Tag Archives: Teacher

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What makes a good teacher?

During my time as a teacher there have been many highs and lows and from that experience comes some clarity about what makes a good teacher.

Most of the attributes and skills are self-explanatory so I wont add unnecessary detail.



Sense of humour



Enthusiasm (positivity)

Planning; a good teacher plans for each class to make effective learning.


Knowledge of subject

Understanding the needs of the students (may relate more to ESL teaching) personalising the lessons.


Some things that I haven’t mentioned in the list but that are still worth expressing:

A teachers integrity both in and outside of the classroom and their obedience to the ethics of teaching; such as the boundary of the teacher/student relationship. It may sound obvious but we see time and again this trust and respect break down both in the media relating to state schools and what seems to happen everyday in the ESL teaching world.

Having attained a PhD, masters degree or bachelors degree does not automatically mean you will be a good teacher, knowledge of your subject is of course very important but without interpersonal skills you’re going nowhere.

Much of this could simple be summed up in one word; professionalism.


I wont say how many of these attributes I have but I will say I have worked with teachers who have none of these attributes yet continue to this day to teach.

How many do you have?

Why does ESL attract so many weirdos?

Through the public and private sectors it seems teaching English as a second language (ESL) attracts three main types of people, the dedicated, the travellers and the weirdos.

While it is possible that I have been unfortunate to have encountered so many of the latter I feel it is representative of the industry through my experience sharing sessions with other ESL teachers.

Without naming names, countries or schools here is a sample of some of the teachers I have met or worked alongside:

S*****: This woman claimed to have a masters degree in politics (a personal interest of mine) after a casual chat she couldn’t understand and/or define first year bachelors vocabulary. On another occasion she asked how you hail a cab and seemed genuinely baffled that you held your arm out and simple waved one down. Worth a mention, didn’t understand any British-American English equivalents such as biscuits and cookies, pants and trousers etc. Also, she claimed to have worked in Germany for several years but didn’t know what a currywurst was!

J*****: I was lucky to have only met this man and not work with him, in one of our brief meetings he couldn’t retain concentration on a very short conversation that he initiated. He also seemed fascinated with a bag he noticed on the floor in the language school, it’s difficult to explain but it was similar to how a someone with the IQ of a child might behave.

P****: A man in his sixties trying to marry a girl in her early twenties, not sure that constitutes being a weirdo but it’s in.

H****: Less of a weirdo and more of just a rather unpleasant woman, exhibiting all the classic signs of burnout, everybody is to blame except her.

O****: Not a native English speaker and not really a weirdo either but a malicious person who seems to take it upon himself to find out what other students think of their teacher in front of that teacher but using the local language to do so. Making out that students don’t understand their teacher then goes round telling their colleagues this one-by-one (presumably to discredit that teacher). Despite this, he is your ‘best-friend’ to your face.

You may think I am being overly harsh on these people but I must remind you that this in no way really shows you with clarity how border-line retarded some of these people are and how their response time to questions puts them on a par with goldfish!

This so far hasn’t answered the question about why teaching ESL attracts so many weirdos.

There could be many factors for this but in my opinion the following are the main contributors:

Low (or non-existent) prerequisites to becoming an ESL teacher.

Demand for teachers is greater than the supply.

Sex, poorer countries, easier to find a play-mate.

6 Months in: TESOL in China

The thought of teaching can be pretty daunting for anyone, let alone teaching in a developing foreign country. Prior to coming to China to teach I had never taught before or for that matter stood in front of people to give a speech/presentation etc.

Teacher training in Guanxi province to obtain the TESOL certificate included a few seminars/workshops and to teach a class of 15 Chinese students while being assessed by the training/employer company.

This doesn’t sound too bad but as it was the first time to do anything of this nature and that it was being assessed and watched by all the other teachers in training it was damn nerve racking! My class which I had to plan myself was on holidays, where people go, where they stay, what they see and what hotel/hostel problems they may face, despite the nerves it went well and the assessment went well.

Watching the other teachers go through the same experience you could clearly see who was set to be a great teacher and who wouldn’t last 5 minutes before heading off back to their home country (and there were a few).

The teachers, including myself set up a mailing list and agree to keep in touch before we go our separate ways being sent to different schools all over the country.

The senior middle school we (my girlfriend and I) arrived at was in a small city in Shaanxi province, I would be teaching about 2200 16 year old students (grade 2) split over 30 classes. Class 1 has 30 students and the rest average at about 75 students per class. I teach 15, 45 minute classes per week.

The apartment is by western standards poor, the heating system at best can be described as antiquated, no double glazing (in winter the kitchen gets thick chunks of ice on the inside of the windows) you can see yourself breathe! Another drawback is the lack of hot water, only the electric shower has hot water. On the plus side the apartment is a good size, two large double bedrooms, a computer room, a lounge, kitchen and bathroom (with western style toilet). I have been provided with new appliances such as fridge, freezer, computer, rice steamer etc.

Some of the staff (mainly from the English department) met with us and took us out for dinner and we had a nice ice-breaking chat, they were and remain to be very helpful and friendly people.

The first day of work was again a nervous one but the rapturous welcome as I walked through the door of the classroom was very warming, exciting and calming. The students though numerous were not intimidating at all and I settled into the role of teacher much easier that I had expected.

Through the mailing list with the other westerners who I trained with I learned that some were having difficulties adjusting to their new careers as teachers, some had problems with the job, some had problems with the living standards of their new homes (accommodation and cities). Indeed some had returned to their homeland. One thing that struck me was that though there was a mixed bunch of native English speakers, Australians, New Zealanders, British, Americans, Canadians and South Africans the only nationality that has yet to either go home by their own accord or having been sent home (sacked) by the company is British. This is maybe one of two reasons, either it’s British grit or we are just used to a poor standard of living!

Some of the students regularly visit us at our apartment to practice their English and to be friends with us, 99% of the students at the school are lovely, friendly, curious and helpful, the staff are still excellent. We have met some other westerners in this small city, mostly Americans and one Brit, we often go out with them and Chinese friends for dinner. Despite the dust and smoke constantly in the air this place has a lot going for it, primarily the wonderful Chinese people.

During the half term we were invited to participate as judges in an English competition by the head teacher of another language school (owned by our employer) for 7 to 15 years of age, it lasted a couple of hours and involved 50 students. The organisers took us out to dinner afterwards and gave us a cooked Beijing duck each packaged up in a fancy box which was a bit strange but really nice of them.

We look forward to the next 6 months.