What makes a great TESOL teacher?

If we look back on our own school days, most of us will remember some of our teachers more than others. In some cases this will be because they were terrible at their job and didn’t provide the environment we needed to reach our full potential. The worst traits are often things such as failing to listen to students, lacking enthusiasm, and being overly strict. However, most of us will also have good memories of one or more teachers who actually had a positive impact on our school experience. There are a wide variety of reasons why these particular teachers stand out.

If you are already teaching or plan to teach in the future, there are several things you can focus on that when added together make up a memorable teacher. If you can manage to add all of these to your everyday teaching style, you are likely to be remembered as a great ESL teacher.


We consider all the following points to be crucial when teaching ESL, however, it is possible that this is the most important. Regardless of your qualifications and experience, if you do not communicate well with your class they will struggle to achieve the levels of success they deserve. And when teaching ESL, this is even more important as you probably will not speak much of your students native language.

In ESL classrooms, non-verbal communication always plays a crucial part in the day-to-day lessons you deliver. The key skills you will need to develop when teaching a foreign language include hand gestures, body language, and tone of voice, amongst others. During your initial TESOL course you will learn about all the most important communication skills and how to use them effectively in the classroom.


If you want to be remembered as a great teacher, you will certainly need to demonstrate an exceptional amount of passion for the job. If you are not 100% committed to every lesson and are just working from paycheck to paycheck, your students will feel it and will struggle to make progress. To be a good teacher in any subject and in any environment, you have to truly care about your students' success and maintain a strong passion for the important position you are in everyday. If you do not have this quality at your disposal, then your lessons will soon become boring and unfulfilling for you and the people in your classroom.


Although no two classrooms are ever exactly the same, one thing is typically constant no matter where you are teaching in the world: Every student learns at their own pace. In every class there are students who grasp new concepts right off the bat, while others will take much longer and continue to make mistake after mistake. As a teacher you are required to give every member of the class the support they need to be successful, not just the ones that are quick to understand. Showing your frustration towards a struggling student must always be avoided. At the end of the day, a great ESL teacher can always find a way to help every member of the class move forward.


Many first-time teachers learn about the importance of organization by turning up to a lesson without being fully prepared. Without putting in the required planning for the lesson and all the materials and equipment it needs, you might find that your day ends in nothing short of chaos. As your teaching career progresses, you should find that the amount of planning required for each lesson is gradually reduced. However, it is good advice to never underestimate how important planning and organization is when it comes to providing a good learning environment for every member of your class.


The unfortunate truth is that things don’t always go to plan in the classroom, even for the most organized of teachers. This is why adaptability is so important when teaching ESL. There are many things that can throw your plans out of the window when teaching. Sometimes your lesson plan might only take half the usual time to complete, or the bell might go off before you have even got half way through your planned activities. Many lessons now involve the use of technology, which often has a habit of crashing just when you need it the most. And the sad fact is that any activity you have planned can prove a complete failure when you first attempt it with your students. Whenever any of these unfortunate problems arise, a great teacher is able to adapt and come up with a new way to get the job done.


When starting out as an ESL teacher, most people will have bouts of nerves and some level of anxiety about making mistakes in the classroom. You might struggle to answer a difficult grammar question, or an activity might fall apart. However, this is perfectly normal for almost every teacher as very few are able to breeze through their early lessons without any problems or mistakes. In teaching, as in most walks of life, you gradually develop your skills over time and will become a better teacher with every lesson that passes. During your first few weeks and months on the job, just remember to have faith in everything you learned while studying your TESOL course and also to have faith in your own abilities as an educator.

While there are undoubtedly other traits that make up a good ESL teacher, these are some of the most important to be aware of before you set foot in your own classroom for the first time. If you can develop all of these to a high level, you will have gone a long way towards becoming that great teacher that your students will remember well into the future.

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