Our View: From a Collection of Empathy Interviews

By: Anita Young

Always Learning 

Back in the fall of 2020, I had the privilege of listening to Katie Martin at our virtual MCL Fall Summit. Let me start off by saying that Katie is a spectacular speaker. She lights up the room with her passion for learner-centered instruction and practices. At the World of Learning Institute we have always focused and emphasized building relationships with students, even in the virtual world. While this can be a tough task virtually, it can be done and our teachers do a fantastic job. Yet, we always want to stretch and grow and I was truly inspired.

With inspiration from Katie, we created empathy interviews to use with our student this Spring, using in a survey in Canvas. As Katie suggests in her recent blog, “10 Strategies To Get to Know Your Students and Create an Inclusive Learner-Centered Culture,” empathy interviews are a great way to listen and understand your students. We realized, especially when working with schools in a short-term capacity (providing long-term substitute solutions) that the window to get to know learners is shortened. The empathy interview gives us the opportunity to get to know AND understand our students so we could quickly support them and ensure learning was student-centered. 

What Students Say

One of the questions we asked students was to finish the sentence, “Great teachers always…”  We were simply amazed at the responses! Below is a collection of student perspectives on what they think great teachers should be:

  • “Great teachers always listen to their students.”
  • “Great teachers should always be clear on timing and due dates, as I feel that forming an efficient schedule is important for going through the day.”
  • “Great teachers always check in on their students and don’t leave students behind who are struggling.” 
  • “Great teachers always listen to and accept criticism from students in order to make class better for everyone involved. Also, having a sense of humor is always going to make class more enjoyable and make it easier for students to pay attention.”
  • “Great teachers always help a student understand rather than just teach information.” 
  • “Great teachers always act genuinely interested and invested in the lessons they teach.”
  • “Great teachers are always patient.”
  • “Great teachers always connect with their students and are flexible with their students.”
  • “Great teachers always show compassion and enjoy what they teach.”
  • “Great teachers always care about the student’s mental health and put the kids’ education first. Teachers don’t need to assign a lot of assignments, instead, make sure the kids understand the material fully. More understanding is more important than more homework.”’


Wow! Anyone else feel inspired? In a time of confusion and craziness in all our lives, it is clear what our students want in a teacher. These responses shed some light on their past experiences with teachers and what they hope for. While they all want and need different things, the truth is that small adjustments in our interactions with our students can go a long way in creating a learner-centered classroom that inspires them to learn and be successful.  

Check out more of  Katie Martin’s great insights on her website https://katielmartin.com/ and join us for more Professional Learning from Katie at our Meet Up on March 8th. 

Katie Martin Micro Course and Meet Up

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