Kids Don’t Learn From People They Don’t Like

Last week I watched a TedTalk by Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, about the importance of positive and supportive teachers. She posits that no significant learning can occur without a genuine human connection between student and teacher. Pierson heard a fellow teacher once say, “they don’t pay me to like the kids”. I’m sure we’ve all had teachers like that -- the ones who don’t bother to get to know their students.

One of the lines that got the biggest audience reaction was her response to that teacher: “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. This definitely rings true for me. Thinking about my favorite classes in high school and college, they’ve all been taught by teachers and professors who I had a genuine connection with. My favorite professor, Dr. Bent, has taught four of my classes in college. Two of those classes have been my favorite courses I’ve ever taken. Dr. Bent has this way of engaging with her students like I’ve never experienced before. She commands the respect and attention of everyone in her class. She’s funny and is able to relate to us. She feels like a friend and a confidant, but is also one of the most intelligent and captivating people I have ever learned from. I could sit there and listen to her lecture for hours without being bored. I took a Feminist Theory course with her (one of the hardest courses I’ve ever taken) and she made it easy to understand the complex theories. She talks to us about her life and wants to hear about ours. Dr. Bent makes a point to form genuine relationships with all of her students, and that is the mark of a great teacher.


Pierson says, “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them. Who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.” This reminded me of some of the interviews I’ve seen with our teachers in Zambia. When asked what they hope for their students, many of them have said that they hope their students achieve more and have a better life than they have. They say they want more for their students’ futures. They want to see them become doctors, nurses, and even teachers. The connection between these kids and their teachers are special. Teachers have the opportunity to play a huge role in our lives. I hope our kids in Zambia are forming the same bonds with their teachers as I have with mine.

Do you have a favorite teacher or professor that had an impact on your life? Click here to watch the TedTalk!