Stress and the Classroom

May 10th, 2017

It’s finals week. As you walk down the halls or sit in the library, the sense of fear, worry, and doom that hangs over campus is almost tangible. Even professors can be heard expressing their displeasure at the amount of grading they need to complete before a given deadline. A quick scroll through social media helps articulate what everyone on campus seems to be experiencing: Stress.

Stress is a part of life. Many of us are exposed to some level of stress on a daily basis. However, even though stress is a very common part of life, we are rarely taught healthy ways to manage and cope with the stress in our lives. At the beginning of the semester, we discussed homework and the fact that many students say homework is stressful or that outside stress factors prohibit them from completing homework. Therefore, as teachers, we often find ourselves competing with internal and external stress factors in a student’s life as we try to teach them in our classrooms. In this post, I would like to discuss some of the stress and anxiety students face inside and outside of the classroom and ways students can cope with this stress and anxiety.

In the textbook, anxiety is described as “a general uneasiness, or feelings of tension” (Woolfolk, 2014, p. 503). Anxiety can also be a trait or a state. For example, you may experience a level of anxiety in a traffic jam, doing homework, or completing your daily chores. This describes trait anxiety, or anxiety in many situations. On the other hand, you may experience a heightened level of anxiety when taking a test. This is state anxiety, because the situation is especially anxiety provoking (Woolfolk, 2014, p. 503).

As it relates to motivation and instruction, students who are experiencing stress or anxiety in the classroom often struggle to focus their attention in order to learn. For example, if a student’s parents are arguing at home or if a student has a test in the next class, the student may find their mind constantly drawn to worry and dwell on the topic that is causing them stress instead of retaining the information being conveyed in the classroom.

In the study, “Stress, stressors ad coping among high school students”, conducted on tenth and eleventh grade students in the Los Angeles area, researchers found the that following were the most prevalent stressors in a students’ life. Students rated these as things that cause them stress often or very often.

Stressor Percentage
Future life plans 64.6
Own expectations about career 64.5
Own expectations about school 59.8
Tests 59.1
Grades 58.5
Homework 53.7
Not having enough time 51.7
Not letting feelings out 50.2
Pressure from parents about responsibility 50.0
Violence 48.6
(de Anda, et al., 2000)


A quick glance at this table shows that the top seven stressors are either directly or indirectly related to school. As a teacher, the number of students who rated violence as a significant stressor in their life is something I also find disconcerting. When thinking back on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if students don’t have their basic needs for safety met, it can be hard for students to move to satisfy higher level of needs. In the learning environment, if students don’t feel safe, then they might also find themselves in a constant “fight, flight, or freeze” mode. This state of anxiety regarding their safety could pose a real problem in the classroom. As teachers, how do we combat very real anxiety in the classroom?

In the textbook, it discusses three coping strategies: problem-focused self-regulating strategies, emotion-focused strategies, and avoidance strategies (Woolfolk, 2014, p. 504). These strategies can be beneficial or maladaptive, depending on the situation. For example, when it comes to completing homework, it would be harmful or maladaptive when the stressor is homework, but it might be beneficial when the stressor is drug or alcohol use. Students need to be able to identify coping strategies that will be beneficial for them depending on the situation. Unfortunately, in the previous study, “students who experienced the highest levels of stress tended to employ maladaptive coping strategies with higher frequency than their cohorts and, more important, to view them as effective when employed” (de Anda, et al., 2000, p. 457).

In two more recent studies, researchers have tried to implement programs to help train students to relax and manage stress. The first study, “Integrating a relaxation response-based curriculum into a public high school in Massachusetts” involved having students participate in workshops during school hours, and go online to participate in guided meditations to promote relaxation. The study reported that “Although students reported being engaged in the classroom trainings, the assigned online home practice of the RR was not well utilized… 82% of students only logged in 0–1 times”. They were asked to log in once a day, every day, for 4 weeks (Foret, et al., 2012). However, this study also found that students did use other informal relaxation response practices, such as taking deep breaths before an exam, outside of the classroom trainings (Foret, et al., 2012). One of the limits acknowledged by this study was that only a percentage of students participated and may have felt peer pressure to do other things instead of the relaxation response techniques.

The study I found most interesting was “The DeStress for Success Program: Effects of a stress education program on cortisol levels and depressive symptomatology in adolescents making the transition to high school”. This study was conducted on almost an entire school and was compared against a nearby control school with similar demographics. This program involves not only stress management techniques, but also teaches students how to proactively identify possible stressors using the acronym NUTS (Novelty, Unpredictability, Threat to the ego, and Sense of control). It measured the success of the stress management techniques by taking saliva samples and measuring the cortisol (stress hormone) levels of the students before, during, and after the program. The study concluded that “transferring scientific knowledge from the laboratory to the classroom can have significant positive effects on both cortisol levels and depressive symptoms in those adolescents who suffer the most during the transition to high school” (Lupien, et al., 2013). The DeStress for success program utilizes the coping strategies discussed earlier, but includes more in depth breakdowns and examples.

As a future teacher, I think it will be important for me to recognize that my students are experiencing a lot of stress inside and outside of my classroom. The Centre for Studies on Human Stress website (the center that developed the DeStress for Success program) includes helpful resources and ideas for helping teach students how to cope with success. In order to promote learning in my classroom and help students become motivated to learn.

For more information on stress and stress management, visit the following website for the Centre for Studies on Human Stress.


de Anda, D., Baroni, S., Boskin, L., Buchwald, L., Morgan, J., Ow, J., . . . Weiss, R. (2000). Stress, stressors and coping among high school                students. Children and Youth Services Review, 441-463.

Foret, M. M., Scult, M., Wilcher, M., Chudnofsky, R., Malloy, L., Hasheminejad, N., & Park, E. R. (2012). Integrating a relaxation response-               based curriculum into a public high school in Massachusetts. Journal of Adolescence, 325-332.

Lupien, S. J., Oueleet-Morin, I., Trepanier, L., Juster, R., Marin, M., Francois, N., . . . Plusquellec, P. (2013). The DeStress for Success                        Program: Effects of a stress education program on cortisol levels and depressive symptomatology in adolescents making the                                 transition to high school. Neuroscience, 74-87.

Woolfolk, A. (2014). Educational Psychology. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.




Lessons for the Teacher

May 6th, 2017

At the beginning of the year, I was asked the question “What does a good teacher look like?” I thought of things like kind, relatable, and funny. But when considering this, I only thought of this question through the lens of what students look for in a teacher. Although all these things are important, being a good and effective teacher involves more than how students perceive you. In addition to these characteristics, I think two other important qualities that a teacher needs to possess are organization and classroom management skills.

Teacher organization is crucial. Throughout this semester, and my O&P experience, I have seen how much teachers need to juggle. Between lesson planning, meetings, preparation of materials, grading, etc. there is a lot that happens and teachers need to manage their time and resources to accomplish all the tasks placed upon them. I observed that when teachers were more organized, things flowed more easily in the classroom.

During my O&P experience, I spent time in a couple different classrooms observing different teaching styles. The most significant thing I learned and observed this semester was classroom management techniques. In particular, one teacher was perceived consistently as strict and was “not to be messed with”, however, I also observed this teacher walk down the halls and be greeted and hugged fondly by previous students. On the other hand, I observed a teacher who was not as strict, but would need to raise her voice or call for assistance if things got out of hand. Disruptions were more common, and students didn’t approach this second teacher in the hall as readily or warmly as the first strict teacher. Students were also more likely to complete work and learn in the strict teacher’s classroom. This helped me understand that to be strict doesn’t mean that you’re a bad teacher, but that you care more about helping students learn than being liked by your students.

This also related to the Wisconsin Standards for Teacher Development and Licensure Standards “Teachers will know how to manage a classroom”. Swimming instructor, I thought I knew how to conduct a class, however, on my evaluation and in my O&P experience, I recognized that motivating 6-10 students to do something they enjoyed doing for 45 minutes was vastly different than motivating 27 students to do something they may or may not enjoy for 7 hours. During this semester, we talked a lot about motivational techniques for students and also discusses things that can impede student learning. I will take these lessons with me in my future career.

Lastly, looking to the future, I recognize that blogging is not for me. When building my online identity, I prefer to be defined by my accomplishments instead of my writing. When building my online identity, I plan to use resources like Linked-In and WECAN to establish my educator profile and present my materials. I have already begun this process by establishing a WECAN profile and will continue to expand and update that as I continue on my journey to becoming a licensed business educator.

Inspiring Competence and Confidence through Instruction

April 24th, 2017

It’s the end of the school year. As a college student, I am struggling under numerous deadlines and find myself thinking more about my (lack of) summer employment and vacation plans than on my homework, so I found it a bit funny when I needed to write a blog post on motivation and instruction for my psychology class. This marriage of instruction and motivation is especially important this time of year for teachers as students of all ages are getting sick of school and being in the classroom. When I was looking for some inspiration for my own motivation, I found this helpful video and wanted to talk about how teachers can inspire self-motivation in their instructional practices.


In class, we discussed that, too often, students only do work in order to get a good grade, avoid failure, or to gain another extrinsic reward. This is a concept that is reaffirmed in the video when Scott Geller poses the question “How do we get people to be success seekers rather than failure avoiders?” He continues his speech by talking about how he succeeded at drumming because he, his parents, and teachers helped foster a vision of success within him. He breaks this process down into “4 C’s”: Choice, Consequences, Competency, and Community. Students need to be offered choices, have positive consequences, feel competent while doing the activity, and feel a deeper connection to their community. This directly relates to our discussion of self-efficacy in class. Self efficacy, as defined in the textbook, is “A person’s sense of being able to deal effectively with a particular task” (Woolfolk 446).

As I sat down to plan my lesson plan, I really tried to incorporate this idea of self-efficacy and making sure students feel competent and able to complete an activity. In the lesson that I planned, I would be teaching students about Auto Insurance. In this lesson, the class would go through a simulation and make choices about what types of coverage they want or don’t want. This skill would then be further demonstrated and cultured in students by watching funny commercials and looking a driver profiles in groups and having students recommend coverage for people in the commercials and driver profiles. The positive consequence offered to students is helping them envision themselves owning and protecting their own car in the future. Finally, students can experience a sense of community by laughing together at commercials, discussing in groups, and going through the simulation as a class.

Walking through Bloom’s Taxonomy, students will be introduced to concepts in the simulation. Then, as the simulation progresses, watching the types of coverage in action will help them REMEMBER and UNDERSTAND how different types of coverage work and can save our simulation character money. Next, students are expected to APPLY what they learned by recommending coverage for our characters in different commercials. After that, students will ANALYZE a driver profile and recommend coverage for the person based on the information in that profile. Student will be expected to EVALUATE and explain why they recommended that type of coverage. Lastly, students will CREATE their own experience by returning to the simulation on their own and making their own individual choices about the type of car and coverage they want.

This lesson was designed to meet the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction- Business and Informational Technology Personal Finance Standard 5 which states “Students will explain the features and roles of insurance when making choices available to consumers for protection against risk and financial loss.” This lesson helps students understand how auto insurance can protect against the financial risks against of operating a motor vehicle.

This lesson, although it fits nicely in a Backwards Design Template, was first formulated using the Madeline Hunter Template for lesson planning. I found the Backwards Design template was not helpful in helping me think about specific activities and didn’t provide me with enough structure for creating a specific lesson plan for one day of instruction. I might consider using Backwards Design to begin planning for a unit, but I prefer using the Madeline Hunter Template for lesson planning. As someone who likes to think about things in chronological order, I prefer using the Madeline Hunter template, versus the Backward Design template which focuses more on the big picture. This big picture structure advocated for by the Backwards Design template would make it very useful in unit planning.

To see my lesson plan- click here. Auto Insurance Lesson Plan

Overall, my goal in my lesson plan was to create a lesson that allowed students to take an active part in their learning experience and create their own individual learning experience that they could apply directly to their lives. It was this life application that I hope inspired students to feel competent and confident in making their future auto insurance decision.


Woolfolk, A. (2014). Educational Psychology: Active Learning Edition. Pearson.

Addressing Elephants in the Classroom

April 5th, 2017

Step out your front door. Look around in a grocery store. Scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You don’t have to go very far to encounter diversity in America. America’s diversity is one of its most beautiful characteristics, yet is also one of its largest hurdles. Diversity comes in many forms. Although race is often the first thing that comes to mind, diversity also includes those of different religions, ethnicities, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and abilities. Being a teacher in American society requires interacting with diversity in the students, staff, and the community and finding a way to identify and accommodate differences in the classroom.

Some of these differences are identifiable through observation or documentation, however, others require getting to know students personally. For example, when accommodating those students with disabilities, there is often an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that documents their needs and how to accommodate them in the classroom. However, religion and ethnicity may require listening to students when they talk about their experiences, background, and home life. One of the best ways to accommodate students even before you begin to get to know them is by using a multicultural approach to education. Per Woolfolk, multicultural education “promotes equity in the schooling of all students” (Woolfolk, 255). In other words, multicultural education means providing a well-rounded education that analyzes questions and topics from multiple perspectives and is open to new perspectives. However, as a teacher finds out what students’ beliefs and values are, they can utilize those ideologies in the classroom to help students stay engaged and connect with the material. However, multicultural education is really not possible unless you get to know your students.

This is a phenomenal and powerful video about assigning identity to people. In this video, Amal Kassir, an American spoken-word poet, activist, and writer, addresses the importance of not assigning someone an identity. Using humor, she addresses the fact that you really can’t be educated unless you ask “what’s your name?”. Looking at Amal, it is easy to assume that because she wears a hijab, that she is a Muslim, and that because she is a Muslim and wears a hijab, she has extremist views on what women’s rights are. However, if you actually get to know Amal, it becomes pretty clear that she has really unique views and perspectives. By listening to Amal and incorporating the life experiences of minorities in the classroom, you have the opportunity to not only make them feel comfortable in your classroom, but also the opportunity to open a new world to other students.

In conclusion, a multicultural education mean more than just talking about a certain religion or providing accommodations just because they identify in a larger category. Accommodating for diversity in the classroom means actively listening to your students to discover their values and beliefs and helping them to apply their values and beliefs to their education.


Woolfolk, A. (2014). Educational Psychology: Active Learning Edition. Pearson.

Teaching the Brain to Learn

March 12th, 2017

As we progress through life, our behavior in certain situations changes. We may do most of those behaviors without even thinking about it. For example, when I get in my car, I instinctively put my seat belt on. Why? Today, I would like to introduce you to two perspectives that might explain how I learned this behavior: behaviorism and cognitive processes. Behaviorism is the idea that external events are the cause of changes in observable behaviors (Woolfolk, 272). This theory believes that thing like conditioning, punishments, and reinforcements shape people’s behavior.

According a behaviorist, I probably put my seatbelt on to avoid hearing that annoying bell that won’t stop until I buckle my seatbelt. However, from the cognitive perspective, I might put my seatbelt on because I saw my parents putting their seatbelts on as soon as they sat down in the car and I remember their behavior and want to model my own behavior after their behavior. This behavior was learned through what cognitive psychologists would call modeling-learning by imitation. This is because the cognitive view of learning focuses on the internal mental processes of acquiring, remembering, and using knowledge (Woolfolk, 312).

This clip from a 1947 classroom does a great job showing the difference between a classroom using behaviorist thought to shape student behavior and appealing to student cognitive processes. The first half of the video, the teacher uses positive punishment on students for doing poorly by sending them to detention and negatively reinforces behavior by having students stay after school until work is completed. However, in the second half of the video, the teacher appeals to students’ cognitive processes by modeling a positive attitude and behavior towards the schoolwork.

A prospective teacher, I hope to utilize both perspectives of learning in my instruction. Understanding how to externally and internally motivate my students to perform academic tasks will be key to helping them learn. However, there are limitations to both theories. In behaviorism, some psychologists fear that the practice of positive reinforcement “will cause them (students) to lose interest in learning for its own sake” (Woolfolk, 302). This poses the question that if students are only performing educational tasks to receive a reward, are they truly learning? Behaviorism leaves teachers trying to instill intrinsic or self-motivation practices in students after rewards are no longer given. On the other hand, cognitive psychologists may find that there is too much emphasis placed on internal processes and not enough of the external circumstances such as environment or individual experiences into account.

As a future teacher, I probably agree more with the social cognitive theory proposed by Albert Bandura than I do with the behaviorist theory. I believe my job as a teacher is to be a facilitator of learning and to guide students as they apply information to the world around them to construct a base of knowledge that they can understand and relate to their life and personal experiences. As a future teacher, I hope to do exactly that by providing students with opportunities to apply learning to real-life situations around them and by creating a classroom space where students have the resources and guidance to discover their passions.


Woolfolk, A. (2014). Educational Psychology: Active Learning Edition. Pearson.


Parental Conflict and Learning

February 22nd, 2017

The brain is a funny thing. We use our brains constantly and don’t even think about it. We can walk, talk, solve math problems, and much more! But how did our brains learn that 5-3=2? Many of us learned through brute memorization and repetition that wore a neuron pathway in our brain until we could recall the fact easily. According to Anita Woolfolk, its because “the brain seeks meaningful patterns and connections with existing networks…” (Woolfolk, 2014, p. 46).

However, before you learned to subtract, you had to learn to count. Without the ability to count, learning to subtract would probably have been outside of your zone of proximal development. What is the zone of proximal development? “The zone of proximal development is a phase in which a child can master a task if given the proper support” (Woolfolk, 2014, p. 67). Your teacher was probably familiar with this theory by Lev Vygotsky. This theory helps teachers understand how to help students learn by providing them with support as they work to complete goals within their realm of achievement based on previous knowledge.

Strategies such as Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development are very helpful as teachers work with students to help them learn. However, there are often circumstances outside the classroom that can also affect students ability to learn, and it can sometimes be very difficult to see how these circumstances affect a student’s zone of proximal development and ability to learn. Urie Bronfenbrenner, a professor of psychology, introduced the idea of “context” as a way to understand how development and learning are shaped by factors surrounding a student.

Context is the “internal and external circumstances and situations that interact with the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions to shape development and learning” (Woolfolk, 2014, p. 86). To simplify, context acknowledges that students are a part of a bigger world around them and are affected by what goes on in their family, neighborhood, school, and world. One particular context I wanted to learn about was the role of a parent’s relationship, or lack thereof, in development. Thus, I studied a phenomenon that plagues almost half of students in today’s culture- divorce. My parents filed for divorce my junior year of high school, so this topic was of particular interest to me.

As I searched online for additional information regarding the effects of divorce on child development and found a great TedTalk by Professor Tamara Afifi. Professor Afifi discusses that there are many variables to how children cope with divorce and that children react differently. She suggests that the biggest factor of a parent’s relationship on a child is how parents, both married and divorced, handle conflict (Afifi, 2012).

Afifi conducted a studied that took saliva samples of children before and after talk about a stressful subject related to the parents’ marriage. The saliva sample were taken multiple times after the discussion and all saliva samples were tested to measure cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, makes our heart rate increase by narrowing the arteries to our heart and raises our blood sugar levels. Parents that discussed in a competent, supportive, and affectionate way, children saw a slight increase in cortisol levels immediately after the conflict, but eventually returned to normal levels. Children of parents who were married and chronically fighting saw irregular patterns in cortisol and were unable to calm down and regulate their stress levels (Afifi, 2012). If you want to learn more about Professor Afifi’s work, the video is below.

For teachers, the book provides some helpful tips for ways to be sensitive to students who have parents with struggling relationship. Three strategies that I found the most helpful are (1) “Talk individually to students about their attitude or behavior changes, (2) Watch your language to avoid stereotypes about “happy” (two-parent) homes, and (3) Help students maintain self-esteem” (Woolfolk, 2014, p. 92).

In conclusion, it is not only important that teachers understand how the brain learns, but also how circumstances surrounding a student affect how the brain is learning.


Afifi, T.D. [TedxTalks].(2012, May, 20). The impact of divorce on children: Tamara D. Afifi at TEDxUCSB.

Woolfolk, A. (2014). Educational Psychology: Active Learning Edition. Pearson.


Research: Impacts on Teaching and Homework Practices

February 6th, 2017

For the past few weeks, my Educational Psychology class has been discussing the relationship between research and teaching. Often we don’t even think about the relationship, we just know that the two go hand in hand. However, teachers and schools can sometimes find themselves falling into routine practices instead of instituting policies based in empirical research. One of my biggest takeaways from this unit is that research can be used to inform educational policies and practices (NCTE). As one of my classmates remarked “Research provides the ‘why’ to the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ we teach in our classrooms”. Instituting research based policies could help teachers and administrators justify changes, practices, and even additional funding. Yet, often we see practices in education that lack a solid base of evidence. One of these practices is assigning students homework.

This conversation heightened when a note that a Mrs. Brandy Young sent home with students appeared on social media. Below is a picture of the note.

Dear Parents,  After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.  Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.     Thanks,     Mrs. Brandy Young

Mrs. Brandy Young’s Homework Policy Note to Parents

This was an idea that was met well by some parents, and not so well by others. Yet, Mrs. Brandy Young may have had the correct idea. During the period of time that we discussed the pros and cons of homework in class, I engaged with quite a bit of research on the topic. Initially, I thought that more homework would improve student learning, however, after digging deeper into the topic, I was surprised by what I found.

The first article studied the relationship between a student’s attitude towards homework and their course outcomes. This study surveyed foreign language students, analyzed their final scores, and concluded that if the students perceived the homework as relevant, perceived the feedback as useful, and perceived the grading as fair, they were more likely to do well on course outcome (Chang et. al). Prior to reading this study I hadn’t considered how students attitude towards homework could impact performance.

The second article I found examined pre-existing research and reached the conclusion that “in nearly all circumstances, homework has a positive association with achievement and that this association is strongest and most positive at the secondary level” (Maltese et. al). This conclusion fit my initial stance, but I appreciated the authors clarifying that homework has the most positive effect on the secondary level.

The third article examined how well students performed on tests in the areas of English, math, science, and history. This study reached the conclusion that “we find that math homework has a large and statistically meaningful effect on math test scores throughout our sample. However, additional homework in science, English and history are shown to have little to no impact on their respective test scores” (Eren & Henderson). This contrasts sharply with the article by Maltese. However, in comparison to the article by Chang, one might call into question whether the homework administered in this study was viewed well by the student and was structured appropriately.

Lastly, the fourth article I found takes another perspective on the homework debate and analyzes whether or not students actually have a homework problem. This article analyzed time-use surveys from eight countries and reached the conclusions that American teens don’t necessarily have an excess of homework, but instead may have additional stress from all the other areas on which they spend their time (Zuzanek).

These articles challenged me to think about homework differently. As a future teacher in secondary education, I hope to implement small amounts of homework that relate directly to course outcomes. I would also like to take into account students personal situations and perhaps use a tiered model of homework- allowing students to choose from an array of assignments in order to fit their academic or time-use needs.



Chang, C. B., Wall, D., Tare, M., Golonka, E., & Vatz, K. (2014). Relationships of attitudes toward homework and time spent on homework to course outcomes: The case of foreign language learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1049-1065.

Eren, Ozkan, & Henderson, Daniel J. (2011). Are We Wasting Our Children’s Time by Giving Them More Homework? Economics of Education Review, 30(5), 950-961.

Maltese, A. V., Tai, R. H., & Xitao, F. (2012). When is Homework Worth the Time? Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math. High School Journal, 96(1), 52-72.

Understanding the Relationship between Research and Teaching. (2008). Retrieved February 06, 2017.

Zuzanek, J. (2009). Students’ Study Time and Their “Homework Problem”. Social Indicators Research, 93(1), 111-115.


A Passion for Teaching

January 23rd, 2017

Hello and welcome to my blog!

My name is Marly Harmeling and I am a Business Education student at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. As a Business Education major, is it my hope to teach Business and Information Technology courses to high school students. I have a personal passion for Economics and would greatly enjoy sharing that passion with my future students.

In my Educational Psychology on January 19, the question was posed “What makes a good teacher?” The class listed things like “knowledgeable”, “organized”, “caring”, “funny” and, “respectful of students”, all of which I think are appropriate descriptors of a good teacher and three of these ideas were even mentioned in our textbook reading as being indicators of a good teacher (Woolfolk 560). After class, I realized I forgot to mention one of the characteristics I look for in a teacher: a passion for teaching and a passion for the subject.

Passion, as described in an article by Cagri Mart entitled “A Passionate Teacher: Teacher Commitment and Dedication to Student Learning”, refers to passion as “a strong inclination or desire towards an activity that one likes and finds important and in which one invests time and energy” (Carbonneau et. al in Mart 437). Mart sees that passionate teachers are teachers who are often more committed to the work they do, and that passionate teachers can have a profound effect on their students. Mart claims that “Passionate teachers are fiercely devoted to their work and greatly inspire their students” (Mart 438). I know this was true for me in high school.

During high school, my favorite teachers were Mrs. Gulke and Mrs. Phillip. Mrs. Gulke taught U.S. Constitution and Mrs. Phillip taught English Composition. Although they both had very different teaching styles, their passion for teaching and for the subject matter was evident. Both teachers, however, had an evident passion for their respective subjects that was contagious.

Prior to taking either of their classes, I thought the US Constitution and English Composition were boring, but their classes always had students interested and engaged in the discussion or activities of the day. In my spare time, I still enjoy writing stories or researching current legislative events. Their passion for their respective subjects and passion for teaching those subjects lead me to see the value of creative writing and the importance of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Another great example of a passionate teacher is Mr. John Keating from the movie Dead Poets Society (1989). Keating, played by Robin Williams, is an English teacher who has a passion for poetry and inspires his students to look at poetry differently. In the movie, Keating takes the time to present the material in a way that students find interesting. He uses some unconventional methods, but succeeds in engaging his students, as evidenced by the smiles and laughter in the following clip.

On the other hand, the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  (1986) is a great example of a teacher who fails to engage students. The teacher speaks in a monotone voice and offers very little opportunity for students to engage in discussion. His lecture style of teaching has students falling asleep, confused, or completely not paying attention as evidenced by the faces of the students in his classroom.

The Economics teacher example is one I find especially hard to watch, as I truly enjoy Economics. If I were in that classroom, I might begin with current events instead of delving immediately into history and would also seek to convey concepts in a manner that was applicable to the daily lives of the students. Overall, I would seek to make Economics more than just a history lesson, and instead demonstrate to students that Economics is a social science that has an impact on the lives of US citizens every day.

In conclusion, being passionate in the classroom is another important characteristic of a good teacher.


Mart, Çağrı T. “A Passionate Teacher: Teacher Commitment and Dedication to Student Learning.” International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development 2.1 (2013): 437-42. Print.

Woolfolk, A. E. (2014).  Educational Psychology: Active Learning Edition (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson. Print.