By Aziz Soubai
Not just anybody should be in a teaching position. You don’t need to choose a teaching career, because if you have what it takes, the teaching career will choose you. It is not easy to teach and it is very tough to succeed in what you do if you are not interested in it in the first place. The first most important quality in a successful language teacher is loving your job. Otherwise, you’ll experience a total fiasco; no matter how intelligent or knowledgeable you are – you will fail miserably. I’m not going to talk about a certain magic recipe of how to be a successful educator because there is no such thing. Human beings are unique, learners are unique and there is no single way of successfully teaching English. So, what I’m going to do in this post is share with you some of the ideas and insights I gained in my classroom practice over the past few years.
There are so many traits of a great language teacher but I will choose four of those qualities that I think are most significant to be a better language teacher. These ideas have worked for me and that does not mean they will work for every teacher; it depends on many elements and factors, such as a teacher’s readiness to apply the tips, their motivation, and most importantly their teaching context.
The first quality is, as I mentioned before, loving what you do. It means getting up every morning with a burning fire inside you, a huge passion for your job. It means also that when you teach, you feel alive. I believe that, unfortunately, this quality of a teacher cannot be acquired or gained over time. It is either there or it doesn’t exist!
Of course, passion and love for the job is not enough to be a successful educator and teacher. We need something else. Our language classrooms can sometimes be full of uninterested, unmotivated students and this creates additional classroom issues and a huge burden for EFL teachers. Therefore, the second quality to possess is patience. A language teacher should suppress his/her anger and know how to control emotions. Being patient doesn’t mean allowing and tolerating bad behavior. It means teachers have to find alternative ways and strategies to deal with daily issues faced in class. One of those strategies is applying the humanistic affective approach, which in my context works most of the time. In other words, you need to create certain bonds between you and your students. Make them your friends and try to see the human side in them, not just knowledge that they have or don’t have. A ten-minute open discussion with your learners from time to time will undoubtedly make them respect and trust you more.
Once we have ensured the passion and patience are there, students will be receptive, ready and even highly motivated to learn. The next quality to have is being a good organizer and planner. Good lesson planning is a crucial process in teaching English effectively. Plan very detailed lessons because doing that will make you avoid unexpected learning and teaching issues. There are, of course, so many techniques for creating a lesson plan. I would recommend the following:
- Start with reviewing the previous lesson and link it to the next one.
- Use some kind of warm up. My students like tongue twisters, which are great for practicing pronunciation, grammar, and other language points.
- Write and discuss the lesson objectives with the class. They need to know where you are taking them and why.
- Model and instruct. Use examples for your learners and show them how they are supposed to accomplish their tasks.
- Use guided practice. Intervene, offer guidance, and help when you see something goes wrong or when you feel that your learners are off-task.
- Finish your lesson with a sort of assessment. It might be a short ungraded quiz, writing a lesson summary, or peer feedback and assessment.
The fourth and final quality is trying to be innovative and creative in your teaching style. Attending as many conferences as possible will help you to reach that goal. Share your experiences with the public, seek advice and guidance from mentors and experienced teachers.
Because teaching is a pretty challenging job, we as language teachers must be prepared not only in terms of materials and input but also on other important levels like the ones mentioned in this post. We need to understand our learners’ needs and social background; we are dealing with human beings after all. Doing all this won’t necessarily guarantee great teaching and learning experience. However, it would at least set us on the right track toward success in our professional life.