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What do You look for in an ESL Teacher?

November 03, 2005

It struck me recently that many employers set the recruitment ball rolling without having a clear idea of what they are looking for in a teacher.

Dear Managers,

I think two approaches are possible. One is the analytical approach, which I have touched on before. This requires us to identify specific competencies that we require in teachers . Armed with the list we can use a checklist for each candidate. Selection can be based on those who already demonstrate these competencies or those who are moving towards their acquisition.

But some employers might prefer a more intuitive approach based on their general reaction to the candidate. This might sound less rational but has its merits. After all, if the employer does not react well to a teacher, then how will students react? But how can you at least try to objectify this approach? I think the way forward is to think of the teacher as requiring three main attributes: an engaging personality; a set of skills that permit them to a organize a class well and a body of knowledge that they can use as a classroom resource.

The second two attributes can be checked by appropriate questioning and verification of background, training and references. The first, personality, could be the critical factor for deciding between two otherwise equal candidates. It may be less “scientific” to reject or accept a candidate on the basis of their personality but, as teaching is an interpersonal activity, it seems fair to me to assume that a teacher with appropriate personal qualities will create a better classroom atmosphere.
Do let me know what you think.

Yours truly,


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Tracked on November 12, 2005 08:32 PM


  1. Lee Says:

    Interesting post.

    As a "potential applicant" to an ESL teaching position, I'm interested in which "bodies" of knowledge that you, as an employer-advisor, would consider acceptable and which would be unnacceptable. For example, should that body of knowledge be focused primarily on former academic training (degrees, etc.) or from actual work in the field. I say this because these seem like two very distinct things, i.e. information acquired from Ivory Tower theory books and data collected fom experience. Since this factor is one of the "attributes" you recommend to employers, what can we teachers learn from this? Many thanks!

  1. PDean Says:

    Note from Patricia:


    By a "body of knowledge" I meant the subject knowledge that all teachers of English need to be credible. This may be acquired in many different ways but employers need assurance that their teachers have the requisite understanding of the language and its structure. As for the question of experience, most schools look for a mixed staff that includes wome very experienced people and some new entrants who can be given the support they need from the academic management team.

    My point really is that, if an entry-level teacher has the right language awareness and good personal qualities, then lack of experience should not prevent their selection.

  1. Lee Says:

    Thanks Patricia, that explanation clarifies things a bit. Great blog by the way. Keep up the good work!

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