Ideal EFL Teacher: Cast Your Vote (…And See What Others Say)

Randall’s ESL Blog held a vote for the most important quality in the ideal language teacher – head on over there for the results. I decided to come up with my own “alternative list”. Do you agree?

  • Empathy, or the ability to see things from different perspectives; specifically, to think about your own language as a learner might, or in different ways, as learners with different learning styles need.
  • Ability to multi-task, for example to be able to listen and respond to content while observing grammatical accuracy. This is a lot harder than it sounds.

  • Conscientious: this is relevant in any job, but private language school teachers are often in a position where they may be pushed to take on more work than they can prepare for, or an amount of work which seems much more palatable if they cut corners with preparation. Compared to many other entry-level jobs, EFL teachers also have quite a lot of discretion in areas that matter to students.
  • People skills: a large part of the learning experience is shaped by the environment and experience, and people skills make it possible to form a positive one. It sounds silly to say being friendly makes a good teacher; of course the point of the class is not for your students to like you, but learning goes better when people feel comfortable.
  • Patience is important, to some degree at least, though to a large extent this is covered by being observant. It just takes time for your students to learn. Recognizing that is not really patience – it’s realism. And waiting for students to learn as you see fit needs to be tempered with understanding when to move on.
  • Able to reflect on yourself: Your students won’t give you teaching tips, so you need to reflect on what works and doesn’t work. Good school management will make observation a regular part of the picture, but I think the vast majority of input on your performance comes from you yourself.
  • Capable of critical thinking – I wouldn’t say knowledge of grammar per se is important as a “natural skill” you bring to the table, but in many situations you do need to be able to look at a grammar point and figure out how best to teach it within the constraints (time, level, what’s in the book, the test, the level of the students actually in the class even if it is not as it should be) you have.

I can’t chose one as most important; I think a combination of all of these qualities is ideal. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the days when TEFL Logue posts appeared about three times a day, have a look at my thoughts on Important Qualities For A Career In TEFL from this time last year…and if you’re feeling satirical, see what Sandy at TEFL-trade had to say in response!