What makes a good English teacher – The point of view of a school owner.

As a school owner, I want to provide our students with the best service possible and to do so, we need professionals who are well-suited to enabling us to achieve this goal. However, finding a good English teacher is not a simple task.

The most important characteristic of a good teacher, for me, is a sense of commitment to the student learning process. A committed teacher will care about the students, about whether they are really learning and making any progress or not. He/She will not just go through the motion, come to work from 9 to 5, and cover a unit in a book just for the sake of doing it. After having met so many teachers, I learnt that when we have a teacher who is truly committed, he/she will do whatever necessary to make the learning process happen. And this is important!

Other important characteristics I look for when hiring teachers are:

  1. Qualifications
    Qualifications can show that you really want to be a teacher because you have spent time obtaining it, and that you are investing in your career. However, qualifications are not the be all and end all. In my 20 years as a school owner, I have met teachers who are not so qualified but are effective and great in the classroom, and I have also met teachers who are qualified but are not as effective.
  2. Choice
    A good teacher chooses to be a teacher and sees it as a career.
    Just because you speak English, and can’t figure out what you want to do with your life, does not mean that you should become an English teacher. I’ve interviewed many candidates who are surprisingly not able to convince me that they have made a conscious choice to be a teacher.
  3. Curiosity
    To be a good teacher, you definitely need to be a good learner.
    You need to be curious about the students and want to learn more about them.
    You need to be curious about language and want to know how best to teach it.
    You need to be curious about development and seek opportunities to keep growing as a teacher.
    Sometimes, I meet a person who has been working as a teacher for, let’s say 15 years, and the last time that person has applied for a development course was 15 years ago. Alarm bells ring when I hear of such things.
  4. Sensitivity.
    A teacher needs to perceive, understand and react to the learning needs of the students. We should try and understand what works for our students and the reasons behind it. We teach human beings who have emotions, problems, and lives that exist outside the classroom. We shouldn’t just treat them as students.
  5. Professionalism.
    Being professional includes: Being respectful towards the school, his/her colleagues and the students; being punctual; being prepared for the class; being appropriately dressed for class.
  6. Flexibility.
    Understand that your student is first of all a human being, and like any human being, they can feel tired, angry, or hungry, or they might be suffering from a headache. Maybe the wonderful class you have planned on that very tough grammar point may not be suitable for that particular day and you may need a plan B. It is important to realize that sometimes, the way you are used to working may not be the best way for a particular situation/student/course. So learn to adapt.
  7. Courage.
    Challenges could be a good thing. It takes courage to face them with a positive attitude and to leave your comfort zone behind.
  8. Effectiveness
    Although we can’t force students to learn and can’t ensure that learning takes place in every lesson we teach, having the ability to create a conducive environment for that learning to happen can be part of being an effective teacher.
  9. Taking pride.
    Good teachers see themselves as a very important part of society and act accordingly. A good teacher adds value to the students, the school, their peers and to themselves. Be proud of it!


And finally, the most important of all, not only for teachers but for anyone who wants to live a meaningful life:

  1.  Passion!
    Having a passion for what you do is crucial.
    Passion spurs us on to make things meaningful.
    Without passion, teaching or any other vocation would be nothing but a bore.
    With passion, we believe in what we do.

    And, a teacher with passion can make all the difference.








20 comments on “What makes a good English teacher – The point of view of a school owner.

  1. Interesting blog post. I guess I have to ask who would be more employable: the more popular teacher with just the CELTA or the teacher with an MA, TEFL-Q and CELTA but is considered a bit more serious? I’m just playing devil’s advocate.

  2. Matt Halsdorff says:

    Love that you ended with passion…. 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Stop Complaining – Enjoy Teaching! and commented:
    English teacher Beth Vasconcelos owns a language school in Brazil. Her top 10 for what makes a good English teacher are below. Agree? What do you think is the most important thing for us to be/have as English teachers?

  4. Thank you for this. It is nice to read through your points and think…’Yes…i do these things’.
    I often feel frustrated with people’s perceptions of English teachers sometimes, as they presume that you do it because you speak English and want to travel and that you don’t take it seriously.

  5. Juliana says:

    Your words were very touching, Beth!!! Passion must exist in every part of our daily teaching!!!

  6. I wish I could know all this by a few interviews…our life would be way easier and we would not waste time at all! I guess I will hand this text as a form and if they don’t write ‘ yes!’ to all the statements, I won’t even have the first talk… Just kidding a bit, but the issue is pretty serious. Another problem is that many schools just want teachers to fill vacancies and solve problems in their busy schedules, not caring much about commitment in the learning process. It creates a common belief that it is very easy and simple to get a career as an ESL teacher. Well, by experience I can say that the way to become a teacher is hard but also full of joy once it was chosen for passion.

    • Hi Elaine. Thank you for commenting! You are 100% right when you say that there are some “schools” that help creating this wrong belief that it’s easy and simple to get a career as an English teacher. We need to fight against that!!! As for interviews, yeah you are right, it is not easy to pick the good ones. Experience helps, but it is not easy, that’s why we need in house tranning and probation period.
      We’ll get there!! 🙂

  7. esgaleth says:

    Reblogged this on Teaching English: Ins & Outs and commented:
    Nice to hear there are employers who would care, hard to believe they do exist. 🙂

  8. David Wilson says:

    I agree on all counts but here in sunny Thailand they seem to pick teachers first and foremost on “how young and handsome you are”. Not being blessed with Brad Pitt looks I often find I am judged even before I walk in the door regardless of how experienced I may well be. I love teaching and although I agree with your comments I still feel for the students out here because the system doesn’t allow for good teachers to develop. I would love for any school I have worked in suggest extra training or career development but sadly again this won’t happen here.

    That said what does get me out of bed everyday is the fact that I know that I will teach something to somebody that they can use for the rest of their lives. I don’t like teachers who teach because this is all they can do and I also don’t like travelling teachers on gap year because they do it to fund their jollies with little care for the students future. I do agree that although ideal a degree isn’t the be all and end all. My favourite mentor doesn’t have a degree and he is the best teacher I know.

    After doing this job now for 5 years I can’t see why I would go back to business life again. Kids are amazing and if they are allowed to show their potential then teaching becomes a joy rather than a job.

    • Hi David,
      Thank you for commenting. I’m sure there must be a school in Thailand that invests in teacher development and appreciate the work of a good teacher despite his appearance. It’s not easy finding one but do not give up!!!

  9. thanks for the article.

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