Have a think back to your school days: who were your favourite and least favourite teachers? What was it that made the good ones good and the bad ones bad?
Your favourite teacher was likely someone you made a personal connection with. Someone who understood you, inspired you, and knew how to help you get the most out of learning. The best teachers go over and above and we tend to remember those that do.
Being a great teacher is about more than just knowledge and qualifications. Teaching is a profession that requires a range of skills, so let’s dive in and take a look at some of the most important ones needed to succeed in the big wide world of TEFL!
8 skills and qualities of a good TEFL teacher
The ability to communicate well is arguably the single most important skill a teacher needs to have. If you don’t have good communication skills it doesn’t matter if you have a PhD in teaching and know more about the English language than anyone else on earth – that knowledge is only useful to your students if you are able to communicate it effectively.
Your TEFL course will help you build these skills. By studying methods for engaging students and creating effective lesson plans, you’ll learn the best methods for communicating with language learners.
Empathy is essential to building connections with others. This is a skill that should not be underestimated – the empathetic teacher understands their students and this helps to make them a better communicator.
If you’re teaching a class of students it’s unrealistic to expect all of them to learn in the same way and at the same speed. Some students face unseen challenges that can impact their ability to learn as well as their behaviour in the classroom, so it’s important for a teacher to make these students feel understood.
Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Technology fails, your lesson plan doesn’t fill the whole lesson, or an exercise simply takes a lot more time than you expected. As a teacher you need to learn how to navigate the unexpected and keep control of a lesson.
Even more so in the world of TEFL, adaptability is key. If you’re moving jobs then you’ll quickly realise that no two schools or employers are the same, which is even more the case if you’re moving country as well!
In the video below you’ll hear from some of our tutors about their first TEFL job. Helen talks about how her first class didn’t exactly go well because she didn’t have the resources for it. She had to scramble to get them together the following week!
Lots of our tutors have had similar experiences early in their TEFL careers. When a teacher turns up to class without being properly organised for the first time it’s usually enough of an ordeal to ensure they avoid doing the same in future! Organisation leads to a better learning experience for students and a whole lot less stress for teachers.
Everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds. Some students will make the same mistakes over, and over, and over again and at times it might feel like it will never click with them.
Never show frustration – there are many reasons why a student might be struggling to learn something. Give them time to process information, the opportunities to practice, and remember that what comes easy to you can be a real challenge for someone else.
Passion about teaching and passion about the English language make for a good TEFL teacher. If you love what you do then you’re going to pass that enthusiasm on to your students and create a better learning environment for them.
Our tutor, Asif, never felt a calling to teaching, but once he started teaching English he fell in love with it. He’s now been teaching for 21 years and has taught all over the world, from the UAE to Ukraine, and many, many places inbetween. You won’t really know if something is your passion until you start doing it.
Experience builds confidence. It’s completely normal to feel nervous and under-prepared going into your first TEFL lesson but these feelings will ease with time and practice.
Many newly-qualified TEFL teachers have a fear of grammar – what happens if a student asks a grammar question and you don’t know the answer? The reality is, this is very likely to happen – and it’s okay! Both your knowledge of English grammar and your ability to handle difficult questions will improve with experience.
Caroline, one of our wonderful tutors here at The TEFL Org, had this very wise bit of advice for new TEFL teachers:
”Remember that we are all learning as we go along. Lots of my students have said “I want to be really confident about the language before I start teaching” but guess what – the way you get to be confident is BY teaching! So just take it step by step.”
A love of learning
Good teachers are always learning. It’s not a field where it’s possible to reach a point where you know it all and have completely mastered your craft. A good teacher knows there’s always room for improvement and strives towards that.
There are lots of different ways TEFL teachers can focus on their own self-development. There are options for further study, giving teachers more advanced qualifications and deepening their knowledge of the field. See our blog post for more information about further learning for TEFL teachers for ideas.
Few people are in possession of all the above qualities when they walk into their first TEFL lesson. A lot of learning and growing is done on the job. When we asked our tutors what advice they’d give to people interested in getting started in TEFL the most common response was to just dive in! Don’t let yourself get caught up in worries about not being ready – that will only delay your progression as a teacher.
Becoming a good teacher takes work – are you up for it?