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Qualities of an EFL teacher

Diary submitted by Darija T., Valencia, 2020

What knowledge, skills and traits are required for a good EFL teacher?

   Being a teacher is a demanding, but at the same time, rewarding job. There are a lot of conditions one needs to fulfil in order to become a good teacher. Qualities that make a good teacher are related not only to formal knowledge of a subject being taught, but also to one’s working skills and, moreover, personal traits. In this diary, I will attempt to delineate knowledge, skills and traits which an English teacher should have. I will also try to reflect on those I gained during my short, but valuable experience and those I wish to cultivate in my future career as an EFL teacher. 

   The first aspect of my opening question refers to knowledge, therefore, that will be the starting point in this discussion. Knowledge which an English teacher should have is, of course, the knowledge of the structure of English language. That knowledge implies all linguistic layers of a language – starting from phonetics and ending with semantics. A good EFL teacher should be familiar with all those areas and handle the metalanguage of each and every layer so as to transfer their knowledge to students. That kind of teacher should, with ease, answer students’ questions and doubts and lead them through their language acquisition. In my personal case, considering the fact that I graduated as a professor of English Language and Literature, I do have the required knowledge of linguistics and all its areas. I also possess abundant metalanguage which enables me to explain unfamiliar aspects of English language to my students. What I haven’t yet acquired, on the other hand, is the ability to react calmly in situations when students ask me something I don’t know or I’m not entirely familiar with. I am aware that teachers can’t know everything. Even after years and years of teaching, there will still be some shady areas in which they don’t manoeuvre well. The quality of a good teacher in that kind of situation is to admit the fact that they are not certain and notify to check out the answer to a question asked by a student. What happens to me in that kind of situation is that I start to panic and can’t hide my discomfort because I don’t know the answer.  For example, one of the students asked why the solution in a Use of English test with multiple answers is continually and not continuously and I blocked because I, myself didn’t know the underlying reason. I always try to give the explanation, but in some cases, like the one described, it is almost impossible to offer an adequate answer. I believe that as the time passes and I collect more experience, this kind of situations will become less stressful for me. 

   The second aspect I’m going to touch upon relates to skills one needs to have so as to be a good teacher. The crucial ones, in my opinion, seem to be communicative skills. Communication involves not only ability to use the language, but also to complement it by the appropriate body talk, mimics and gestures. The way I see it, the teacher resembles to a performer who according to their act either grasp the attention of the audience (i.e. students) or bore them to death. Another skill important within the teaching world is inventiveness. This embodies teacher’s ability to be creative and flexible. In situations, for example, when one activity evidently becomes tiring for the students, inventiveness of the teacher comes into play. They should quickly come up with an alternative activity which will prompt students’ interests. Last, but not least in this field is the skill of managing time in the classroom. Knowing how many activities fit into a class and what to do if everything is not done in time or, even worse, if there is extra time left is of crucial importance for every teacher. Personally, I struggle with time management a lot. Being a new teacher, I still don’t know how to calculate the time I have on my disposal. That’s why I always have some contingency activity ready if I have extra time left.

   The last aspect refers to personal skills which a good teacher should possess, or cultivate. I would single out emotional intelligence as the vital one. A teacher should know how to control their emotions and, more importantly, be able to recognize the emotions of their students and react decently to them. In previous paragraph I compared teacher to performer and here I would like to compare them to a psychologist who may sometimes treat their students delicately as their patients and respond to their actions properly. Another skill I would point out is confidence. There is a huge difference between a confident teacher who stands in front of their students firmly and the one who avoids the eye contact with the students nervously. The latter one will definitely leave worse impression. The last one is the sense of humor which always comes in handy in classroom. Students will simply react better to a teacher who’s willing to laugh and make fun in the classroom rather than just stand stiff with a straight face. 

To wrap it all up, I would say that great teachers are made, not born. One might be talented and possess some skills which would predetermine them for a teacher career. Without effort, experience and willingness to adapt, however, none of them would be great. 

Sources

 Taken from: https://prezi.com/9hn5zmd0t2_e/body-talk-as-nonverbal-communication/

 Taken from: https://www.careeraddict.com/teacher-skills

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