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The Essential Qualities for Modern ESL Teachers

The Essential Qualities for Modern ESL Teachers | ITTT | TEFL Blog

I believe teaching English is a very important job, one that has a large impact and takes great care to do well. As teachers, we are the vessel through which our students receive information and how we present it can have a great impact on what the students learn, how much they learn and how thoroughly they learn it. Part of what makes teaching so challenging is that all students learn differently, a strategy that may help one student, may not resonate with another. Therefore teaching requires not only that a teacher is engaging and effective for one student, but that they find ways to reach every student. I believe a big part of achieving this as a teacher is the personal qualities a teacher brings to a classroom or lesson. I think a teacher should be engaging in their demeanor, motivated, and observant with their students. I have identified these three qualities because I believe they are essential for a teacher to demonstrate to effectively teach all students.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Carlie-S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Enthusiasm and Interest

First, the teacher must be enthusiastic and engaging when teaching. While we all have different personalities and some of us may be more expressive than others, I believe a certain level of enthusiasm and energy is necessary for a lesson to capture the interest and attention of students. As mentioned in the TEFL curriculum and demonstrated in the video lesson, a teacher that acts distracted, frustrated, cold or dull is a lot less effective than one that smiles and brings energy to the lesson. An enthusiastic, engaging demeanor creates an TEFL for learning that is fun and more inviting for students to feel more willing to try and find pleasure in learning. I’ve experienced this first-hand teaching dance. In this case, I have found that it is difficult to get students to put energy and joy into their movement if I am not exuding the same energy. I must physically demonstrate the energy I would like them to give to their dancing, and I believe it is the same when teaching a language.

male teacher and children

Also Read: How do I get a job teaching English in Japan?

Motivation and Thoughtfulness

Secondly, I think that it is essential for a teacher to be motivated and thoughtful. While usually teachers are given textbooks and curriculum to follow, good teachers enhance their lessons with their materials and ideas for activities. As stated throughout the TEFL coursework, lessons are more effective when the teacher has prepared engaging exercises and activities for the students to learn and practice. Teachers must think carefully about these activities, and how they can be used to help students with different learning styles progress. Teaching is unique in that teachers often have a fair amount of autonomy in making these decisions about how to teach lessons. Most often, each teacher creates their lessons, so it is up to them to put the time and energy into making the lessons the best they can be.

Therefore, the teacher must be self-motivated and thoughtful about the lessons they bring to the classroom. As a mentor in an after-school program for high school students, I saw first hand how the activities that we're well prepared, creative and thought out thoroughly by the director were more effective in exciting and engaging the students than the activities that were somewhat directionless and hadn’t been completely thought through. I know there are activities I still remember from elementary and middle school because the teacher was so creative and thoughtful in how they presented the lessons, I still remember them to this day.

Also Read: Can I choose where I teach English abroad?

Catching Students’ Vibe

Lastly, I think it is important that teachers are observant and in tune with their students. While it is important to be engaging and motivated, teachers can’t be so caught up in their own goals and energy that they forget to pay attention to the students and how they may be reacting or what they may need at the moment. Teachers need to be good listeners and leave time and space to observe their students. Observation allows teachers to assess how their students are receiving the lessons and progressing. As previously mentioned, every student learns differently, and so the teacher needs to be able to observe which students might need additional or different instruction. In some cases, it may be the whole class that isn’t receiving an activity or lesson, as well as the teacher, had hoped. In that case, if a teacher is in tune with their students they will notice the disconnect and adjust accordingly. I’ve been in classes where the teacher briefly asked, “so does everyone understand?” and didn’t seem to notice the lack of response or glazed over expressions of the students and consequently plowed ahead when in fact none of us understood the material. The ability to perceive where your students are in their learning process is essential to maintaining the most effective relationship with them and the lesson at hand.

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Of course, many other personal qualities are important for a successful teacher to possess, but I feel that the three I identified best encompass the most necessary for effective teaching. If a teacher is enthusiastic and engaging, motivated and observant they should be able to create an interesting, comfortable learning environment for students that teaches them effectively and appropriately to their needs. I believe that I possess these qualities as a teacher, and they have served me well in my prior teaching experience. However, teaching is also a continuous learning process and I will continue to work towards embodying these qualities more strongly and consistently so that I can serve my students to the best of my ability.

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