Opinion Blog

Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

What Students Say They Like About Their Teachers

By Larry Ferlazzo — November 22, 2023 8 min read
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I’ve previously shared about 20 posts highlighting students’ thoughts about schools and their teachers.

Today’s post continues that series ...

Being a Good Listener

Melissa Tran is a senior at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:

A classroom experience that I really enjoyed was when I was in kindergarten. I had a really hard time expressing myself and talking. I didn’t talk, and no one in that class had ever heard me speak a single word. But my teacher, Ms. B, was a sweetheart and she made me feel better even though I just stood there awkwardly next to her.

She would bring me into the teacher’s room and give me chips and just sit there and she wouldn’t say anything, just smile and do her teacher stuff. She never forced me to tell her anything and was always waiting patiently for me. I liked that she acknowledged my feelings and never forced me to talk about them unless I wanted to. There was something so heartwarming her smile gave me.

She is a teacher I will always remember.

I feel like more teachers should acknowledge their students’ feelings and students should acknowledge their teachers’ feelings because that would make things easier and less stressful.

I loved Ms. B. She had the kindest soul. If I would tell her that she meant a lot to me, I would. To this day, she has never heard me speak, which I think is kind of funny because she helped me so much.


Don’t Say ‘Figure It Out Yourself’

Anonymous is a senior at Luther Burbank High School:

Throughout my high school experience, I feel I have faced many situations where teachers attempt to make an incredibly boring lesson into a fun classroom experience. While these attempts are very appreciated to stop me from falling asleep in class, only a few have truly been effective in being memorable for me. However, one of the most memorable was participating in a play activity during my sophomore English class.

In this activity, we had to showcase themes of irony in our story to create tension, basically a homemade Greek tragedy. We had been exploring the story of Oedipus Rex beforehand, and there was a lot of excitement among my classmates to make a silly play. We had to input ideas of tragic elements, character speech, and a main conflict and resolution. With so many elements of Greek tragedy to analyze and use, I believe a play was the perfect method to have my classmates and I take in what we have learned. It also provided us with an opportunity to practice these concepts.

Working on this project involved lots of communication due to the immense amount of teamwork and planning. This means that there was definitely exposure to trial and error. Needless to say, with one single assignment my classmates and I were able to experience firsthand various skills that needed to be developed for the future. My teacher had also been present during this assignment to make sure we were on the right track. Not only had he approved our concepts, but he also gave clear, concise instructions on how to better apply the concepts we were learning. We received actual explanations and feedback on the things we were confused about, instead of hearing the usual, “I don’t know you can figure it out if blah blah blah”. We were not abandoned!

What I feel teachers can learn from this experience is to stop with the “I don’t know” and the “Figure it out yourself” method. While I get that it is better to make sure the students can be independent, things will still get confusing at times. Without a little support, the motivation will run out quickly, and the student won’t want to give their best effort due to being burnt out. In a sense, make sure you don’t accidentally burn out your students!


Making ‘Group Work’ Work

Laichee Khang is a senior at Luther Burbank High:

The best experience in the classroom so far is being able to choose who I work with. From past experiences, I was always stuck with people who weren’t as ambitious as me, so I was stuck with doing almost all of the work. I also didn’t really know them, so it was awkward and I hated being the person who’s always bossing people around. Basically I had to suck up to everything, in hopes of getting a good grade.

I hated this so much, as I was a very shy kid and always wanted to have a good grade so it can help me go further in higher education. Many teachers saw me as a good student, so they probably put me with students who aren’t as ambitious in school. So when I entered my Theory of Knowledge class, I had a better time doing group work, as I was doing it with people I actually knew and enjoyed. It also made me more motivated, because when I’m in a less stressful moment or more relaxed, I tend to do more. I never had such enjoyable moments doing something that I dreaded so much.

I know teachers are trying to prepare you in the future, as you are going to be working with people whose work ethics don’t align with you. However, why not just be able to work with the people you like?

What teachers can learn from this is that when they put students who clearly have different views or opinions about school together, it’s just not going to work out. For example, one is going to be doing all the work, while the other is doing nothing and is still going to take credit. Putting people who clearly work well together and are able to work evenly in the works will make an experience for them and for everyone in the class.


‘Teacher Flexibility’

Sam Vue is a junior at Luther Burbank High:

I have been in multiple classes, fun and not throughout my education road, and I have yet to stumble across another class like my physics class.

To begin with, Physics is just such an interesting subject, for example astronomy, the science about space and how the universe began or how Earth became how it is now. For such a great subject, you need a great teacher of course. My physics teacher takes inputs from the students and builds the foundation of his class on it.

For example we voted and made our own classroom norms for our class. This allows for customization of the class and allows students to feel like they are part of and responsible for the class. The class structure overall is built on our norms that we students contributed to making.

This is not even the part that I like most about this class! It is the teacher’s flexibility. Falling behind class? Don’t fret, we have a dedicated day of the week to catch up on work! Not only that, but the teacher also is very conversational with students.

This is merely one of many classes that I actually enjoyed experiencing, and many teachers could learn from this one. Teachers need to learn to be more friendly, rather than strict. Teachers should also be understanding of students especially if they just want to put their head down one day.

Teachers should build their classes from the ground up starting with learning the names of the students, not by their seats but by their face. No classes should be silent and awkward, instead it should be very interactive. Make it fun to learn!


Thanks to Melissa, Anonymous, Laichee, and Sam for contributing their thoughts!

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

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