Ten Qualities of a Good EFL Teacher
The best EFL teachers are not born but are made. While an innate interest in teaching is required, I have realized over the course of my education and my teaching career that to stay on top of the game, we EFL teachers must always be learning. We cannot afford to lose focus on the qualities we need to practice, the knowledge that we need to acquire, and the learners we need to keep up with. Teaching is far from being a passive role: a professional teacher is always active and observant, even when they are not teaching.
There are some qualities that make a good EFL teacher. Being aware of these qualities, and more importantly, working at it, can turn a competent teacher into a brilliant one! Based on my experience and my interactions with fellow EFL teachers I have narrowed these down to ten.
1. A Love for Teaching and Language
Some of us know teaching as a calling. We know that we want to teach. It comes from a need to help our community and to make a difference and to make lives better. You must really want to teach and to share knowledge to be effective as a teacher, irrespective of what you are teaching. EFL teachers must also love language and its intricacies, but that alone will not be enough. Teaching a language requires more than telling students what the rules of the language are. You must be able to identify strengths of a learner as well as their weaknesses, know the most appropriate methods of skill transfer, and possess immense patience in order to make the jump from a language specialist to a teacher.
2. Communication is Key
In language learning, communication is extremely important because that is the aim of a language class – to enable learners to communicate in a new language. Again, a teacher is required to be a good communicator. A teacher must be a good listener to understand the learners and their needs. In addition to that, a teacher must also be able to communicate clearly so that learners, who often come from diverse backgrounds, understand the teacher. Communication is also the best way to get feedback from learners and assess if they have learned the concepts satisfactorily.
3. An Organizer and Planner
As a language teacher, you have to set objectives and plan your lessons. Many of these lessons may require activities. The learning activities need to be planned ahead – goals, steps, resources, and evaluation. Apart from this, crucial to a teacher’s success is classroom management. It involves lesson planning as well as managing different learners with different learning styles and behaviors in the classroom. Most of the organizing and planning strategies can be learned in teacher training. Practical experience will, over time, assist the teacher with what works and what does not work.
4. A Learner for Life
Language does not remain static – neither are the modes of language use and learning. They are constantly evolving. Hence, teachers must evolve. It can be achieved through refresher courses as well as paying attention to the news in the English language teaching field as well as other related fields. Technology is also important. Teachers need to understand how to exploit technology to teach language as well as how technology could change the way in which language is used. Language is not restricted to verbal communication anymore. It has been adapted to suit technology – abbreviated forms in texting, for example. Traditionally, language teachers used pen-to-paper writing practice in class yet now teachers should teach students how to write emails which would follow a different format and style. Besides, teaching and learning feed each other.
5. Knowledge, Knowledge
It is important to have a call for teaching, enjoy language and possess good interpersonal skills. Yet for all of these to be used effectively and to have the intended impact, what is necessary is a solid foundation and that comes with knowledge. Not only do you need to have knowledge pertaining to the language but you should also need to have teaching knowledge – methodologies, evaluation, classroom management, and learning styles. Together, language and teaching skills, will make you more effective as an EFL teacher.
6. Innovative Thinker
An EFL teacher must be able to quickly think on their feet and to respond with new ways to present concepts. This is helpful on many levels. Being able to think in an innovative manner could help you simplify complex concepts like grammar rules that normally put learners to sleep. Different learners may respond differently to a lesson and you’ve got to be able to explain the same thing differently to each learner using diverse examples and activities. Some students may learn through tasks while others learn with images, and still other learners may acquire through storytelling or dictation. An EFL teacher must think out of the box to keep learners engaged and to achieve objectives.
7. Empathy Opens Doors
Teaching is humanistic. Hence, empathy is a prerequisite quality for EFL teachers. A teacher must have an interest in people – who they are and what they are about – in order to meet their language learning needs through teaching. Not all people have an easy life. A learner may be performing badly due to stress that interferes with their ability to pay attention. Another learner may be shy or bullied and hence doesn’t participate in classroom discussions. Teachers have to pay attention to these cues, empathize, and be patient with such learners. Empathy builds trust and that can dissolve barriers to learning.
8. An Interest in Culture
Since many people who commence language learning lessons could be from differing cultures, an EFL teacher must be curious and interested in other cultures. It can inform teaching in many ways. Learners may use grammar rules influenced from their first language while their intelligibility may be reduced due to the learner’s language. An Asian learner may use ‘they’ as a form of respect even when referring to an individual. When an EFL teacher comprehends culture, they will know how it is influencing a learner’s ability to learn English. EFL teachers can also use the customs and traditions of various cultures in teaching so that learners don’t feel completely alienated and learn English through familiar contexts.
9. Know How to Motivate
A teacher is a leader due to the fact that they must encourage learners to meet a common goal. And as with any good leader, a good teacher must know how to motivate learners to continue life-long learning. Just showing up for class and completing assignments is not an indicator of learning. A teacher must generate enthusiasm to learn by understanding the needs of the learners. Are learners interested in learning English to increase employment opportunities, to move to an English-speaking country, or to communicate their thoughts better? Understanding these needs is necessary as an EFL teacher can encourage a student to meet their personal needs and sustain their interest in learning.
10. Be Reflective
A good EFL teacher must be reflective by nature because this will make them aware of themselves as people and as teachers. They will know their strengths and weaknesses, and this understanding could help them improve as people and as professional teachers. Reflective time lets you focus on methods that have been used in the classroom and what needs to be developed. It is also a good idea to take feedback from colleagues and students to grow as a teacher.
So these are the 10 qualities that I think are useful to me as an EFL teacher. I am constantly working on these qualities while also keeping in mind that teachers are always on a journey and never a finished product. The learning never ends.
Ethan Miller is a private ESL tutor and apart from his passion for teaching, he loves to write and holds a degree in creative writing. When he is not teaching or writing his book, Miller loves to blog and is a huge fan of educational technology. You can also find him on Twitter.