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Do You Have These Teaching Qualities

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Chris Westergaard

Joined: 14 Mar 2006
Posts: 215
Location: Prague

PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:07 pm    Post subject: Do You Have These Teaching Qualities Reply with quote

What Makes a Good Teacher?
What makes a good teacher? It's a question that gets asked lot by students of The Language House TEFL/TESOL and university students that I connect with who are interested in teaching abroad. While the question is vague and definitely a bit subjective, it's not that hard to answer. Here's a list of what I think is important from my own experience in the field and watching literally thousands of lessons from other teachers. These aren't in any particular order but I have added an asterisk on some that I think are really important.

1. Creativity*
Creative people will obviously have an easier time being creative in the classroom. Such a needed skill for making your lessons interesting and finding new and dynamic ways of presenting material. The props you use, the interactions you create, the role-plays you design will greatly help you in the classroom. Note - a lot of more analytical minded teachers will make excuses regarding their creativeness and say that they are 'simply not like that.' BS I say. Everyone can be creative if they put the energy into it. You just have to make it part of your lessons and it will eventually become part of your personality.

2. Organization
Being prepared, having assignments done, having materials ready... all of these things will make your students believe that they are in the presence of a professional. If you are a naturally disorganized person as I am, too bad. It's part of the job and part of being good. Take the extra time before the lesson to set your activities up. Do a double/triple check to make sure you have everything you need.

3. Punctuality
Being on time and ending on time. As with being organized it gives an air of professionalism.

4. People skills
You can't be a good teacher without having a love for other people and need to see them succeed. If you can't communicate well with people or if you are shy about interacting with strangers, you are really going to have to work on it. YOU have to be the instigator of communication in the classroom. YOU are the one that sets the tone and feel of your classroom/lessons.

5. Passion/compassion
A love for teaching, the subject matter and the time with your students/class is a must. You will be tired, you will be unmotivated during many, many lessons. Too bad, get over it. Your job is to motivate and inspire. If you are not feeling it that day, fake it. Nothing is worse than seeing a tired teacher that clearly doesn't want to be in the classroom.
I used to have a crazy schedule in Prague, training TEFL, doing ESL, managing a TEFL course, doing emails and promotional work. It was nuts and I was exhausted most days out of the week. It didn't matter though. When you step into the classroom, you should always be ready to bring it and give it 100 percent if you can.

6 Goal-oriented behavior*
So, so important for language teachers to adopt a model of goals. Without goals, what are you doing? You should have goals for your class/lesson as well as for the semester. Why are these goals important? How can I test them? What things can I do to help them achieve them? What parts of the lesson/curriculum are not helping and can be stripped out? All of this stuff is important. If you don't have goals/objective and ways to test them, then all you're really doing is having your students talk without any purpose.

7. Empathy*
Without a doubt the most important thing you need as a teacher. Hands down. Don't think of empathy as you caring for your students, it's not about that. It's about knowing what they need, what motivates them, what they can and can't handle, when to push harder and when to back off.
Again, some people have a natural sense for others and some are in the dark. Don't let that hinder you. Scan your class, how do they feel? Are they enjoying the lesson? How can you tell? What do these individual students need language wise? Language, motivation, grammar, lessons, interactions...etc vary greatly depending on whether you are teaching teenagers, middle aged businessmen, elderly ladies. The list goes on and on. How do you approach these individual groups? How do you make the language relevant for them? How should you dress? This all deals with empathy. Knowing your students and knowing what makes them tick. If you have that sensitivity, you can design and crate

8. Knowledge
You have to know what you're doing. You have to know grammar and language and all of those crazy questions that students will ask. If you don't, you'll be caught off guard and will literally blackout for a second or two. When you start teaching you are going to be thinking about so many different things. Your mind has to approach language from a totally different way and it is very easy to forget even the most basic of things. It's kind of like being self aware as your driving. If you really start thinking about how to drive, you'll notice that you start making mistakes. Language teaching is the same way. We are not used to analytically looking at our own language and why/how it works. When we do, we blank. Learn as much as you can, practice as much as you can and you'll be able to face head on, confidently, any question that a student asks you.

9. Energy

Big energy always wins out over passiveness in the classroom. It's actually hard for a lot of teachers of other subjects to grasp that. You need to use your body and move around the classroom. This doesn't mean that you are screaming and dancing all class, but when it comes time to turn up the energy, you need to be able to hit that switch. If you can't, your students are going to be bored.
When teaching group classes you should be standing up, monitoring crouched and able to hover to group to group. Think of yourself as being a bee or hummingbird darting in and out of student group interactions
* Note- the energy you display will be a direct result of your group/interaction .Some classes are going to need high end energy, others not as much. Use your best judgement.

10. Adaptability/flexibility and the ability to improve
Be flexible with your structure and organization and let your instincts/empathy of the class guide you. If things are working, stick with them. If not, change it up. Be quick and fast and be able to mold and change freely. Everything should be smooth and you should have an arsenal of different techniques and approaches in case things don't work out.
Also look at the ability to teach as being a constant process. Work on getting better at your skills in the classroom. Look to others for different approaches and never assume that improvement is an impossibility. There are so many highly educated teachers with MAs and PHDs that are stagnate in their abilities. Don't settle for that. Never let your ego get in the way of progress. There's always more to learn and getting to the level of true mastery is as rewarding as the process it takes to do so.

Ending comments
Some new teachers are going to be naturals and you yourself might not be. It's going to piss you off quite a bit seeing someone excel fast while you don't. Do not get discouraged in the beginning and certainly don't quit. Teaching is about skills and learning skills. It can take time and energy and a lot of mistakes and horrible lessons until you get it down. The trick is to work at it, practice being better, learn as much as you can and you'll get there.

Chris Westergaard
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Joined: 30 Apr 2011
Posts: 25

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:47 pm    Post subject: sociability Reply with quote

Good 'skills' index. I find interviews that ask you to perform
grammar exercises and provide sample lesson plans to be ineffective in finding the 'best' teachers. So many expat teachers are highly unsociable, but GREAT at grammar hehehe.

People skills extend beyond telling your DOS your schedule has a conflict.
It is also about being friendly and not a crazy backstabbing sociopath.

Grammar....and technical skills can be honed over time for new teachers with the right encouragement and pier reviews. It should never be used as a basis for 'hiring' a teacher.

Pier reviews should not be feared, they can be wonderfully constructive and positive experiences, now only if more Colleges etc would present them in this manner. Geez.

Also the question, "So do you like to drink or are you a tea tottaler?", should never be asked in an interview, followed by the comment, "We like to party hard here and we want staff who can enjoy some fun".

Oh ya..i was REALLY asked that. And lied to get the job. Big mistake. Worked with a ton of Brits who were perpetually saturated in alcohol with the constant bitchy post boozing glow. And they were right, I didn't fit in, being sober, healthy and yes 'happy'. In fact a friends wife whispered to me I was perceived as TOO happy-go-lucky. UUUGH.....

So...morale is don't lie, and ...if they don't ASK you the questions you think you should be asked. Ask them yourself. Ask if they are a social group, what they do at the weekends, be specific...after all working overseas is a real wild ride. And their are quite a few dark horses working in ESL.

Signing up for a new city, country and culture is a lot to swallow, try to read the small print 'ingredients'.

Peace on Earth and Free Hugs Smile

Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Very Happy
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