Happy Teachers

dolphsDo we need to like our teachers in order to learn? If that’s true our learning is in peril. Not all teachers are likable persons (to you). They too have their attitudes. Suppose you wind up with a teacher who really makes a mesh of your comfort zone. Is that the end of a learning relationship? Yes, learning would be in peril but let’s face it, you are a strong person, and probably get over it, thinking of better times ahead, assertive as you are by raising the issue  with your teacher in hope of improvements. The relationships you have with your teacher are powerful. They shape the kind of interactions and are influential when it comes to your personal well-being. As with all human relationships your interactions are a two-sided affair. If one person fails to deliver the other is in jeopardy. So again we can ask: is a happy teacher a requisite for you to be happy, moreover for you to be learning ?

A recent news item in a Belgian newspaper (1) commended a study done at the University of Antwerp saying that happy teachers make happy students. Apart from the implied causality, it is a devastating outcome. It says in fact students need to like their teacher (to be able to be content with themselves).

Another study (See below) takes this a step further by making an explicit link to learning, claiming that tough teachers raise tough students. Such students set high achievements goals for themselves.  A poor student who does not match with a teacher.

Nobody would deny that teachers act as important role models to students, certainly at a young age. But teachers and students are well aware they communicate in service of the act of learning (2) . It is not that teachers primarily want to be liked or that a student’s first priority is to like their teacher. Both players in a (safe) classroom environment are well aware they are there for a common cause which needs to turn out well (for both of them).  So put learning first and happiness (delight) will come (Motto of this blog).


Liking a tough teacher: Interpersonal characteristics of teaching and students’ achievement goals by Tim Mainhard in School Psychology International 2015, Vol. 36(6) 559–574 sagepub.co.uk/journals Permissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0143034315608235



  1. http://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20170330_02809107
  2. https://learningfirst.com/




Who’s The Best


Almost about everything you will find a contest to point out who or what is the best: miss world; top best cook, champion darts throwing, or award prize winner arm wrestling, even the fastest shrimp peeler . So why not nominate the world’s best teacher. Yes, it can (1). The top finalists have been selected (Dec 13, 2016). One needs, of course, to have a lot in store to become that exceptional. Why not take a moment to reproduce what you would consider a sound criterion…. The organizing academy thinks of things like: achieving learning outcomes, innovative instructional practices, outside recognition of achievements in the classroom and beyond; and also helping children become global citizens, and peculiarly enough: Encouraging other teachers to stay in the profession (2) . Probably there could have been a lot more to look for the best from the best – the list you were just making may evidence that. The exercise or (con)test even might suggest we know what it takes to be a good, excellent teacher but we don’t (3).. The things with these lists is it depends on who you ask. Try by reversing the list of good criteria into one of bad teaching criteria. It probably leads to a whole different set of considerations.

So. Lets’ ask teachers. In day-to-day teaching a lot comes down to TSR. Having good Teacher Student Relationships. A recent study indicated that for teachers (and students as well) it is crucially important to have comfortable interactive relationships with students in the classroom. Teacher self efficacy, fun in working with students, experiencing no fear or anxiety in getting good learning outcomes (actually all are affecting the criteria considered in the contest) were  dependent upon TSR.

There is a certain danger to these lists – they tend to become reified or separate from what is happening in real classrooms and disconnected from what drives teaching. Teachers learn to live up to these standards in order to comply, forgetting what is real (4). It may seem a mundane view to ask teachers to be always aware of improvements to their teaching regularly. Probably a more sound approach than wanting to comply to lists of teaching excellence.


Gerda Hagenauer & Tina Hascher & Simone E. Volet (2015) Teacher emotions in the classroom: associations with students’ engagement, classroom discipline and the interpersonal teacher-student relationship Eur J Psychol Educ (2015) 30:385–403

DOI 10.1007/s10212-015-0250-0



  1. http://www.globalteacherprize.org/
  2. http://www.globalteacherprize.org/judging-criteria/
  3. http://languagegoesonholiday.blogspot.nl/2011/11/evidence-of-teaching-excellence.html
  4. http://psychjobsearch.wikidot.com/forum/t-632105/evidence-of-teaching-excellence-teaching-statement