From being a kind and positive leader in the classroom, to having enthusiasm to learn new things, teachers share what was so special about the best student they ever had.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
She just understood math on an instinctive level. I could show her math that was years ahead of where she was, and she could take a look at the problem and come up with a solution for it.
I showed her an algebra problem once and she managed to figure out, on her own, how to simplify the expression, without me showing her how expressions are simplified. It was a real privilege to have her. I gave her all of the high school math I could get my hands on and met with her parents a lot, to shove the idea into their heads that she needs to take this talent and go places with it.
There was this one year where I had a really smart kid who seemed to know really random obscure chemistry knowledge we don’t teach, specifically numbers. He memorised certain enthalpy change numbers, the mass of an electron, etc. I usually ask these questions for my enjoyment, and most of the time the students would spend a couple minutes throwing random numbers, fun for everyone the way I see it. This kid “ruined” everything.
I did eventually ask him how and why he knew such things. His response? “I don’t know. I read it in a book once, now it’s stuck in my head.
It’s hard to pick just one, but they had several common traits.
They were older students. This was a community college, so I’m talking 40’s to 70’s in age. They hadn’t had the chance to go to college when they were younger.
They had to overcome some difficulties to get to class. For example, drive long distances, work full-time jobs, had custody of grandchildren, were a single parent, etc.
They were the first in their families to go to college.
These students would not quit. They came to every class. They turned in all of their homework on time. They paid attention to lecture. They asked questions. They stayed after lecture to start their homework so they could ask me questions in person. They were awesome students and people. I admire them.
One that stands out is a student who came to me and asked how he could be of help to other students struggling with the complexities posed in music theory class.
He excelled in his own studies and was popular both with students and faculty – his goal was simply to be of service to everyone. It proved to be an equally rewarding learning experience both for the students he aided and for his own professional growth.
Today, he’s a very successful teacher – inspiring his students to bring out the best in others as well as themselves.
I teach introductory bio lab at a state university. My best students always seem to be very attentive and listen during class, so they know what I care about and what I don’t think matters.
They get their questions answered, try to set boundaries as to what it is that they need to know, and they get that out of me during the lecture part of the lab, and then ask any questions they might have later.
Also, they usually turn things in for review beforehand, if I provide an opportunity to the whole class, they are there to take advantage of it. Many struggling students, for which the opportunity was intended, don’t even take advantage of it.
He could understand the value of the material. I taught a first-year seminar for college students, which was designed to help them with the adjustment from high school to college, as well as prepare them for a successful and meaningful academic/college career.
He put full effort into the assignments, met with me weekly when he needed help, and wasn’t afraid to ask questions. He had long term goals, was respectful, and carried himself with confidence, not arrogance. Overall he was just a great student/person.
I teach piano. It’s a superhuman struggle to get kids to practice, but I have had one or two who not only perfected everything I assigned, but would learn additional pieces for fun every week. So, I guess I would say “going beyond the call of duty,” or “incredible enthusiasm for the subject.”
I still can’t tell if really liking something is what leads to “talent,” or vice-versa.
My favorite student was pretty average in terms of behavior and intelligence. He pulled B’s and the occasional C, and he would have to be told to get back at to whatever task we were working on every once in a while.
But I am convinced that I will never meet anyone with a sharper, quicker, and more refined sense of humor. This kid could come up with a brilliant and hilarious way to spin nearly anything. The best part of it is that he never did it to be mean, he never did it disruptively, and he never came across as a hack. It was genuinely hilarious every single time he cracked a joke.
He wants to be a writer and I told him before he graduated that I’d never met anyone with his talent for humor and that I doubt I’ll meet anyone who could surpass it.
The ones that stand out are the responsible ones. I teach band, which has a high value on leadership and maturity. I currently have a student who is nearly alone in her ability to see the big picture and the top down perspective. She understands why I do what I do and has a natural grasp for scaffolding and concept progression. Generally speaking, she’s the oldest 17 year old I’ve ever taught and would probably be treating her as my peer if not for the teacher student dynamic.
Others would be this trio of drummers I teach in another situation who have completely revamped the culture of their percussion class/drumline. On purpose. It used to be an activity for people to do, now they are a big family and the quality of the group is massively improved. It’s gotten to the point where I just show them how to play better and they take care of the rest.
I had this one student who was very quiet. She was the stereotypical “nerd” (and I mean that nicely).
I always liked to include class participation in my lectures and lessons, and this student always had shirts that had these funny sayings on them “Duct Tape is Silver, Silence is Golden,” etc. Then one day when we were doing a writing exercise I noticed her shirt said “Imagine dragons!” I was like “Woah, that’s brilliant, dragons make everything better!” So I had the students work a bit, and then told them to imagine dragons halfway through, so their stories suddenly had dragons involved in the middle! Her shirt was just so cool, and fit her personality, I can just see her imagining dragons all the time. That whole semester she went from the quiet kid to the coolest in the class, and sometimes in the middle of lectures she’d ask “This is boring, can’t we just imagine dragons instead?” and the whole class would be like “YEAH!” and they’d all write pages and pages of stories. It was really exciting!
Ex-ESL/ALT Teacher here:
The best student I ever had cried because I had to return to the United States. She was a Japanese elementary school student, who would converse with me any chance that she could get to practice her English (and it was AMAZING). I had to return to the United States because my mother had became terminally ill with ovarian cancer, and obviously we didn’t tell them why but when she heard I was leaving she bursted into tears… I wasn’t supposed to cry but it pulled on my heartstrings and the eye pipes just began to overflow.
To this day, she gave me hope and taught me more than I ever think I taught her. I really hope she has continued with her English.
Their manners and their willingness to try anything and everything. They were smart but they worked hard outside of school and just listened to me all the time. It was a group of three girls and they got headteacher’s awards quicker than anyone else in the school. When I was asked to say why they got them in assembly, I literally just said “because they put in effort, are polite and respectful.” I have left teaching and I miss these girls because they were just so lovely.
My favorite students were always the ones who cared. It made my day if anyone was curious enough to stay after class and keep asking me questions, but I liked getting interesting questions in class too. I couldn’t always answer them in class because I didn’t want to stray too far from what would be on their tests, but it always made me happy when a student was thinking about it.
For the record though, rephrasing a statement I just made is not “an interesting question.
This student was a prodigy. He could figure out any groove I played, by himself. Or at least more often than not. I absolutely loved teaching him music. Be it Guitar, Keys or Drums. He just had it in him, you know? I understand when people tell me that nobody is born with any talent but this guy changed that perception for me. (None of his parents were musicians by the way).
She showed up and did the work!
I have so many students who are so bright, or can figure things out so easily, or are strong in one area but not another or weak in all areas or strong in all areas or whatever, but literally the only ones who have ever been successful no matter WHERE they are academically are the ones who show up and just DO. THE. WORK!!!
She has lots of great qualities, but the most important one is that one. It’s surprisingly simple.
One of teachers talked a little about one of his ex-students.
The guy was apparently the top of his grade and excelled in math, which was the class my teacher taught. He was a lot more inquisitive and other students often went to him for help with assignments, almost like a secondary teacher to his class/friends.
What ended up happening was prior to graduation he started acting a bit off, and one day tried to jump out of a window. Rumor around the school was that he was depressed and due to some breakup, pushed him over the edge. He left school and never graduated, not much word of him since.
I’m a teaching assistant for a college chemistry lab. My best students are usually the RAs. Ive taught two of them so far. Theyre not shy about asking questions and they tend to work well with their lab partners. Chemistry lab isnt particularly hard and a lot of it is just following instructions from the lab manual but the stuff we do can lead to interesting conversations.
I’ve taught for 5 years and now I’m in an administrative position as a building principal, so I’ve been in education about 10 years. There are many qualities to a student that makes them the best, but the single most impactful quality is empathy. The ability to understand how others feel. This is invaluable in the classroom and also as an adult. Teaching is an extremely heavy job due to what our kiddos are facing. To see the love and care reciprocated from our students is the best.
She was unfailingly kind. She genuinely cared about the wellbeing of all of her classmates and stepped up to help whenever she saw a problem or struggle. Nothing could phase her, and shed be the first to find one good thing in any disappointing situation. I was impressed by her stamina, her determination, and her high frustration tolerance as she tackled new material and skills. She was always open to new lessons. Every Monday, shed take the time to ask me how my weekend was, and I could tell she truly wanted to know and wished me the best.
These are traits Id admire in any person, but this person was an exception.
I have been a teacher for a little while now and the term “best” has changed a whole lot in that time. It used to be that naturally smart kid that you could leave alone yet he’d get good grades anyways. That kid would have done great with a robot teacher that will one day replace the worst of us. I hope I’m not on that chopping block, but this kind of kid, and the worst of teachers, will be the cause of it.
Now, older, wiser and a lot more jaded, it’s the kids that are not the fastest at learning, but that love you anyways. They draw pictures, stop by your classroom to say hi during breaks, etc. We teachers burn out, on average, in less than 5 years. These are the kids that keep that number as high as it is.
I’m at the point where I realize most kids will fail or succeed whether you are the teacher or another one in the same school. It’s the kids that choose you as the teacher they like that are the best for me. It’s those that I can actually push the extra mile.
I’m working with one of my best students ever this year. He is tall, super athletic, and has a very “jock” outward appearance. Well I teach art and this kid can draw in comic-style like nobodies business. He studies comics and how to improve his skill after a day of basketball drills. He has favorite artists and appreciates the art form far more than the stories themselves. I’ve never really seen anything like it. On top of that he is extremely polite, has a good sense of humor, and cares about a lot of different things in his life. I don’t know where his life will take him, but he’s going to be a big success.
One of my students is uncommonly kind. He goes out of his way for others, is always polite, but also shines a light on the kindness and achievements of others. He’s one of the only students I’ve ever had who will come to me to tell me about the good things his classmates have done, or how much he is impressed by their hard work.
He’s pretty good academically, but not the smartest or gifted I’ve had, but I don’t care. If every child I taught left me with his kind, positive and supportive attitude then I’d consider that a job well done on my part. Screw fractions, that’s what really matters.
I had a kid who was super empathetic. We had two severely autistic students in the class and he basically had the entire class on board with involving these kids, advocating for them on the playground, and being just kind in general. That year my class culture was so amazing, and it’s because this kid was a leader, but in the most positive way. It made learning and doing things so nice, as often times class management takes a lot of time.
I teach skiing to kids. My favourite student was a 12-year-old I taught every Saturday.
One of the main things for me is that she always tried. She didn’t always succeed, but that matters much less than trying. She never said no. She would be scared, she would doubt her skill, but she didn’t let it stop her from trying anyway. That is a huge thing for me as a teacher.
She also had a great sense of humor. We were both sarcastic and it fit perfectly. I think about her often and hope she’s doing well. I hope she got into the program she wanted for grade 8. I hope she still asks questions. And I hope she still has that smile on her face.
The best students approach every assignment with a “what can I learn here?” attitude. That makes all the difference, regardless of the ability level that they started at.
The best students also understand that I am both a resource and a human. They ask good questions, they think outside the box, and they don’t buy into the “me vs. teacher” dynamic. This takes a good amount of maturity, and I only have a few each semester.