By Ken, Teacher in Warsaw


Hello everyone, it’s good to see you all!

Before I started teaching, I did many, many painstaking and pressurised jobs and went through many other trials and tribulations before deciding on my current career path. In my years as a teacher I’ve seen many teachers come and go both in Tokyo and Warsaw where I currently reside. Many people struggle with the ordeals of being a teacher, so what type of person makes a good teacher? In this blog I’ll be giving my 2 cents on who would excel as a teacher. And you might be surprised to hear that it doesn’t include having a supreme command of your chosen language (although it does help!) but I will explain why I think this later. In my opinion, the most important thing when teaching is…..

Soft skills

For those of you unfamiliar with what this means, essentially these are your people skills. 

So why do I place such a high emphasis on soft skills? Essentially, as a teacher you’re in a customer-focused role. Although you don’t have a headset glued to your head whilst some completely uncompassionate Karen yells into your sunken soul (yes, I’ve been there, never again!) you are still responsible for making sure your students a.k.a customers are happy with your lessons. And if you’re really good with people and/or you have a lot of experience in dealing with people then I think you’ll make a really good teacher. Previously I worked in customer service/sales, and through those experiences I learnt to be really good with people and also developed my conversational skills too. Many teachers have a great grasp of grammar, but when it comes to the more human side of things they are somewhat lacking.


Whilst having a great command of the target language is important, I would honestly say it’s not as important as it is a hard skill It is something that you can teach yourself in your spare time. Heck, before teaching English I had no idea what past perfect tense was. Collocations? Phrasal verbs? Forget it! I was completely oblivious to all of the weird and wonderful nuances of English, so I learned them myself. With soft skills, they can’t be taught, but only learned through experience. Speaking of experience……


Livin’ the life

People who have many different experiences and many wonderful stories from different cultures and countries also make good teachers.

The knowledge that you gain from living elsewhere and experiencing different cultures is invaluable when teaching. Of course, the lessons aren’t about you but if you’re able to incorporate your cultural experiences into your lessons it can really make a lesson memorable and interesting. A good example of this is when I am teaching business English and I have to explain indirect and direct business cultures. Japanese culture is super indirect and I use this as an apt comparison between the alternating methodologies of doing business. As an opener, I could discuss something simple such as Japanese food. Everyone in Warsaw seems to love sushi so it really helps. If you are multicultural and have a diverse personality, flaunt it!


Laughter (and energy) is (arguably) the best medicine

Teacher hugging at the blackboard with her students We were taught in Japan that you should be “genki” when teaching kids. This means that you should be happy and energetic and with a smile on your face. You would be forgiven for thinking that this doesn’t apply to teaching adults but it does! Do you remember ever having a teacher who clearly hated his/her job and spoke in such a monotonously mediocre manner that you wanted to sleep? Don’t be that teacher! Enjoy what you teach and enjoy talking to your students. And tell jokes if you can. A great sense of humour goes a long way. If you’re naturally a lively person and can talk at great length and be interesting and informative then you might just make it as a teacher. Of course, talking about nonsense unrelated to the lesson at great length isn’t recommended but you get my gist!

One of the most common complaints from students is teachers with low energy and appearing unenthusiastic. You could know literally everything about vocabulary and grammar but if you can’t present it in an engaging way then you most likely won’t succeed as a teacher.

Talking the talk

Being able to speak clearly and concisely is extremely important when teaching. Many people would run a mile before speaking in front of groups and important people, so it is important that you’re at ease when speaking to others (more soft skills!). People who are used to giving presentations or leading meetings would make excellent teachers as they are used to being asked many questions, sometimes awkward. And guess what? You’ll most likely be asked a lot of questions by your students and you really have to think quickly in order to maintain the flow of a conversation. The most common question I get from my students is normally about words and how to use them, or how to rephrase it so they understand.

Final words

Being a teacher definitely isn’t easy but if you have most of the aforementioned qualities then I would definitely recommend thinking about teaching. It’s a very rewarding career choice and if you enjoy people and talking then it’s a great job. As we like to say, every day is a school day. Learning is a never ending process and as I mentioned, even if you don’t know the intricacies of a language you can always learn them yourself like I did.

If you’re interested in thinking about teaching, why not click here?