What Does It Take to Be a Perfect TEFL Teacher?


Think about the best teacher you’ve ever had. Doesn’t matter if it was a language teacher or not. Picture them, remember one of their classes.

Now… why did you pick them? What did they do that earned them the prestigious ‘Your Best Teacher Award’?

I’m betting that it’s because that for their chosen subject, they had the right balance of knowledge, hard skills and soft skills.


Three Areas of Excellence

  1. Knowledge – having a deep, rich understanding of your subject.

  2. Hard skills – the skills that enable you to ‘run’ a classroom efficiently.

  3. Soft skills – the skills that enable you to connect to, motivate and make a difference for your students.

There are many ways you can break down a TEFL teacher’s skill set. I’ve found that taking this broad view of three areas has helped them, and me, to hone in on what to develop next.

Plus it always seems that we teachers are generally weaker in one of these areas. I don’t know why, maybe it’s a personality thing :-)

Analysing the Three Areas

OK, here’s what I’m talking about – a gratuitous Venn diagram of the perfect TEFL teacher for clarification.

Here's a table breaking down each area:

A balance of all three areas is essential to becoming the best teacher you can be. Teachers who are lacking in an area can still be good teachers, but never great teachers.

A – The Robot Teacher efficiently controls the classroom with military precision, but lacks human warmth, or the ability to build rapport or motivate students. Students are bored and listless.

B – The Hippy Teacher genuinely cares about his students, but gives them so much choice and free reign that they’re never really sure what they’re supposed to be doing. They enjoy the classes, but nothing much is learned.

C – The Potential TEFL Teacher has most likely taught before, they can guide the class and build connections, but tie themselves in knots when explaining simple grammar or vocabulary.

D – The Perfect TEFL Teacher isn’t actually perfect (ha!) but they’re striving towards it. They work hard to improve any area they feel is lacking. Students are engaged in class and motivated outside of it.

Soft Skills

A quick word about soft skills. It’s the one area that’s the hardest to train, because the skills involved are more closely linked  person’s personality than the other two areas. I’m going to save this topic for later, as books can (and have) been written about it.


To be the best teacher you can be, you need to have a balanced set of skills.

Which area is next on your list to develop?