Learn which are the most important skills needed to succeed as a teacher, from key attributes and abilities to essential professional and practical skills.
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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. It’s an incredibly rewarding career path 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 top 25 skills needed to be a successful primary or secondary school teacher.
A great teacher is enthusiastic about their job and lesson, and encourages students to share the same passion as they do. Think back to your favourite teacher at school – was this person always upbeat and entertaining? The answer is probably ‘yes’. So, you need to adopt a similar attitude and share that same excitement for your class!
An effective 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. They lead by example and are an important role model in their students’ lives.
Need help here? Improve your leadership skills with expert advice from media icon and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour over at MasterClass.
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 organisation skills. They need to be able to keep on top of these tasks and complete their duties in a timely manner.
A good teacher sets a respectful tone in the classroom. Students feel safe to share their values and opinions, and their classmates have learnt to be good listeners and respect others’ thoughts. Essentially, the educator creates a safe learning environment for their pupils.
Teaching is not only about following the curriculum and marking exam papers; it’s also about multitasking. A good teacher needs to have eyes on the back of her head and should be able to monitor her pupils’ behaviour 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.
See also: How to Become a Teacher
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.
7. Ability to teach
This is a given, but being a teacher is not just about the credentials you hold to educate others. You’ll need to have instructive skills, your own style of teaching and the ability to explain and demonstrate clearly so that concepts that are not easy to understand are simplified using memorable examples or props.
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.
Need help here? Enrol in the Effective Communications course by the University of Colorado Boulder over at Coursera.
Being adaptable to unforeseen situations is key; you never know what will happen in your classroom each day, and you will need to handle each circumstance appropriately and come 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.
10. 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.
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Teachers need creativity to keep students interested and engaged, especially children that are in primary school. You’ll need to find different ways to keep the class interested and attention levels high – this could be through roleplay or other fun learning activities.
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 analyse where you have gone wrong and what can be improved within your classes.
Patience is key when working with children and teenagers; they won’t all be well-behaved, and you’ll need to be understanding when kids start to act out. You will also need to be patient if a pupil doesn’t comprehend what you are saying – you must discover alternative ways to explain things.
14. Emotional intelligence
If you’ve ever seen Matilda, think back to Miss Trunchbull and her erratic behaviour 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 not let them get the better of you – otherwise, you too will turn into a complete wreck.
Need help here? Enrol in the Emotional & Social Intelligence course by the University of California over at Coursera.
If you are empathetic towards your students, they too will learn to handle their emotions and be compassionate towards each other. Elyse Rycroft, a primary school teacher and the woman behind Proud to be Primary, advises that building ‘healthy social-emotional skills in your students will benefit your class, as well as future classrooms. Classes cannot function well if classroom community standards aren’t discussed and encouraged’.
16. 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.
Need help here? Enrol in an online course such as the Introduction to Logic & Critical Thinking by Duke University over at Coursera.
You can’t be a teacher if you don’t have the confidence to stand at the front of the classroom and talk to your students. You have to be a strong character that can answer questions positively and instil the same self-assurance within your classroom.
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.
19. Sense of humour
This isn’t strictly a skill; you either have a sense of humour, or you don’t – but having one is super useful if you want to engage with your students. You should be able to have a laugh with them and make the lesson as fun as possible – and students that are happy tend to be more open to learning!
Being approachable is a vital quality to have. Your students need to feel comfortable to ask you questions and to talk to you if they have an issue. They shouldn’t be afraid of failure or saying the wrong thing. Great teachers have warming characters that invite children to open up and get involved in the lesson.
See also: Common Interview Questions for Teachers
21. Imaginative thinking
Having a great imagination is essential for any teacher – you’re going to need to expand the curriculum and come up with inventive and interesting ways to teach your students (especially if they are under the age of 10). Although catchy songs are great, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a great singing voice, you could create learning games instead.
22. Time management
Being a teacher requires excellent time management skills. You don’t only have to arrive at work before your students do, but you also need to allocate time after class to review and grade homework and plan your lessons. That said, you’ll also need to schedule in personal time where you can relax and do something for yourself.
23. Computer skills
Besides all of the above skills, you’ll need to be technologically advanced too! You’ll probably use spreadsheets to plan work and other tasks. And now, with a lot of teaching having gone online; you’ll need to be able to host an online class and keep everyone’s attention.
Need help here? Enrol in the online Introduction to Computers course by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology over at Coursera.
You can’t be too soft when it comes to manning a classroom. You must be stern when needed and discipline a student that is misbehaving. Whether it’s giving them detention or additional homework, you will have to wear your ‘serious’ trousers every once in a while.
Since you will be working on your feet for most of the day, it’s important to have physical and mental stamina. You need to be physically strong to endure a long day, and mentally strong to handle whatever your day will throw at you!
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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 skills and qualities can place you at a great advantage.
Join the discussion! Do you have any other teaching skills that aren’t mentioned above? If so, join in on the conversation below and share your thoughts.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 5 February 2018.