Having a great teacher is a game-changer for learning. Here’s how you can spot one:
1️⃣ They learn with you:
An awesome teacher admits when they're not sure about something and finds the answer. They’re not a grammar reference book. The way to go is for them to say ‘Sorry, I’m not sure about this. Let me look into this and tell you about it during our next lesson’. If they explain it to you next time, you should realize that this teacher cares about both her/his and your knowledge.
2️⃣ They mix things up:
Good teachers use different ways to teach. If one method doesn't work for you, they switch gears to find what clicks. It’s like having a toolbox full of teaching methods.
At the same time, it’s not about innovation at every step. Meaningful progress is doing same simple things consistently over time. So there’s a sweet spot!
3️⃣ They personalize lessons:
Any English book is made for an “average” learner, but an average learner is a mythical creature that no one has ever seen. Like Bigfoot. 👣
Everyone is different. You struggle with one thing, while other English learners struggle with other things. Some stuff in your book will seem easy-peasy to you, while other materials will be frustratingly confusing.
Good teachers get that everyone learns differently. So they don’t stick just to the standard stuff. They bring in extra materials to explain tricky things and change plans when needed.
4️⃣ They let you do the talking:
I’ve seen a lot of teachers prefer to play a role of entertainers 90% of the time. They keep talking and talking, and talking. But a teacher is not a clown or a performer.
Their role is guiding you, giving you some topics and ideas to discuss along with a bunch of examples. So they create an environment where you are encouraged and have a reason to speak. What they should not do is all the talking instead of you. Some talking is, of course, expected. A lesson is a two-way street. But there’s a sweet spot.
5️⃣ They explain the ‘why':
They don’t just say, "Learn this." They explain why it's important.
Your teacher can’t pass all their knowledge to you, and neither do they need to. At the same time, you should have an idea why you’re investing your time and effort into doing things. Especially things you might think you don’t need.
For example, a lot of my students start off thinking they need no grammar at all. In most cases, they do need grammar. They think that they just need speaking practice. They do, but that’s usually just one piece of the bigger puzzle.
I try to show them the gaps in their knowledge; to fix these gaps they need grammar. Then, they need to practice their speaking with that new grammar in mind for more meaningful and useful practice. Explaining to my students why we do what we do brings them more satisfaction from the process, which makes it easier to stick to English longer-term.
6️⃣ Lessons aren’t boring:
Lessons should be challenging but fun, not snooze-fests. You should feel accomplished and excited for the next one, like after a good workout.
7️⃣ They give you helpful feedback:
They don’t nitpick every mistake but help you know where to improve without killing your confidence.
Generally, you need to be aware of
1) some general areas you need to work on,
2) some common mistakes you make, and
3) if you’re making mistakes in the new language you’re learning.
8️⃣ They’re passionate about teaching:
A great teacher loves what they do. The reason it’s important is that it defines how dedicated they are to your success.
For example, I usually spend anywhere between 30 minutes-3 hours to prepare for one lesson. Sometimes I feel so inspired that I can spend the entire weekend preparing in hopes that the material/game, etc., I’m working on will be both helpful and fun for my student. If I care, I’ll feel good only if you improve. I want to feel good! That simply means I’ll do my best to prepare great lessons for you.⠀
9️⃣ Your teacher sets achievable goals:
It’s profitable to claim that you’ll learn English in a month, but it’s not realistic! We’re always looking for shortcuts, magic tips, and quick solutions, and marketing can promote various gimmicks that can seem attractive.
If you want to really learn, however, it requires time, dedication, patience, and motivation. There’s no way around it. Nobody wants to hear that it will probably take you years to get to the level you want, but it’s your teacher’s responsibility to explain this to you.
If your teacher promises that you’ll be fluent in a month and you’re, say, pre-intermediate at the moment, it’s a red flag. It’s simply not possible. It’s false advertising. Know it and embrace it.
The reason it’s crucial to realize this is because of the effect it can have on you. Some people think “well, I didn’t do it in a month as my teacher promised, so I’m bad at languages.” No! You didn’t do it in a month because there’re very few people in the world who can really do it in a month.
Realistic goals are key. If you don’t, you won’t get what you expected, you’ll get demotivated, and you’ll likely give up on the whole idea of learning English.
Hope you can find the right person for the job that ticks all the boxes! Feel free to reach out if you’d like to improve more efficiently with my help.
Tina is a professional English Teacher with a Cambridge education and 10+ years of teaching English to adults in-person and online.
She wants you and English learners like you to develop a solid understanding of what you need to do to start speaking better English faster (and not fall for English-in-a-month scams).