Published 22nd September 2020

qualities of a good tefl teacher

Do you have what it takes to be a good TEFL teacher? As more and more people jump on the TEFL bandwagon, you might be wondering if you should be teaching English as a Foreign Language too! After all, why wouldn’t you want a job where you get paid to scratch your travel itch and teach amazing students from all over the world? But the question is, do you have what it takes? What are the qualities of a good TEFL teacher?

Of course, there are a certain number of requirements that you need in order to become a TEFL teacher. You need to be a native English-speaker or have near-native fluency (and proof of your CEFR level). You also need to have a TEFL certificate, as well as a Bachelor’s degree for some countries – though it can be in any subject and there are countries where you can teach without one. If you are teaching English online, then of course you also need a decent laptop, a stable internet connection, a good headset and a few other bits and bobs you can use for props.

Qualities of a Good TEFL Teacher

But besides all those things, an important part of being a TEFL teacher (and indeed any kind of teacher) are the personality characteristics that make you, you. So let’s look at what qualities you need to not just make it as a TEFL teacher but live your best life as a TEFL teacher.

A TEFL teacher is PASSIONATE

Teaching is hard work. You need to be knowledgeable of your subject and enthusiastic enough about it that you can make your students excited about the present perfect and collocations! Teaching English as a Foreign Language is not just a job, it’s a meaningful venture, and even if you do it for a short time you need to be interested not only in teaching but also in the English language. Learning English is challenging and you need to infect your students with your enthusiasm!

A TEFL teacher is KNOWLEDGEABLE

Being able to speak English is not the same as being able to teach English. As a TEFL teacher you need to know as much as possible about English – about vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, but also about language usage, natural language, and the subskills involved in reading, writing, listening and speaking. This is the reason it’s necessary to do a TEFL course, and it makes sense for you to do an accredited, well-recognised course because this is the only way you’ll grow your knowledge of English – besides Google, of course.

Read more: The Basics of Teaching English as a Foreign Language

A TEFL teacher is COMMUNICATIVE

Obviously if you’re teaching a language you should be able to speak the language. But communication is not only about speaking. It’s about conveying what you mean clearly and succinctly. This is especially important when your students do not entirely understand the language that you speak. TEFL teachers need to learn to give good instructions and speak clearly. They also need to interpret and understand what their students are trying to say in order to help them say it correctly.

A TEFL teacher is ORGANISED

We hate to break it to you, but teaching requires preparation, and preparation requires organisation. If you’re not organised there’s no way you can handle teaching 30 classes of 30 learners a week. Being organised will ensure that your lessons are not only well-planned but executed effectively. Plus, being disorganized is a sure way to lose interest in your lessons and take all enjoyment out of teaching.

Read more: Essential Teaching Materials for a TEFL Teacher 

A TEFL teacher is CREATIVE

This doesn’t mean you need to make 52 photocopies for every lesson (please don’t!). In fact, TEFL teachers are able to plan lessons which do more with less. The less you rely on materials, the more opportunity you give your students to be a part of the learning process. Plus, creativity also comes in the form of being able to juggle lessons with more or fewer students than you expected, or to handle covering a lesson at the last-minute.

qualities of a good tefl teacher

A TEFL teacher is ADAPTABLE

A TEFL teacher needs to be able to think on their feet. Lessons go wrong (more often than we’d like to admit!), photocopiers break, students don’t turn up, and we need to deviate from the lesson plan. That’s actually not a problem as long as we can go with the flow and respond to our students as best we can. 

But this adaptability is important for outside the classroom too. If you are a TEFL teacher, there is a chance that you are not living in your home country. You will need to be adaptable to be able to not just survive living and working in a foreign country, but thrive in a foreign country.

Read more: Culture Shock

A TEFL teacher is PATIENT

Even though us TEFL teachers might know English very well, our students don’t and it takes time to learn a language. While your lessons might be 45 minutes long, that doesn’t mean that your students will learn everything you teach in 45 minutes. We need to be patient with our students as they learn so they don’t feel pressured to perform or feel too nervous to make mistakes. You need to be patient enough to teach the same language item again and again – and again – until your students have mastered it.

A TEFL teacher is APPROACHABLE

We’d like to say that TEFL teachers need to be friendly – which they do – but as teachers being friends with your students can be a bit tricky and being too friendly can lead to your students taking advantage of you or you losing your authority. So instead we’d like to say that you should be approachable. Your students should feel comfortable enough to feel they can talk to you about any problems they may be having while at the same time realizing you are the person in charge. 

A TEFL teacher is PROFESSIONAL

You might have been sold on the idea of a party lifestyle with a teaching day job but TEFL teachers have a responsibility to their employers and their students. A work-life balance is obviously important but even more so is not turning up at school with a hangover!

Now that you know what qualities you need to be a good TEFL teacher, do you think you have what it takes?

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