Let us have a look a what makes a great teacher

“What makes a great teacher?” is a general article about the high-level skills a great teacher should have. It is a management summary of essential teaching skills.

This article concentrates on career teachers but it can also serve as a reference point for anyone who teaches, trains or mentors in the private sector. Any extra ideas and constructive comments are more than welcome.

Before continuing, let us look at how dictionaries define teachers.

Merriam Webster

A person or thing that teaches something; especially: a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects.


A person who teaches, especially in a school.

Could these definitions be vaguer?

I also checked their definitions for “teach” and they are equally as vague. Part of the definition in one dictionary even stated that to teach was “to cause or help” learning. To cause? This sounds a little sinister.

I could not find any definition that used the word communicate. Communication is one of the foundations of teaching.

The bottom-line on teaching is a desire to help others improve. This desire must be as automatic as the part of your brain that makes your heart beat and your lungs breathe. If the desire to help others improve moves to the part of your brain that you control, the desire dilutes because you control it.

You must want to help others if you want to be a great teacher.

When you know that your desire to help others is as natural as breathing, the higher-level requirements come into play.

These requirements will fall naturally into place and they are:

  • Subject knowledge
  • Insight
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Personal discipline
  • Relationship building

A teacher cannot be a great teacher without these skills.

Subject knowledge

There is little to elaborate on here. A great teacher knows his or her subject area and constantly seeks to improve on his or her knowledge base. Hopefully, the subject knowledge was taught by another great teacher who inspired you to want to learn even more. If your teacher inspired you, you had a great teacher.


The ability to analyse all aspects of each student. Without insight, a teacher cannot assess where students are, where they need to get to and how they will get there. The teacher also needs to assess the skill levels and abilities of every student. There is a Spanish saying “cada uno es un mundo”. “Everyone is a world” is the literal translation. We would say, “We are all different” but the Spanish saying is much more profound. The teacher must see each student as a separate world and try to address his or her needs accordingly. This assessment must be continuous because education is change. Insight applies to all ages. All self-aware humans have needs. Tests do not provide insight. They show what a student can or cannot do. They do not show why a student cannot do something or what the missing knowledge pieces are.


This is at the very heart of teaching. All great teachers are also great communicators. We are talking about communication at all levels: presenting material, giving instructions, interacting with students and peers, controlling the classroom and, where applicable, communicating with parents and guardians.


In crude terms, teaching is a process. If you know where your students are, where they want to be and what they need to learn in order to get there, you had better be organised. Many teachers fall back on a syllabus and blindly follow it through without considering their students. It becomes a mechanical exercise. This type of teacher is the worst there is. Without a doubt, a syllabus is important, but it is no more than a guide for getting from A to B. A great teacher will take a syllabus and make it come to life by organising it around student skills and needs. Every class must be well prepared. All individual work, group work, exercises, tests and assignments must be coherent with what has been learned so far. Organisation is extremely important for young learners because they have a short attention span.

Personal discipline

As a great teacher, you must lead by example. To lead by example, you must have strong personal discipline. The image you project must be credible. Dress well, do not arrive late or with a hangover, control your emotions and above all, be consistent. Students will follow a teacher they respect. If they perceive a lack of personal discipline manifested in a lack of self-respect, they will not respect the teacher. A great teacher commands a classroom. Commanding a classroom is not in a military or dictatorial exercise, it is similar to the way a team coach commands his or her players. If you have your students respect, you will have very few classroom problems.

Relationship building

This is the key to becoming a great teacher. Teachers have to build relationships at four levels: with their students, peers, superiors and parents or guardians. The most important relationship is at student level. A great teacher has a bilateral relationship with every student in the class. A great teacher will know students’ strengths and weaknesses, attitudes, abilities and peer influence. Building relationships has nothing to do with making friends. It has everything to do with open channels of communication. Too many students feel that teachers are only there to tell them what to do. Telling students what to do is certainly part of teaching, but personal communication is equally important. It may feel strange trying to establish a working relationship with young learners but it is just as important as it is with older learners.


Sadly, great teachers are not that common. Too many teachers only see teaching as a job. Some teachers do indeed fit the George Bernard Shaw quote; they were not good enough to do something so they decide to teach it. Begs a big question does it not!

EBC believes that great teachers are born with respect to the primordial desire to help others improve. From our experience in training teachers, we know that the six skill bullet points in the article can be learned.

Teaching is one of the most demanding and rewarding jobs there is. The skills a teacher has are priceless.

  • Subject knowledge
  • Insight
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Personal discipline
  • Relationship building

Aside from making you a great teacher, imagine what they will do for your CV or resume.

Want to learn how to teach English from the experts?

Contact EBC for more information about our accredited English teacher training courses and job placement program.

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Highly Recommended! Everyone is helpful and the course itself was very helpful, especially for people who have no teaching background and would like to change careers.
Cheyenne Albon
08:00 10 Oct 18
I had a good time doing my TEFL here in Madrid with EBC. The classes always started on time with a very realistic approach used to teach. I would recommend people to do TEFL from EBC to learn good ways to teach English and make it fun for students.
gaurav swamy
12:52 05 Oct 18
i learned a lot of strategies in teaching.I took the intensive 1 month course and it was really hard work but it was well worth it. Thanks a lot to our amazing teacher. I was so happy to receive my Certificate.Thanks alot EBC for everything.
lhiz Velasco Cabales
08:27 05 Sep 18
EBC is a wonderful academy. I attended an intensive course to gain my TEFL/TESOL qualification. The teaching was in-depth, covering skills, general and business English, as well as how to teach children and adults. All of this was imparted by our professional guide, John. Thank you to all the staff who went out of their way to be encouraging and helpful. It has been a memorable experience!
Michelle Fernández
18:00 02 Sep 18
Great course with an awesome staff. All aspects of teaching, grammar, finding work and even living in Spain are covered in great detail. Would recommend highly to anyone looking to do their TEFL.
Joe Kemp
12:53 31 Aug 18
Excellent and very comprehensive programme. Our instructor taught us everything we need to know about teaching English. The practice teaching sessions we did are great experience for the real world and I now feel confident that I can teach professionally. Thank you John for your commitment and dedication.
Susi Santorelli
12:03 31 Aug 18
Totally recommend EBC. A thorough course, well worth the money and with highly qualified instructors. I had never taught before taking this course, but the 8 hours teaching practice makes you feel so prepared. They answered every single one of my questions and made me feel confident to make this investment. Don't hesitate taking this course!
Kathryn Royal
11:59 31 Aug 18
Great course! You'll work very hard (it's very intensive) but definitely worth it. I totally recommend it.
Sol Montaser
09:00 27 Jul 18
The class was very good. The instructor John is friendly and very thorough with his classes. William, in the front office, is a joy and is very helpful with all of my course needs. Tita, is very nice and was helpful in explaining different options for working and staying in Madrid.
Jaime Tully
08:59 27 Jul 18
John is a good teacher and he puts efforts inorder to understand your requirements. He teaches you in the right ways, like how to present the language in a simple way, how to keep the motivation on, etc.It´s a intensive course but it´s really worth !!Willam is a good administrator. Thanks for all the help and support. 🙂
Tanya Bhagat
11:41 18 May 18
The course is very intensive but IT IS REALY WORTH! If you are looking for a course that teaches you how to become an English teacher, well this is the best one. You really get the better skills for teaching English at all levels with a clear knowledge about what you are doing. The staff of the course is really nice and helpful. He is a really nice person who helps you whatever you need.Teachers here at really good and they really know how to train you as a English teacher very well.
Dro !
11:24 18 May 18
I am very pleased with my experience at EBC Madrid. Professor John was an amazing mentor that really prepared my classmates and I to teach English. I feel confident going into the job market and finding a teaching job.
Elizabeth Wohlford
15:28 08 Mar 18
EBC Madrid had equipped me with the necessary knowledge and skills I need to be better in teaching. William is so nice and is very accommodating to us students. And, John is the best teacher who can simplify and make the students understand even the most complicated grammatical concept. Kudos!
Anne Marnelli
14:42 08 Mar 18
The course is very intensive but it helps a lot to bring out the best in me. John is an amazing teacher and he is very professional. I'm very thankful for all the guidance and help that I received from EBC. I highly recommend it.
Roxanne A.
14:42 08 Mar 18
The course is really useful. It makes you equipped with the right knowledge, training and attitude. Things you need to have that confidence to go out and face the world as an English teacher. Highly recommended!
Pedi Dela Cruz
14:25 08 Mar 18
This is a great place to get your TEFL certification. The staff is kind, organized and very helpful. It was such a comfortable learning environment that I enjoyed very much. I liked the personalized attention and I got a lot more confidence and experience to be an English teacher. Thanks for everything!
Victoria Metz
10:35 02 Feb 18
I found the instruction throughout the course to be very effective and I finished the course feeling excited and prepared to begin teaching. There is nothing fancy about the EBC facility, however this doesn't in any way reduce the overall quality of the course. John, the instructor, has extensive experience (both as an TEFL teacher and a TEFL course trainer), which is evident in the thoughtful organization of the course. My class had only five students, which created lots of time for personal attention and advice. Make sure you come prepared to work hard!
Adam Schreiber
12:06 14 Dec 17
It was a great and intensive course! I learned and enjoyed this whole learning how to teach experience. Thank you very much for your time and knowledge. I feel well-prepared now. EBC Madrid, 2017.
Michele Buitron
11:57 14 Dec 17
I've just finished my EBC TEFL course. It was a great experience. I definitely recommend this course. John is an amazing teacher and he is very professional. It was just a pleasure. Thank you so much and good luck!
Natalia Egorova
15:04 10 Nov 17
The course has been really useful and the teacher, John, made the classes so much fun and very interesting. It is has been a great experience and has helped me realise how much I really enjoy teaching. It has also been a bit intense at times but I would recommend this course to anyone who would like to become an English teacher.
Natasha Jimenez
20:17 05 Oct 17
Class of August 2017.It's been a busy stressful 4 weeks but I am happy the group and I have all made it and we have TEFL certificates to show for all our hard-work and sleepless nights. Much thanks to our trainer John for his patience and ability to find solutions and guidance to help you find your way and energy throughout the course. EBC international is the best place to learn and share your knowledge of teaching. And for people like me who has no idea how to teach things like grammar and also to learn the grammar...this is the place to be!
Ashley Kabanda
11:14 31 Aug 17

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