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6 Main Characteristics a Great Teacher Should Possess

It's not enough just to know your taught subject perfectly to teach someone. A great teacher should have some characteristics to help students succeed.

Wayne Robert Kelso
Wayne Robert Kelso
Book lesson

Listening Ability

Teaching is very much a 2-way system. Teachers must learn from their students as much as their students learn from them. Effective listening ensures that the teachers know what a student’s potential weaknesses are, how to improve on these weaknesses, what the most effective teaching method to use is, and what kind of learner they may be. A good teacher should always be prepared to listen to their students and apply what has been said to their teaching methods.


If a teacher is not emotionally invested in what they are teaching, in all probability, the students won't be either. Displaying enthusiasm when teaching will improve the level of student engagement, as they will see that learning a new language does not have to be boring or laborious but can be a very enjoyable experience.


Some students will learn slower than others, and a good teacher will need to have the patience to deal with this situation. You should never force someone to learn at a pace that they are not comfortable with, as this will only increase the student’s apprehension. Take your time and guide the student through the material. As their ability improves, so too will the pace at which they can continue to learn.

A Sense of Humour

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my years as a teacher, it’s that getting the students laughing is the best way to keep their attention. One of my favourite lecturers at University had a great wit, dropping in jokes every now and then, and it really helped, particularly when we were learning difficult material or attempting onerous tasks. It made me feel more at ease, and not only did I find the work easier, I found myself enjoying their classes more and looking forward to them more than others. Making people laugh is a guaranteed way to get them invested in what you are talking about.


It can be hard to determine exactly how long a student will take to finish their assigned tasks, so a good teacher should be prepared for an eventuality such as the student finishing early. An organised teacher will have extra activities on standby just in case this happens. During my online classes, I always have questions written down that I can ask the student if we still have time left at the end. Students taught by a well-prepared, forward-thinking teacher will strive to do the same. If they see a teacher who is not always punctual and prepared, they will believe it is OK to do likewise.

Knowing The Subject

It is essential to have a solid understanding of the material you are teaching, as it will make it much easier for you to communicate this knowledge in a clear and concise manner. It will also mean that you’re able to answer questions in a confident manner. An inability to answer students’ questions on the material will compromise the quality of your teaching and will lead the students to believe that you don’t know what you are talking about. You have to be prepared to reiterate what you’ve taught the students and be able to explain it thoroughly until they understand it.

Language Teaching

Wayne Robert Kelso

I’m an experienced TEFL/ESL teacher living in Scotland, who has been teaching English as a foreign language since 2014. I love to hike, read, write, listen to music and watch movies.

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Milena Lazova

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