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The Importance of Finding a Good Teacher... and How to Find One!

Posted on 27 May, 2017 at 16:55

Suitable for CEFR upper-intermediate (C1) +

With all the free content available to learn English online you might wonder whether you really need to make the effort of finding a teacher at all. If you log into YouTube, for example, there are literally hundreds of videos posted by teachers and others learning English, covering everything from correct use of prepositions to how to improve your IELTS score. Online language sharing platforms like italki and conversation exchange also mean it is now easier to practise your language skills and help others by connecting on Skype.

Whilst these are all great methods to improve or maintain your language knowledge and conversation skills, it’s easy to underestimate the value of finding a good English teacher to take your language learning to the next level. In today’s global society and with the spread of English as a linguafranca around the world, quality of communications and English language skills can make all the difference between success and failure, whether that be in academic study or in a professional context. In this digital age of economic instability, it has perhaps never been so important to stay ahead of your competitors, and finding the right English teacher can help you achieve just that.

So what exactly is a good English teacher and how do I find one?

Good teachers are highly qualified

Professional English teachers are experts in their field and have studied for a number of years to achieve the linguistic knowledge and understanding that will help you take your communications in English from mediocre to first-rate. A teacher with good subject knowledge will be able to challenge and stretch the most able students and make lessons more interesting because they have more knowledge and content to be interesting about.

With this in mind, look for a teacher that has the highest qualifications, such as a masters in Education (M Ed, MA Ed) or degree in Applied Linguistics with a specialist teaching certificate such as the Cambridge CELTA or Trinity TESOL. Both of these qualifications give you assurance that your teacher has at least 100 hours of observed, high-quality teaching practice; whilst a degree in the field of linguistics ensures that the teacher will have sufficient knowledge to answer any questions.

Be aware that many unscrupulous online English teaching organisations employ unqualified native speakers under the incorrect assumption that a native speaker has sufficient knowledge and skills to teach English language content effectively. The simple answer is that they often do not, and you may end up taking many more lessons than you really need, or make very little progress. To make matters worse, the lesson content may be poor quality or riddled with mistakes.

If you see English lessons being offered at a very low price, be sure to ask the provider what qualifications their teachers have before parting with your well-earned money. A good English teacher will not undervalue their services, and although the hourly rate may be higher, you will save money in the long-term by having fewer lessons.

Good teachers have a fun-loving personality

Personality is probably the most often cited quality of a good teacher identified by language learners. Language structures, skills and grammar can be very dry and uninspiring when read alone from a course book. But in the hands of a highly skilled teacher, this material can come alive and be made relevant to contexts that are most important to you.

Great teachers are creative, and will use a variety of methods and resources to keep their lessons fun and interesting. They’re adaptable, approachable, and they’ll also do their best to create a welcoming and safe learning environment where your individual contributions are respected.

Building strong relationships with learners enables the teacher to create a sense of community that you’ll want to be a part of, and where you can feel supported to achieve. Look for a teacher that makes you smile, respects your values and skills as a learner, and who will offer individual support to achieve your specific learning objectives.

Good teachers are organised and prepared for their lessons

Effective teaching involves meticulous planning. Choose a teacher that puts time into selecting the most appropriate resources for you, and who puts effort into preparing their lessons thoroughly.

Unless you have specifically asked for a more naturalistic conversation lesson, a great teacher will explain learning objectives at the beginning of the lesson, teach you how to use the language in a structured way step-by-step, and check that you have achieved these objectives at the end of the lesson.

Good teachers never stop learning

It may seem obvious, but the best teachers have a passion for learning, are students themselves, and truly understand what it’s like to study. The passionate teacher will be better equipped to help you overcome any challenges or obstacles that may present themselves during your learning journey.

Great teachers actively seek collaboration with other teaching professionals and do not assume that there is only one way to answer a question, or that their way of answering it is the best way. Although professional teachers are experts in their field, only the best teachers understand that there is always room for improvement, keep up-to-date with the latest research, methodology and practice, and ask for regular feedback to continue to improve the learning experience for you, the learner.

Good teachers inspire self-development and have high expectations of their students

Do you remember having a favourite teacher in school that inspired you to achieve more, showed you that you could do something even when you were sure you couldn’t, or whose lessons you looked forward to every week? Chances are that you achieved better grades in those subjects too.

Excellent teachers know that it is a combination of student effort and teaching quality that delivers learning outcomes – not individual ability, and for that reason they will have consistently high expectations of their learners. Through a process of regular assessment, feedback and creative mentoring, teachers with the highest expectations are determined that all learners will master their subject, and know that even less able learners can achieve subject mastery with the right attitude to learning.

Find a teacher that challenges and inspires you to become the master of your own success.

Categories: An English Learner's Guide, Upper intermediate (C1) +, English Language Teaching

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