Top 25 Skills Needed to Be a Teacher

Learn which are the most important skills needed to succeed as a teacher, from key attributes and abilities to professional and practical skills.

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Teacher Professional Skills and Qualities

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Teachers have the ability to change lives and develop well-educated and respectable students; they can help with not only their knowledge growth but personal improvement, too. Teachers have an incredibly rewarding career and the long holidays are a huge plus, too!

Good educators are high in demand, but to be an effective teacher, you need to have a diverse set of professional skills to complete the package.

Without further ado, here is a list of the 25 top skills needed to be a successful primary or secondary school teacher.

1. Leadership

Teacher Leading class

A great teacher has the ability to lead and guide their classroom; they can manage a number of different personalities, including misbehaving children, and steer them in the right direction. With their leadership skills, they set a good example and are an important role model in their students’ lives.

2. Organization

Teachers have to juggle a number of tasks, from lesson planning to activities and marking. In order to succeed in their role, they are required to have exceptional organization skills. They need to be able to keep on top of these tasks and complete their duties in a timely manner.

3. Multitasking

Teaching is not only about following the curriculum and marking exam papers; it’s also about multitasking. A good teacher needs to have eyes in the back of their head and should be able to monitor their pupils’ behavior and keep their attention while completing their class. After the class, they will need to plan their following week, as well as create and mark tests and assignments.

4. Teamwork

Teacher showing teamwork skills

Part of being a teacher is the ability to work as part of a team, as well as alone. They’ll need to make their students feel like they are part of a team to enhance the learning experience. Furthermore, they must network with fellow teachers to solve problems and create plans regarding the overall teaching scheme.

5. Ability to teach

This is a given, but being a teacher is not just about the credentials you hold to educate others. It takes multiple skills, including instructive ability, your own style of teaching and being able to explain and demonstrate clearly, so that concepts that are not easy to understand are simplified using memorable examples or props.

6. Communication

Teachers must have remarkable communication abilities. They must be able to interact with people of all ages, including colleagues, pupils, parents, and managers. Educators should effectively deliver information, understand the different points of view from other people, and explain the rationale for the choices they make in regard to their teaching.

7. Adaptability

Adaptability skills in classroom

Being adaptable to unforeseen situations is one of the key soft skills for teachers. You never know what will happen in your classroom each day, and you will need to handle each circumstance appropriately and come up with quick solutions. For example, if one of your pupils is really sick or injures themselves, you’ll need to remain calm and come to the rescue.

8. Interpersonal skills

Strong people skills can turn an average teacher into a great one. An educator that is inclined towards helping others will create warm relationships that, in turn, boost learning. A pleasant teacher who has an engaging personality creates attentive and enthusiastic students. You will also be adept at handling students that may have learning difficulties or other disabilities that need special attention.

9. Self-evaluation

To develop professionally and provide quality education, you’ll constantly need to self-evaluate and reinvent yourself. You will have to push your pride aside and analyze where you have gone wrong and what can be improved within your classes.

10. Emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence portrayal of Teacher

If you’ve ever seen Matilda, think back to Miss Trunchbull and her erratic behavior which made the young students fear for their lives. That’s neither beneficial for the pupils nor for yourself! However angry or upset you get, you need to have the ability to control your emotions and maintain positive body language — otherwise, you too will turn into a complete wreck.

11. Critical thinking

Teachers need to solve a number of different problems, often on a tight deadline. This frequently involves answering difficult questions on the spot, solving conflicts, creating new lesson plans, teaching games, and dealing with other personal issues between pupils or colleagues.

12. Commitment

You can’t stroll into your classroom when you feel like it and take a personal day because you just can’t be bothered. If you want to be a good educator, you must be committed to your job and your classroom. You need to have the passion to teach and change your pupils’ lives for the better.

13. Computer skills

Teacher Using Computer Skills

In the Digital Age, computer literacy is one of the top skills needed to be a teacher. From preparing electronic presentations and spreadsheets to grappling with printing software and attendance systems, teachers should be comfortable with computer use. They should also be familiar with different ways of using computer technology and online tools for effective student assessment.

14. Creative thinking

While creativity can’t be taught, creative thinking can be developed. Trying to look at everyday things with new eyes can elevate your teaching experience. For example, a box of coloring pencils could be used to visually explain multiplication to your second graders by laying out rows of pencils and counting them.

15. Basic first aid knowledge

Some states require certain members of staff to know CPR and first aid. However, as day-to-day life can become unpredictable, we encourage teachers (and not only teachers!) to have at least an understanding of what they should or shouldn’t do in emergencies. Knowing how to act if someone injures a joint or has an asthma attack can prevent the condition from worsening.

16. Time management

Teacher Time Management Skills in Class

For students, 60-minute school periods can feel day long. But for teachers, it can be a struggle to fit everything into a single hour. Effective lesson planning will help you enter the classroom confidently and stay on track. Identify your main learning objectives and keep an eye on the clock, allocating a predetermined amount of time to each objective.

17. Conflict resolution

Ah — the dreaded classroom conflict scenario. Though every school teacher will be challenged by it, how they handle the situation can have a positive or negative effect on everyone in the room. Controlling your own emotions is vital, and so is acknowledging a student’s upset. To defuse, steer the conversation away from opinions and toward reason.

18. Cultural competence

According to the US Census Bureau, the States' diversity index has increased over the last decade. This means that the population is becoming more and more diverse. As a teacher, you will meet students from various backgrounds and, even if you’re not familiar with some cultures, making them feel seen is imperative. A safe environment can also teach kids acceptance and empathy.

19. Strong writing skills

Teacher With Strong Writing Skills

While no one expects teachers to have an aptitude for writing, being able to put concepts into words is important. When marking papers, creating presentations or preparing learning materials, use of good spelling and precise wording is desirable.

20. Prioritization

How can you prioritize on days when everything seems urgent? Start by dividing your objectives into two categories: urgent and important. Think carefully about this and start off the lesson with your top “urgent” topic. If interruptions occur (and they will!) write down your train of thought before dealing with anything else, so that you can pick up right where you left off.

21. Classroom management

Staying in charge in a room of over 20 kids can be difficult. Some will fret, some will giggle, and some will daydream. An effective teacher is consistent in their ways, from how they speak to how they enforce rules. Consistency is key in maintaining authority! Setting up a reward system is another example of good classroom management skills.

22. Virtual teaching

Virtual Teaching Skills

Some believe online teaching or tutoring to be the future of education. If you haven’t already, familiarizing yourself with video conferencing apps and education solutions may be a smart move. Working on enhancing your skills, including your time management and communication, will also prove beneficial in a virtual setting.

23. Classroom management software

Knowledge of classroom management software would be beneficial. Classroom management software allows teachers to receive digital assignment submissions, track students’ progress and activity, and communicate with parents. What better time to get acquainted with these platforms than the era of e-learning?

24. Negotiation

Negotiation is one of the most important teaching skills, as it helps establish expectations and minimize disputes in the classroom. Knowing how to negotiate will not only create a motivational setting for students, it will also help you maintain healthy relations with parents and coworkers, too.

25. Continuous learning

Lifelong Learning

By embracing lifelong learning, you not only provide consistently high-quality teaching to your students, you also set an example for them to approach life with curiosity. After all, sharing meaningful outlooks on life with younger generations is what makes teaching such a rewarding career path.

Final thoughts

Teaching comes quite naturally to some who are born leaders, yet others have to work hard to achieve “great teacher” status. Whichever category you fall into, if you want to help young students and make a lasting impression, these top teacher skills and qualities can place you at a great advantage.

If you are about to embark on your teaching career, be sure to check out some teacher résumé examples, too, as well as researching how to answer teacher interview questions.

Do you have any other teaching skills that aren’t mentioned above? If so, join in on the conversation below and share your thoughts.

Originally published on October 7, 2020. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.