Teaching English

Do you know a great English teacher?

Today we are going to talk about what makes a great English teacher. All of us have had an inspirational teacher: someone who makes you want to learn as much as you can about the subject and makes you look forward to going to class. And we have all had a bad teacher: someone who could make even the most exciting topic seem as dull as ditchwater.  So what is it that distinguishes a great teacher from someone who would be better off moving into a field which keeps them as far away from other human beings as possible? In reverse order, we list the top five most important traits. Read on!

English topics

5. Knowledge

Of course, you want someone who knows their stuff. If your English teacher doesn’t know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’, has never heard of the present perfect and spells ‘apple’ with only one ‘p’, then Houston, we have a problem. At the same time, no teacher knows everything, and nor should they. Your teacher is not god. Teachers can also learn an awful lot from their students, and realising the limits of your knowledge can actually be a strength.

4. Preparation (but not over preparation)

The general rule is: The bigger the class, the younger the class, the lower the level of English, the more prepared you need to be. If you have a one-to-one lesson with a 55-year-old economist with near-perfect English, the chances are all you need to do is sit down, ask them about the economic situation in Bolivia and then just sit back, interjecting now and again with slight adjustments to their grammar and pronunciation. However, if you ever try to turn up to a class of 40 eight-year-old beginners with no idea of what you intend to teach, then you will probably end up regretting it.

3. Inspiration

inspiring teachers

Learning English is hard work. Which is why the best teachers need to be able to inspire their students to do as much as possible to improve. How can you inspire your students? Well, the most important thing is to enjoy the topic yourself, which is why English teachers have to be interested in, well, everything! Discussing everybody’s favourite animal? Wonderful! A reading exercise about illnesses and visiting the doctor? Fantastic! A long discussion about the economic situation in Bolivia? Can’t wait! Other ways of being an inspiring teacher: giving praise, moving your arms a lot, being incredibly good-looking.

2. Funnyness (no, that’s not a real word)

English teacher mug

English teachers who can’t remember the difference between the second and third conditional can get away with it if they make a good joke instead. Students have their own problems to deal with. When they walk into class they want to see someone smiling and enjoying life, making them laugh. A sense of humour can be a great way of building up a rapport with your students and making them relax – essential for speaking a foreign language

1. Empathy

If you want to help your students, then you have to understand them. Being a great English teacher is all about having a good relationship with your class, and regardless of the age of your students, if you are able to empathise with them, to understand what they want and need from you, then you will already be well on the way to being able to teach them what they need to know. If you have already tried learning another language yourself, for example, you will not get annoyed with that student who keeps saying “The films likes to me.” or “I am having seven years.” You will see it as part of their journey and be only happy to help them along their way to further progress.


  1. Ruqaya

    Thanks a lot.

  2. Nuck

    What IS the difference between “there” and “there”?

    • engolaworld

      Haha! Well, ‘there’ means ‘in that place’, while ‘there’ means ‘the teacher is tired and wrote ‘there’ instead of ‘their”. Thank you for pointing that out, post amended!

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