level-2-classThere are certain personality traits or dispositions that help you be a successful teacher. I learned this when I was going through my Waldorf teacher training back in the United States. Then I was reminded of this while going through my TESOL course in Bangkok a few years ago, and I’m reminded again when I hear new teachers talk in the work room.

So here we go!

The biggest trait you need to establish and or develop is PRESENCE. This is not vanity, conceit or puffing your chest out, barking orders to the lowly students. This is standing in the front of the classroom and knowing you are the teacher. Of course, this sounds easy, it is not. And don’t think just because you have a sparkling personality that you’ve got the baht in the bag.

It can help, but teaching is hard work. The reason is, you have to be switched ON, you have to pay attention, be present and think on your tippy toes. Think about how draining giving a speech or presentation can be and you start to get a sense of what teaching is like. Teaching is giving and receiving.

The amount of energy you expend depends on the age and level of your students, and the experience of the teacher. But the number one reason why teachers quit is burnout. So I laugh when folks think teaching is easy, because teaching requires planning, clarity of thought and responsibility, and I’m sorry folks, I don’t think everyone carries these gems in their pockets.

Teaching grade school children trained me to watch my students so that I would notice the child fiddling with a toy under the desk or the one who looked rather ill. I started to get a sense of when they needed to get up and play a game or rest. The ability to pay attention and OBSERVE your students helps you be a better teacher because so much of communication is through body language. It also helps you to connect to them too.

When you are observing a teacher and her class, you’ll inevitably notice things she won’t. You want to get to the place where you are noticing the little things, like students using their cell phones or furious frantic copying of yesterday’s homework. As the authority you need to decide what is okay and what is not. This is part of the establishing PRESENCE.

Which leads me to another important trait, FLEXIBILITY. This is tied in with thinking on your tippy toes, or problem solving in the moment but teachers have to develop a sense of going with the flow. You could have planned the best lesson ever on imperatives but if only half your students show up because of a festival and you can’t adapt, then your best lesson just became your worst.

It’s actually quite humorous how many things can go β€œwrong” in the classroom. But this post isn’t meant to scare any newbies, it’s just teaching requires things that I don’t think are said very often, if at all. People seemed to be concerned with TESOL certificates and university degrees or even worse, age. But I think the astute school director will want teachers who are dedicated to the craft of teaching because the regurgitation of material is something a computer can do.

So until our machine overlords take over the world, we’ll have to remember to be in the present perfect moment, flexible and ever-watchful. Until next time, cheers!

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