Qualities of a Good TEFL Teacher

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Do you have what it takes to be a good TEFL teacher? As more and more people jump on the teaching English as a foreign language (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.

Palfish: a company for teaching English online without a degree

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. Having the theoretical knowledge of how to teach English as a foreign language is one thing, but how you are in the classroom – your manner and how you relate to your students – is something completely different. 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. 

A genuine enjoyment and passion for teaching English as a foreign language makes for a good TEFL teacher. If you believe education is a fundamental right and want to make a difference in people’s lives then teaching is highly rewarding.  If seeing your students learn and grow over the course of a year brings you joy, then teaching could be for you.

While you should feel passionate about being an educator, it might not be your main reason for becoming a TEFL teacher. The TEFL industry opens many doors for working abroad and travelling, and as long as you see your position more than just a way to facilitate a certain lifestyle then do a TEFL course and start your adventure today. 

The best yea to prepare for a TEFL course: get excited

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 should ne 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.

The ability to explain topics clearly and constructively is essential for students’ ability to learn. Good teachers must have strong interpersonal skills to work collaboratively with colleagues.  They ask for help from colleagues and use constructive criticism as an opportunity to grow as a teacher.

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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.

Being prepared will give you more confidence as a teacher and will help you think on your feet when necessary. Fortunately, any internationally recognised TEFL course will prepare you adequately for any challenges you may face in the TEFL classroom. There are also lots of extra resources you can find online for your students. Having an organised lesson will help you manage your time effectively so you don’t struggle to fill in the time or finish the lesson too quickly.

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.

Learning a foreign language can be dull and the one thing we need to be sure of as teachers is that our students are motivated to come to class. Bringing your sense of humour and a sense of fun into the classroom will ensure that your students enjoy coming to class and are open to the learning experience. Try incorporating a balance of fun games and activities that require participation to inspire and motivate students. 

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. 

A TEFL teacher must be flexible with their lessons and be able to adapt methods for each class.  Teaching a group of 20 young learners in a class will be different than teaching 12 adult intermediate learners. Being able to embrace and adapt any situation into a chance to learn, will help you be the best EFL teacher.  

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

A good teacher is very patient with students and able to listen and understand them without becoming frustrated. 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.

Everyone learns at different speeds and some students will make the same mistakes over and over. 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.

 TEFL teachers also need to be patient with themselves. It can be overwhelming navigating a new job in a foreign country or online learning platform.  If you find yourself getting too worked up, take a moment, and take a deep breath when you need too.   

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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. 

Being a TEFL teacher means juggling the personalities, interests and learning needs of all your students, which is no easy task. One way to ensure the learning environment in the TEFL classroom is the most effective is to be open and communicative. Try to make your lessons as student-centred as possible and give your students autonomy in the classroom. 

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 exhausted after a night on the town!

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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