The Making of a Hard Teacher

Using interviews conducted by Mindy Liu ’22, Albert Niu ’23 examines what makes a “difficult” teacher at Govs.


Storer, Suomi, and Quigley save the day!

Albert Niu, Editor

Teachers are hard.

Their appearances can be so deceiving – chatting with you about sports one minute and handing you back a C the next. What drives them to behave this way? Love, hate, or joy when witnessing despair?

Albert Niu ’23, using Mindy Liu ‘22’s interview records, summarizes the responses from three hard teachers by popular opinion: Mrs. Storer, Mr. Suomi, and Mr. Quigley. Coincidentally, the answers are quite uniform across the three teachers, and together they shed light on the true making of a hard teacher. The responses are as follows:

  1. Do you consider your workload to be overwhelming?

Different levels of classes have different workloads. All three teachers agree that they do not assign excessive homework to their 9th grade or honors classes. In fact, Mrs. Sorer tells her honors class to stop doing their chemistry homework after around 45 minutes, because she feels at that point she must have assigned too much work.

The teachers admit their AP classes have heavy workloads, but also point out that they do not set the standard. “I cannot determine what the workload is because there is an external measurement,” says Mr.Quigley. “We are trying to meet expectations of an AP US History course, which is already high, with less teaching time than most other schools that offer this course.” 

  1. Do you think your classes are interesting to students?

“I certainly hope so!” is the unanimous first reaction. 

Whether a class appears interesting depends almost entirely on the student. “Naturally my class is going to be more fun to some than others,” says Mrs. Storer. “Some students find my classes uninteresting. Tedious. Boring, I’m sure,” says Mr. Quigley.

However, quoting Mr. Suomi: “Sometimes we need to learn things that aren’t interesting, and not all education can be entertainment. There are some things we need to get through that aren’t interesting, but important for us to know.”

  1. Would you recommend your class to students?

The three teachers recommend their 9th grade or honors classes to everyone. AP classes, on the other hand, are “not for everybody.” The AP classes have heavy workloads and high expectations for incoming students’ skills. “That is why we have more than one US history course,” says Mr.Quigley, and the same principle applies to the other departments. Each subject has a range of courses with different difficulty levels, designed to offer options to all students. 

  1. Are you a hard grader?

In particular, the three teachers are asked about their great attention to the slightest details. 

“It is important to understand why teachers take these points off, like units and significant figures,” says Mrs. Storer. “If I don’t take the point off, the student may not change their behavior. We need to have something to hurt a little bit, so we can learn.”

Mr. Suomi and Mr. Quigley agree that easy grading is a disservice to students. “We have a lot of smart students here. If I just give out easy grades, and let the student turn in stuff that’s clearly not up to their potential, that will be an insult to their intelligence,” comments Mr. Suomi.

  1. How can students be successful in your class?

The three teachers offer almost exactly the same advice. Do the homework, pay attention in class, ask for help, look at feedback, and do NOT write something the night before it is due, because “you are gonna get nailed.”

 “I’ll be the first to admit, writing is hard. It takes endless practice,” says Mr. Quigley. “Write it, get started on it early, and then revise it. At first it is going to suck, but you will come out of the course knowing how to write.”

The popular opinion does not lie. Mrs. Storer, Mr. Suomi and Mr. Quigley are hard teachers, and students have to try very hard to earn a good grade in their classes.

However, they are not hard because they test students on materials they do not elucidate. They are hard because they push students beyond the already high objective standards of the classes, providing them with challenges that make them grow, and sharing the joy of success. The teachers are fine with a reputation of being hard, but not a reputation that they do not care.

Lastly, a question posed by Mr. Quigley that serves as food for thought: “Is education supposed to make you feel good? Or is it supposed to make you improve?”