Being funny is the most important teacher trait

Humour and wit make a lasting impression. They reduce stress and frustration, and give people a chance to look at their circumstances from another point of view. A great teacher develops a strong rapport with students and establishes trusting relationships.

Perhaps this is why the top characteristic primary and secondary students’ value the most is for their teacher to be funny. TES asked more than 3,000 students from primary, secondary and special schools about what makes a teacher truly great, and the results were truly interesting.

Although the surveys suggests that both primary and secondary children think the perfect teacher requires a mix of personal touch and essential teaching skills, ‘funny’ came out on top for all ages.

In a time where pupil wellbeing is under the microscope, it is worth admitting that student-teacher relationships are integral to learning, and the question on academics lips is, should we take their thoughts on this seriously?

It may be easy, as they are young, to dismiss these claims as immaturity or not vital to teaching, yet it has highlighted a huge factor of what teaching is all about – being ‘human’ – and why should that be ignored instead of celebrated?

Humour, when used in conjunction with a strong behaviour management system, can be liberating for stressed out students, can be important in diffusing difficult situations, and highlights a certain amount of respect for the students, which in turn can help them to relate to the teacher.

Here are the Primary and Secondary pupils’ ranking of the characteristics that every teacher should possess:


  1. Funny
  2. Helpful/supportive
  3. Good listener
  4. Friendly
  5. Fair
  6. Approachable
  7. Kind
  8. Passionate
  9. Inspiring
  10. Knowledgeable
  11. Patient
  12. Organised
  13. Fun
  14. Rewarding
  15. Trustworthy
  16. Respectful
  17. Happy
  18. Understanding
  19. Creative
  20. Genuine
  21. Believe in you
  22. Reliable
  23. Good at explaining
  24. Strict ‘at the right time’
  25. Generous


  1. Funny
  2. Fair
  3. Understanding
  4. Helpful/supportive
  5. Good listener
  6. Inspiring
  7. Knowledgeable
  8. Patient
  9. Passionate
  10. Fun
  11. Respectful
  12. Good speaker
  13. Trustworthy
  14. Confident
  15. Reliable
  16. Approachable
  17. Organised
  18. Kind
  19. Rewarding
  20. Friendly
  21. Gives chances
  22. Accepting
  23. Calm
  24. Good at explaining
  25. Adaptable

All is not lost if you’re a teacher who considers themselves lacking in the comedic department, and humour can be as easy as making light of familiar things that we notice about life, to strike a chord with the students. Nobody is saying you need a long list of ‘Knock Knock’ jokes here.

It all comes down to discipline – and if you can be an expert in your field, maintain a level of control, and make the kids laugh every now and then, it should not undermine your authority.

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