When we think about it, teachers are the odd ones out in any learning space. We are often far older than the other people in the classroom, the only ones being paid and in reality, the least important stakeholder when it comes to the significance of academic success. Teachers for the most part, get paid on longevity of service and while remuneration is moderated by qualifications, most teachers are paid fairly similar regardless of student satisfaction or otherwise.
Students often follow teachers rather than subjects. I, as a student changed classes to ensure I was in the same learning space as a Mathematics teacher, generally and widely regardless as very, very good by students at Awatapu College in the early 1990s. In my time as a student and my incumbent time as a teacher, it is not surprising that the personality of the teacher has a lot to do with how students feel about one class compared to another. When you as a student are in the same classroom as an adult educator up to five times a week, it is far easier for all parties if co-existence is to the positive, if not at the very least, neutral.
When I asked my English students how do they rate a teacher, they went quickly beyond "looks" (thankfully!) and instead focused on the following critical (to them) elements:
Students rated classes and teachers where not only did they have a voice, but where this voice was not only listened to, but where appropriate was acted upon by the teacher concerned. Many students despite being asked for their feedback feel this is tokenism at best and the teacher is not listening or prepared to take on board the voicings expressed. Almost every student who responded, pointed out the futility of class-asked questions which appear to the students as almost teaching-by-numbers and aiming at everyone and hitting no-one. Students in a counter context felt challenged, empowered and valued when questioned 1:1. In such a localised situation, students had time and also a confidence to present their answers and just as much, their doubts in terms of subject content. Students also felt more likely to approach the teachers who practised 1:1 questioning as they felt this teacher (or type of teacher) was more accessible and valuing of the individual learning experiences within the one classroom setting.
In a incredibly diverse and multi-cultural school such as Aorere College, students also rate teachers and classes where their culture is acknowledged, respected and where the teacher makes an effort to try (in this teacher's case, not always successfully) to pronounce Polynesian, Maori and a range of other non-English names and words correctly. In all honesty, I do struggle at times with some Polynesian names but never-the-less, the students appreciate my valiant efforts and my persistent willingness to accept the student (or students) concerned teaching me the correct pronunciation. I never used to think too much about the correct pronunciation of names when I was in predominantly European schools. However having now travelled a fair bit now, I can understand how frustrating it is when your name (an indelible part of you) is mispronounced and even more so, when little effort is made in terms of the correct pronunciation. When students are valued and respected and feel as such as individuals, good teachers know that the learning process becomes far easier and enduring for all parties concerned.
Students of mine over the years have always been quick to point out how much teacher movement influences how much they think of a class. Many students with (unfortunately) considerable ease, recall a number of teachers who arose from their desk only to greet and dismiss their students, if that. Teachers who resided behind a front-of-classroom desk are seen by students as mere transmitters of knowledge and content and ones who appear to have little interest in student production and/or conversation. I do note that teachers in high schools do tend to "live" at their desks a lot more than is common-place in intermediate or primary schools. No doubt, the activity and student energy in these latter locations necessitate greater teacher movement and collegial engagement. I have never been a fan of teachers sitting predominately at their desk while a class is in session, least of all at the front of a class. It is not realistic to expect a student unsure of current work to walk the trek of shame past their student colleagues and up to the front of the class. When teachers are up and moving, not only is off-task behaviour a lot more difficult, by virtue of the teacher being amongst the students, such locations suggest more "us" than "you and me" and also enables discreet checking of understanding by both teacher and student more readily.
Lastly according to my students, the final way they rate your class is in terms of the expectations and academic rigour. Students (I am informed) want deadlines, affirmative academic empowerment and pressure to learn. Students who do not face teacher pressure to complete tasks on time and to an appropriate level often talk much about only learning from the outcome, and little from the process. Those students in the higher levels also want to be seen as growing and emerging adults both in education and in society. They understand and respect guidelines (even more so when legitimately co-constructed) over dictatorial non-negotiated rules. Students rate teachers who each day expect greatness from those, regardless of what has occurred the day or even week before. Now I'm no brilliant pedagogical expert but I think I do know the importance of my students leaving my classroom each day knowing that this educator not only thinks each student can do well, but that they should and will. If a teacher fails to clearly show perpetual belief in his or her students, what chance do the relevant students have? Educators need to be remember that even the smartest of our youth, are just that, our "youth". In fact, many of the smartest students I have ever taught have ironically needed more empathetic and encouraging support and on a more often basis than many regular students. Many of these students have been in my opinion, well beyond their years in academic competency but often far less so in terms of emotional and social competency. Any student who feels safe (in all its forms), valued and individually respected and expected, will flourish and acknowledge those teacher(s) who want the best for them now and in the future.
In closing, teachers hold and will continue to hold immense influence in any learning space. They can literally raise or crush student engagement, achievement and belief often with little knowledge of the impact of their actions. For teachers to be successful, they need to ensure the individuals over the students in front of them are targeted, supported and believed in individually and collectively. In so doing, teachers and classes will be rated not just for their current effectiveness but for student and personal benefit beyond the leaving behind of the school environment and its incumbent learning environments. To be respected in the future over being liked in the now must surely be the preference for all teachers. Now that's what I call really being rated.