A good teacher ...

Un bon prof. ...

  • cares about her students, understands and knows how to convey their topic
  • cares about students, teaches well
  • cares about the students.
    works hard.
  • cares and encourages.
  • communicates clearly, tries several ways to help students learn, is helpful when you don't understand
  • doesn't give the students all of the answers, exercises the student's brain, guides students to make conclusions about other cases from one instance.
  • encourages individuality and curiosity in their students, teaches their students to love learning
  • explains information in an organized way
  • explains things as many times as needed.
  • inspires students, teaches more than just material
  • inspires students to learn. , personally cares for their students
  • is one of the most valuable people in the world, inspires their students to achieve more than they ever imagined, leads by example, believes in their students
  • is passionate about their subject, wants their students to do well
  • is prepared interested in the well-being of students
  • is very patient and encourages students
  • is willing to answer questions, loves what he/she is doing, knows his/her stuff.
  • listens to the needs of the students, has a desire to teach
  • respects and seeks the opinion of his/her students, wants to help his/her students to succeed and learn rather than to let them suffer and struggle through difficult material on their own
  • should be paid more, loves what they teach
  • teaches by explaining and not just by telling, uses examples
  • understands the needs of their students.
  • understands the students' issues, is good at explaining difficult concepts.
  • aime son travail, aime ses élèves,
  • a la passion de la connaissance et de son partage
  • arrive à intéresser ses élèves, à leur donner envie de participer aux cours.
  • a un don pour transmettre son savoir, et est capable de se mettre au niveau d'un élève pour le faire progresser.
  • c'est celui qui respecte ses étudiants, c'est celui qui sait bien transmettre l'information, un bon prof c'est celui qui arrive toujours à l'heure et qui essaye au maximum d'aider leurs étudiants hors les séances du cours
  • comprend ses élèves, n'est pas trop exigeant.
  • doit faire comprendre pourquoi il enseigne sa matière
  • doit être passionné.
  • donne à ses élèves l'envie d'étudier
  • enseigne autant qu'il apprend.
  • est la source d'une bonne génération
  • est pédagogue et dynamique avec ses élèves
  • est source d'inspiration.
  • est un prof compétent et compréhensif
  • est un prof qui sait transmettre l'information à ses élèves
  • partage ses connaissances avec passion.
  • s'adapte aux différents niveaux de ses élèves, les suit et les accompagne pour tous les amener au même niveau final.
  • s'occupe de tous ses élèves


It seems like both cultures have very similar opinions of the most important characteristics for teachers to possess. There is a lot of agreement on both sides about the necessity of teachers to be caring about the students, willing to adapt to the students’ needs, passionate, good at explaining the material, and knowledgeable. In France, is being a teacher a highly respected profession? Also, what are some of the most memorable characteristics of your favorite childhood teacher?

I wanted to point out a couple of key differences I noticed and pose some questions to both the French and American students:

1) The French students emphasized the importance of teachers having “passion” for their subject, whereas this word did not appear very often on the American side. However, Americans used the word “inspire” many times.

To both French and American students: What do you think is the difference between these two ideas?

2) Quality of teaching: French students emphasized that a teacher should “savoir comment transmettre l’information / le savoir.” On the American side, there was much more of a focus on things like “explaining,” “explaining rather than telling,” and “exercises the student’s brain?”

Again, to both French and Americans: what is the key difference between these two viewpoints?

If I may, I also have some questions specifically for French students:

1) How many students are there, on average, in a class in your university?

2) Are French teachers and professors well-paid? We seemed to mention “should be paid more,” whereas this did not appear on the French side.

Both sides associate a good teacher with passion, encouragement, good explanations and inspiration. The French and American responses are similar.
1. What is the power dynamic between teachers and students like? Is it seen as appropriate to question your teacher?
2. I also learnt from my French friend here that it is seen as disrespectful to eat in the classroom? This act is not seen as a big deal here at MIT. Why is this the case in French culture?

I noticed only a couple comments on the American side focused on actually being knowledgeable about the subject matter, and there was much more emphasis placed on the importance of knowing how to communicate that information and caring about students. While on the French side, knowing about the material was mentioned several times, it also wasn’t one of the main themes. It’s interesting because I have very rarely been in a situation where my learning suffered because my teacher did not fully understand the material that they were trying to teach, but have often felt frustrated by their inability to communicate their knowledge or the disregard that a few of my teachers in the past showed for their students. Have you ever felt as though your teacher did not really understand material that they were trying to teach? What kinds of qualifications do French teachers need in order to teach? Do teachers need a teaching license?
On an unrelated note, but something that I am also interested in, is are teachers well paid? In the US, teachers are generally not well paid and many schools are severely underfunded. Are teachers respected?

I agree, it seems both sides think that teachers should be passionate, care about what they are teaching, and have some greater understanding of the significance of their material beyond what it may be”superficially” useful for. A lot of the ideas on both sides remind me a lot of the type of teacher Robin Williams portrayed in “A Dead Poet’s Society.” As such, I’m curious to know if there are any famous French movies that picture an inspirational teacher that somewhat mold the French’s picture of what a good teacher should be, like “A Dead Poet’s Society” did for America.

Like the other responses have stated, being a good teacher seems to be similar and that involves engaging students and being aware of different students needs. However, the Americans stated that teachers should be patient since students are often unruly and don’t want to be in school. Is this the case in France? Do students care strongly about their education or are they often resentful for having to be in school?

I like what tasha commented above, and would like to know more about it.
I also noted from the French students’ responses that a good teacher can have a big impact in a person’s life, especially if the teacher cares a lot, and motivates.

Hence, I was wondering what was the mentality regarding teachers, especially teachers for elementary school children. Are they people highly regarded. or are teachers not valued that much in people’s lives?

@Fejiro : En général, il est interdit de boire ou manger dans les salles de cours pour ne pas salir la salle. Cela évite aux agents d’entretient de passer beaucoup de temps à nettoyer du soda ou autre nourriture qui tâches.

Concernant les profs, il faut savoir que la majorité si ce n’est pas tous sont enseignants-chercheurs. Je les considère plus comme des professionnels voulant partager leurs connaissances, par envie ou nécessité. Un chercheur n’est pas suffisamment payé et doit donc enseigner. Au final, je ne pense pas que les étudiants expriment du respect envers les professeurs comme on peut le voir au Japon.
Cela se constate par l’absentéisme des étudiants en cours et le manque d’attention des présents.

Je pense qu’on est tous d’accord pour dire que l’on a des profs compétents. Mais, combien d’entre eux sont de bons profs ? Des deux côtés, il apparait que la pédagogie est au coeur de la question.
En France, les professeurs sont très respectés par le monde “adulte” et beaucoup moins par les jeunes. Je reste convaincu que malgré tout, chacun de nous réalise la chance qu’il a de fréquenter des gens aussi forts dans leur domaine respectif. L’important dans le supérieur, c’est d’avoir une relation adulte-adulte avec le professeur.

@Alex, that makes a lot of sense. I think here in the states a lot of adults, in theory, have respect for teachers and professors but in actuality are always quick to criticize teachers or talk about other ways that teachers should be doing more (without ever having been a teacher or having worked in education of course). People will always preface statements like “I mean teaching is a hard job but…” and say other similar sentiments. Also, despite the supposed respect for teachers, people are often questioned if they want to be a teacher “because they actually like it or because they can’t do anything else.” I find it hard to believe that there is truly this respect for the job because so few people actually become teachers, and those who do are questioned. Does this happen in France too?

I think tasha makes a good point in that people are very quick to say that teachers are so important and critical to the development of the youth, but when someone says that they are a teacher (other than a professor), people are often not very impressed. It seems like all the respect for teachers needs to translate to the appreciation of people who teach as their profession. There’s also the saying that “those who can’t do teach” which displays the concept that teaching is not a highly regarded occupation in that if teachers were really so wonderful, they would be working in their field instead of teaching it. I find this mindset extremely flawed, but it is a common saying so worth mentioning.
It is clear from both sides that teachers are very important and can really inspire students to love learning if they are good. I think that that this should be supported by highly regarding those that choose to teach because they are working with the country’s youth.

To add on to what Tasha and Lnb said, not only can one observe a lack of respect for teachers in the way that people talk, but it is also evident in their salaries. Teachers are generally paid pretty poorly, despite the fact that most teachers I have had work way more than 40 hours a week during the school year. Many would arrive at school between 7 and 7:30 and stay until between 4 and 5:30 or so and then go home to grade assignments and prepare for the next day.
On the other hand, I have definitely had teachers who seemed like they were only teaching because they could not handle any other job. I distinctly remember one of my high school teachers trying to explain to me that she had left her previous job because it was much too complicated for her. She had worked in a Starbucks and had become overly frazzled by the fact that everyone ordered something different. She said she would have been able to handle the situation if everyone just ordered the same thing every time. She also turned out to be a pretty terrible teacher.
@Alex: I think it’s interesting that you say that teachers are respected more in the adult world than by students. I feel as though in my school the students tended to respect the teachers more because they were around them everyday, whereas the parents did not always show teachers respect. I sometimes heard stories of parents who would try to bully a teacher into giving their child a higher grade on an assignment, yet almost all of my friends really respected teachers and their jobs when the teachers deserved it. However, I also think that my high school was more intense than most.

I agree with the similarities and the key role that teachers play in the inspiration of their students, especially the more passionate they are. However, there’s a trend of also taking care of the students on the American side more so than the French side. How important is it that a teacher cares for their individual students’ emotional or mental states in French culture?

Dans toutes les réponses, du coté des français et des américains, on a tous mis l’accent sur le fait qu’un bon prof c’est celui qui est le plus compétent. Un bon professeur c’est vraiment celui qui s’occupe des ses étudiants et essaye à tous point de transmettre l’information à eux. et comme on dit :”Les meilleurs professeurs sont ceux qui savent se transformer en ponts, et qui invitent leurs élèves à les franchir” ;)