 signs your child needs a tutor .

Understand. How to help kids cope when they get upset .

Blazar D, Kraft MA. Teacher and teaching effects on students’ attitudes and behaviors .  Educ Eval Policy Anal . 2017;39(1):146-170. doi: 10.3102/0162373716670260

By Lisa Linnell-Olsen Lisa Linnell-Olsen has worked as a support staff educator, and is well-versed in issues of education policy and parenting issues.

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What Separates a Good Teacher from a Bad Teacher? Evaluation Essay

October 8, 2013 by Taylor   

Taylor Monkman

Essay Three: Evaluation Essay

ENGL 015 – Womack

October 8 th , 2013

What Separates a Good Teacher from a Bad Teacher?

            Students have all experienced good and bad teachers. Students everywhere have sat there, in either boring lectures where they would have rather slept or would have rather been at home, or have sat through lectures that always had those students engaged and wanting to learn. The question to ask ourselves is what makes a good teacher, and what makes a bad teacher? What does a great teacher have, that a terrible teacher does not? There are many components that come together to make good and bad teachers. Being a good or bad teacher depends on quite a bit. Well, a good teacher has qualities that keep students engaged. They are fun, nice and have great personalities. Those teachers want to be in the classroom teaching. They do not care if they have any bad seeds in the class. All that good teachers care about is what they do and why they are doing it. A terrible teacher bores the students in his or her classroom. Bad teachers have qualities like terrible or boring personalities, or just don’t care enough to make a class amazing. But there are three qualities that really separate good teachers from bad teachers. It really all depends upon the teachers tone, lesson plans, and availability. Without these three qualities, there really would be no good teachers or bad teachers.

A make or break quality for a teacher is their tone. The tone is a very important thing while teaching, it is a must have for any teacher. If a teacher speaks with a low or monotone voice, students will get bored easily. A monotone voice is almost like listening to white noise, it is dull and puts people to sleep. Students have all had that one teacher, including myself, that made the student’s feel like the class would never end. Those are the teacher’s that make a classroom environment boring. That is probably the worst feeling for a student. If it’s a class that is 80 minutes every day, sitting in that class with a monotone teacher really makes the students not want to be there. This also contributes to students skipping that class in the future just to avoid what they would see as a waste of time, constantly being “talked at”. Students become inattentive and that eventually leads to their failure in that class. A good teacher will speak with an energetic voice that will make the students feel like they want to listen to whatever the teacher is teaching about. Speaking in an energetic and upbeat tone will show the students how passionate that teacher really is, about what he or she does. If a teacher speaks in monotone voice, they obviously do not care much for the profession they are in. If a teacher is truly passionate about his or her job, then they will speak in a tone that will keep students alive, meaning awake. Speaking with a loud, energetic tone will make students want to listen. Students will match interests with the teacher and students will want to stay involved within the class, instead of being forced to be involved. If the teacher is excited and upbeat about with he or she is teaching, then the student’s will also be excited and upbeat. A teacher has to make a great effort to stand in front of a classroom full of students and make it fun for not only the teacher themselves, but to make it fun for the student as well. That is why a teachers tone is very crucial. Teachers need to remember to keep a loud and energetic demeanor, instead of a low and boring one.

Lesson plans are another critical area, in which teachers must be aware of. If a teacher’s lesson plan is tedious and has students unengaged then what is the point of having that class. What is so fun about having a boring lesson plans? A teaching method should be creative and fun for students. Many students dislike lectures because lectures are dull, and there is nothing exciting about a mundane lesson. There is nothing exciting about a teacher talking the entire class period. Teaching methods should include visuals. For example, if a teacher is teaching a kindergarten class how to count. The teacher should bring in blocks. Blocks will engage the students, and the students will be having fun while learning how to count. Good teachers will be creative and bring in new ideas of learning every day. Those teachers are the teachers, whose classes are fun. On the other hand, bad teachers will teach the same way every day. Students will hate going to that class with that boring teacher who teaches the in same tone, and teaches the same way, every day for the whole year. However, students will absolutely love going to the class, whose teacher strives to find new ways to teach different lessons. If a teacher doesn’t aim for the most creative ways to teach, then those teachers will not succeed for being a great teacher. That is why finding new ways to teach a subject is vital in a teacher’s career. Teaching methods will set apart good and bad teachers.

Lastly, a teacher’s availability is among one of the most essential qualities a good teacher must possess. In a student’s eyes, a great teacher should have many office hours available, so students can get help if needed. Not all students understand a certain lesson right then and there at the time of class. Many students will need that one-on-one time with a teacher, to help that student understand that lesson, that that teacher is presenting at that time. If a teacher has absolutely no available time to help a student after class, then that teacher would be considered terrible. A good teacher should also be available through email or through text message.  In a generation like ours, not everyone uses email as frequently as they have in the past. Most students have smartphones that make it extremely easy to be contacted by their teacher any time of the day.That is why it is important to be available through text message. Good teachers will give out their cell phone numbers and email in the start of the year. Giving out numbers and emails will provide students with help at any time of the day. That is why; if any of those teachers’ students have questions they can be answered quickly and effectively. That is another thing, teachers should always answer their emails within a day’s time. That way the student, who emails that teacher, can get an answer before the next class. Bad teachers will have office hours, or will have very little hours after class to provide students with extra help in that class. A bad teacher will also either not give out his or her cell phone number or email, or will not respond to a student’s question within a days’ time. Many students have experienced teachers not answering emails or text messages, and those students always end up stressed or frustrated with that teacher’s class. They then become accustomed to not being able to contact that teacher with important questions, which can lead to a bad student/teacher relationship. The teacher then seems unreliable. Teachers want to make sure that students are clear of the material they are learning. In order for all students to pass a class, students must be sure of what their learning. That’s why it is essential for a teacher to have open office hours for any student to come into.

Many qualities set good and bad teachers apart. It is not just the teacher’s tone, teaching methods and availability that makes a great teacher, good and a bad teacher, terrible. There are many characteristics a teacher must own. They need to have great personalities, as well as loving what they do for a living. Many teachers are unhappy with what they do, that is why their classes are not liked, because their dislike for their career shines through and is noticed by their students. Great teachers are passionate about what they do. That is why their classes are fun and engaging. Different students have different opinions on the matter but the three qualities named in the evaluation above are the three most crucial components that can either make or break a teacher’s success in the classroom. For me, these three qualities are a must. I am in the process of becoming an early childhood teacher for pre-school through fourth grade. So these components are very important to me. If teachers do not have qualities like the ones mentioned above, they will certainly not succeed in anything they do in the classroom or out of the classroom. Being a great teacher does not happen overnight, it takes much experience and it involves working hard every day in and out of the classroom.

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Good and a Bad Teacher

Good and a Bad Teacher

Teaching is undeniably the driving force behind societal development. It is commonly understood that three primary factors contribute to personal development: heredity, social environment, and education. When discussing education, we typically refer to the significant influence that parents have on shaping their child’s future character. However, this also encompasses school education, as busy parents rely on teachers to impart knowledge about beauty, morality, and ethics.

The teacher plays a significant role in children’s perception of the inner world. Their personal attributes are transmitted through interaction and the knowledge they provide. Thus, a teacher is more than just professionally skilled. This variation in teachers can create anticipation or aversion towards a subject among children.

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It is important to have high professionalism in the subject being taught, but this is not the most important factor when determining if someone is a good or bad teacher. A good teacher goes beyond simply regurgitating information. They also spark interest in the subject and personalize their approach for each student. They take care to help students adapt to the classroom environment, improve their social status among peers, and teach them to consider and respect the opinions of others.

Teachers should not just be instructors; they should also genuinely show their emotions when interacting with students. For instance, if a teacher is knowledgeable but has difficulty accepting criticism or explaining their thinking, it creates a significant disconnect between them and the students. Without an emotional connection, the learning experience cannot be considered successful because students are not fully engaged.

A “good” teacher can be identified when they treat students as equals, not as subordinates, and provide equal explanations to everyone. Another important characteristic is their creativity. A good teacher strives to teach in unique and original ways, adding personal touches to make the learning experience as thrilling as possible. On the other hand, a bad teacher solely focuses on transmitting information without considering the students or any other factors.

A person in the role of a teacher performs their job duties. The individual may possess strong theoretical knowledge in their field, but they may struggle to establish emotional connections with students. This teacher allows their personal emotions to impact how they interact with students, etc. They are unable to alleviate uncomfortable situations through humor, whether they themselves or their students are involved. Being an effective teacher entails having a genuine love for children and a desire to provide them with the best of what the teacher can offer.

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Bad Grades for Bad Teachers

In my past essays, I’ve talked about some of the school teachers who inspired me, who challenged me to become better.  Now I’d like to talk about some of the ones who did the opposite.  It’s hard enough to be a kid trying to find your way in the world – to make sense of who you are and what small gifts you might have to offer the rest of humanity.  It’s a lot harder to find yourself when careless, unthinking, or just plain bad teachers undermine you and crush your sense of self-confidence.  There is an assumption in our society that being a teacher is somehow inherently noble.  We always seem to want to give teachers better pay, as if they’re always giving a lot more than they are getting.  Well, sorry, but it doesn’t always work out that way.    

Here’s one example.  The assignment from my third grade teacher Mrs. B was simple enough: write a short story.  To a kid growing up in the cheap seats of Clarence, NY, whose sense of culture was that which I learned from Hollywood at 6:00 AM on Saturday mornings (snuggling close to the TV screen while turning the sound down so low that it wouldn’t wake anybody else in our tiny house), this assignment was the most exciting creative thing that had thus far happened in my life.  Sure the pinch pots were cool in 1st grade, but I didn’t think, at that time, that that my contribution to the art world was significantly better than anybody else’s in the class.  But writing a story – a story of my own creation – what a challenge!   And I was up for it.  

By third grade, I was living on a diet of Tarzan, Ramar of the Jungle, and my personal favorite, Jungle Jim – played by a post-Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller and a post-Cheetah chimp named Tamba  (amazing the things we still carry around in our heads!).  Any surprise that, with my cultural influences, for the assignment I wrote a jungle tale?  Set in Africa, it was an action-adventure story of a young native boy who discovered a large precious stone and tried to keep it from the white hunters who desperately wanted to take it away from his village.   He was captured by the hunters and enslaved, but managed (through pluck and determination) to escape with the stone and save his tribe.  My story was full of “run and jump” action and in retrospect it sounds vaguely like Avatar.  I was proud as could be when I turned it in.  But for my efforts, dear Mrs. B gave me absolutely nothing in return.  Not only was my story not one of the ones read in front of the class, it was handed back to me with spelling and grammar corrections as the only comments.  When I later walked up to her desk and asked her what she thought of it, she said “it was all right, but just not as special as the others that I read in class.”  I was crushed.  The reason I don’t remember more of the details of the story is that I tore up the pages into tiny pieces and threw them into the garbage.  And I never wrote another word of fiction for the next twenty years.  Seriously.  

In fairness, I don’t remember Mrs. B as an overall bad person.   Maybe she was just having a bad day.  But her bad day obviously had lasting repercussions.  If I could, I would like to send her the following message: Mrs. B, no thanks to you, but after I eventually got over your snub and realized I could be a writer, I wrote many episodes for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate SG-1 and other shows.   Thankfully, you weren’t in any of those story meetings to judge the “specialness” of my writing ability.  

Next up is, in my book, a pretty mean character – my high school art instructor Mrs. K.   In freshman and sophomore years I was taught art classes by a really great teacher – Richard Kaltenbach – a truly decent man who gave of himself to every single student.   At the time, and because of his tutelage, art meant a lot to me.  Art was not only my favorite class, but the one class in which I thought I excelled.  I aced English, History and Music, managed to get B’s in Math and Science and for the most part survived gym class without serious damage (except for “dodge ball” and “sharks and minnows”).  But for me, art class was the best hour of the day – at least until my junior year when I was assigned a new art teacher – dear Mrs. K.  I knew from the beginning that she didn’t like me.  But her job wasn’t to like me, but to teach me.  And I have to say that the disdain with which she treated my work was really off the charts.  

There were many examples I could give, but one assignment in particular stands out.  We were to create a drawing of an alien.  She said that she wanted us to use our imaginations.  Well, I was a fan of The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and The Day The Earth Stood Still.  I thought I knew my way around sci-fi characters and I drew a picture which I thought was pretty imaginative, blending wolfman with spaceman.  When she reviewed it before the class she said that my drawing “showed very little imagination” as “it was too human in form” and she told the class as much.  I was humiliated.  Recently, I took the drawing out of a faded portfolio of my high school art projects and looked at it for the first time in years.  It hit me like a photon torpedo: but for the crab claw hands, my alien drawing looks more than a little like a Wookie – an alien drawn ten years before George Lucas created Star Wars.   But, of course, according to Mrs. K, my alien didn’t show much imagination.    

That was par for the course.  The belittling of my work continued on a regular basis to the point where I pretty much gave up on art by the time I left high school.  Despite her “guidance” I later developed a career in advertising and marketing, working for major clients in the music, consumer electronics and computer fields.  But never on the “art” side – I had given up that dream years earlier.  Instead I developed my writing ability (despite Mrs. B and thanks to other teachers that made me feel a bit more capable).    

Back to Mrs. K – the capper is how she signed my junior yearbook (why I even asked her to sign is now a mystery to me – probably a weak moment for an insecure 16-year-old).  She wrote: “To an outstanding (?) art student.”  Yes, she put a question mark after the word “outstanding!”  What was that supposed to mean?  Did she have any idea of what a nasty thing that was to say to a kid?  Actually, in her case, I believe she did.    

After I moved on from advertising and became a successful (meaning, produced) screenwriter in Hollywood, I was invited to teach screenwriting by UCLA Extension, where I had myself learned screenwriting skills.  Since I started teaching in 1995, I’ve taught forty-seven ten-week classes, three hours each night.  I have had quite a few students go on to become successful writers themselves.  In my classes, there is only one word that is forbidden.  I call it the “T-word.”  That word is – talent.  Why is this word not used in my classes?  Because I believe “talent” is a word that far too many people use to discourage themselves from being productive.   As in… “Oh I could never do (whatever) because I just don’t have the talent for it.”  And it’s a word that justifies the behavior of lousy teachers who give their attention to one student at the expense of others because one supposedly has talent and the other doesn’t.    

Well, guess what?  Talent is one of the most elusive concepts ever created.  Most people who are judged to have talent don’t even have it all the time.  How many great actors or directors have we seen make lousy movies?  How many great writers or songwriters turn out a clunker or two?  How many great companies occasionally produce a bad product?  Happens all the time.  Talent comes, talent goes.  Some days you’re great, some days, you’re not so great.  The important thing is to try.  To be productive.  

And if you put limits on yourself by thinking you don’t have talent, you’re never going to be productive.  It’s easy to consume.  It’s a lot harder to produce.  Consumers are important, but it’s the productive people who move the earth forward.  We need more of them.   And we need our teachers to encourage students to be productive.  

I’m not saying that all my bad teachers were bad people.  Maybe they just had an “off” day.  Well, in the case of Mrs. K, I suppose there were a lot of “off” days.  I know some other students liked her (though I don’t know of any that went on to a career in art).  In my view, I think that an art teacher whose judgmental criticism ultimately discourages a student from ever producing another piece of art would qualify as a pretty bad teacher.  Those that teach others have to ask themselves an important question.  Am I teaching them?  Or am I judging them?  

A teacher’s job is to teach, not to judge.  We give teachers enormous power over those that we allow them to teach – especially when their classroom is made up of our children.  A judgmental comment thrown out casually by a teacher can have ramifications on a child that last for years.  Trust me, I’ve been there, as, I’m sure, have many of you.  

Another kind of teacher belongs in my hall of shame:  the teacher who feels that because they’re in front of a class they have the inherent right to voice their political views.  My first such teacher came in college.   

It was with some distress at my uncharacteristically low first semester GPA that I first learned of Ms. H’s class in Art History.  “She’s an easy grader” I heard.   “Everybody gets an A.  But she only takes students by request.”  Well, at the time, it seemed like a good idea to seek her out at the off-campus hippie-house where she lived with more than a dozen students and ask to be allowed into her class.  This should have been a tip-off, but at the time, I thought it was cool.   

And with the War in Vietnam in full-blown controversy it didn’t seem so odd when she announced at the first class that she was suspending the art history lectures entirely.  From this point on, she was going to be teaching us about revolution.  And that’s pretty much what we got for the rest of the semester.  I was no fan of the war, so, at the time it seemed like a good idea.  There were no tests, no finals.  Everybody got an A, but we didn’t get much of an education other than her subjective view of the world.   

Over the years I have encountered many such teachers who feel that because they have a captive audience they have the right to spout their political beliefs.  It is an incredible abuse of power.   In the screenwriting classes I teach at UCLA, I make it a point of pride that by the end of the semester my students should have no idea what my political leanings are.  A teacher’s job is to teach the subject to which they are assigned, not to spout their political views in a class that has nothing to do with politics.  

So, once again: a big thank-you to those teachers who have taught me well.  To the rest, just know that you have also taught me well, but probably not what you thought you were teaching.     Originally posted on 02.27.10


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The Impact of Teachers on Students: The Good and The Bad

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Published: Jul 17, 2018

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The Comedy Film “Bad Teacher” Essay (Movie Review)

A bad teacher is a comedy that features Elizabeth Halsey as the main character. She is a gold digger who does not care about her job as a teacher to nurture young minds. She is also a frequent user of marijuana. Scott and Russell are Elizabeth’s prospective suitors who constantly fight for her attention. Scott is a handsome rich man, whereas Russell is his smart and funny opponent.

Russell is a serious gym teacher who catches the audience’s attention as well as Elizabeth’s. Amy Squirrel is a cunning character who is also very pretentious. She covers her callous, condescending trait behind a pretty smile and pretends to be Elizabeth’s friend.

Bad Teacher has striking similarities to a 2003 movie called Bad Santa. Bad Teacher is about teachers abusing their authority and power by taking advantage of young school-going children. Elizabeth comes home from school one day and finds that her rich fiancé is no longer interested in their relationship.

She goes back to school with a scheme on how to attract a rich man so that she can quit her teaching job. Luckily for her, the new teacher in her school (Scott) happens to be very wealthy. Miss Halsey is determined to do everything to catch his attention even if it means getting breast implants. She is even more determined when she realizes that Scott’s ex-girlfriend has an ample bust. However, she faces a challenge of raising enough money for the surgical procedure. She resorts to helping her students cheat in a test to raise money.

Bad Teacher comprises a sequence of segments linked together. It is a very entertaining movie to watch although it copies most of its plot from other movies. The quality of the picture is very good as well as the lighting. However, the language used in some scenes is quite obscene and is not appropriate for young audiences and family viewing. There is a lot of profanity, suggestive sexual insinuations, as well as drug abuse (smoking of marijuana and drinking of alcohol). Several songs are used to depict different moods and themes in the movie.

The issues that the movie addresses are clearly outlined throughout the film. Therefore, it is easy for a viewer to relate to the lives of the characters. The playwright also uses symbolism when assigning names to characters in the play. For example, Amy squirrel’s name (Squirrel) depicts her cunning character in the play.

The movie portrays the theme of change. A wicked teacher faces many challenges, which gradually transform her into a good person. Elizabeth learns valuable life lessons that change her ways. Ultimately, she realizes what is crucial in life and becomes a good judge of character when she chooses to date Russell, the gym teacher over Scott who is extremely wealthy. The movie also depicts immorality. Elizabeth is immoral to the extent of using students to get money illegally for their selfish needs.

In my view, this film scores three out of five points. The movie director does a commendable job in assembling a star-studded and talented cast who play their roles effortlessly. The key setbacks in the movie are the predictability of the outcomes and the flow of the plot. The events look like a series of skits or parts that are incompetently connected. The raunchy nature of the film also restricts its audience, yet the title suggests that the movie ought to be suitable for school-going children.

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