What makes a great TEFL teacher?

When we look back on our own learning experiences, most of us will have strong memories of certain teachers, and in some cases this can be for all the wrong reasons. Some teachers might be remembered for being harsh disciplinarians, having a boring monotone delivery, failing to listen to the class, or any number of other negative traits. Thankfully, many of us will also have memories of the teachers who had a positive impact on our education, and this could be for a variety of reasons.

If you are planning to teach English online or in a traditional classroom, there are several qualities that we think combine to make a great teacher. If you can develop your teaching strategy to include all these traits you are sure to be remembered by many of your students as a great EFL teacher.


Although all the following points are important, this might well be the most crucial of them all. The bottom line is you can have all the qualifications and knowledge in the world, but if you are a poor communicator your lessons will not achieve the results that you and your class might expect. Of course, this is doubly important when teaching in an environment where you probably don’t speak your students’ native language. It is important to remember that non-verbal communication is a vital part of any EFL classroom. Body language, hand gestures, and tone of voice are all key skills when teaching a foreign language. This is why taking a TEFL course is an important step on the journey as it will teach you many of the best methods for communicating with your students.


As in all walks of life, to be a successful and inspirational teacher you have to be passionate about it. If you are not fully invested in your teaching career and are just going through the motions in order to pick up a paycheck, your students will feel it and will be unlikely to reach their full potential. All teachers in every type of classroom need to care deeply about their students’ success and have a real passion for teaching the English language. Without this basic quality, your teaching career will soon become dull and unfulfilling for both you and the people you teach.


In every classroom in every country in the world one thing remains true, all students learn at a different pace. While some students will pick up new information quickly, others will struggle to grasp the concept and make mistakes over and over again. Your job as a teacher is to ensure that everyone receives the attention and support they need to reach their own goals, not just those at the top of the class. You should never show frustration towards a student because they are struggling to understand something, a great teacher will always have the patience to find a way to make progress.


Many new EFL teachers have learned this one the hard way by turning up for their first class underprepared. If you have not put in the necessary planning and have failed to organize all the required materials and equipment needed for a particular lesson, it is likely that the class could descend into chaos. As you gain classroom experience the level of planning required will be gradually reduced, but you should never underestimate the importance of being organized and thoroughly planning every lesson in order to provide the best learning experience for your students.


Even for the most organized of teachers things don’t always go to plan in the classroom, which is why adaptability is crucial. Your lesson plan might only fill half the allotted time, or you might only get half way through when the bell for the end of class goes off. Technology such as computers have a nasty habit of breaking down when you need them most, and every teacher knows that any given activity can fall flat on its face without warning. Great teachers are able to adapt to these unexpected problems and come up with new strategies to get the job done.


In the early days of your teaching career you are likely to feel nervous and a little anxious about making mistakes. Your lesson plan might unravel or you might struggle to answer a grammar question, but that is perfectly normal for almost every teacher. Very few, if any, new teachers are able to hit the ground running and sail through their lessons without any mishaps. Just remember that in time all good teachers develop their skills and knowledge and become better and better at what they do. When you first enter the classroom, have faith in all that you learned during your TEFL training and have confidence in your own abilities.

Although there are many other traits a teacher might have that makes them good at their job, the above are probably the key points to think about before you start your real life teaching career, wherever it is in the world. By focusing on these key points you will go a long way to becoming a truly great EFL teacher that will be remembered by your students for many years to come.