What are the qualifications to teach English? None really. Any native English speaker can land a job somewhere in the world teaching English. One just has to meet the minimal requirement, which is to speak English. If you want to get a proper visa in a foreign country, then you will need a four-year degree and a TESOL or TEFL certificate

But what does it take to be a good English teacher? What does it require to be revered by all of your students or to be secretly admired by a beautiful and exotic woman with an incredible set of teeth? Of course, being prepared, planning and following the communicative method of teaching are all essential aspects of being a successful and highly regarded teacher. Students always appreciate a teacher that is hard-working regardless of his or her personality.

Being well prepared, however, is only half of teaching English. The most important part is the ability to increase and ultimately maximize student talk time.  One can have all the certifications and years of teaching experience, but if the same teacher is talking during most of the lesson, then he or she is doing a terrible job at teaching English or any language for that matter. Obviously,  a good instructor has to have a firm understanding of grammar and writing structure,  but the bottom line is that the students have to speak during the class. This fact applies whether it is class based on grammar or conversation.  Ideally, student talk time should be around 70 percent of the total class time.  In other words, if the class is sixty minutes, the teacher speaks for twenty minutes and the students speak for forty minutes.

So how does a teacher get his or her students to talk for the majority duration of the class? The first thing that teachers should remember is to learn to be quiet and stop talking! If you are new to teaching or just a teacher that talks too much, learn to talk less and listen more. Remember, it is not your time to talk during the class, but the students’ time. Of course, it is necessary for the teacher to speak in order to administer the class, provide explanations and direct activities. This is totally fine, but there have been countless times in my years of teaching that I have walked by a class only to see a teacher rambling on and on, while the students slip into a coma-like state.

So please, be quiet! Please put down the mic and let the students take center stage. By the time the class finishes, they should feel slightly exhausted from speaking so much in another language. I am sorry, but if there is nobody in your personal life to listen about your problems,  don’t take it out on your students. If you have some strange fetish with power and are frustrated because nobody obeys you, don’t take it out on your students. Remember, you are teaching a language to a group of adults, not 7th-grade history to a group of kids that need to be disciplined. Talk to them with respect, courtesy and let them speak their minds during class in the language they are paying money for to learn.  If you are a vegan, then that is wonderful. Really, congratulations and I am happy to know that one less chicken is being murdered. But please! Don’t take it out on your students. I don’t think that Yae-ji from South Korea or Facundo from Argentina have any plans to convert to veganism, nor do they want to listen to your political rants.

This message is not only for ESL teachers but for all language teachers. Personally, I’ve taken some language courses that were agonizing because the teacher never gave us a chance to speak. Again, class time is for the students. Teaching a language is more like coaching a language. A good coach always sets up his or her players to succeed.

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The author
James taught English for four years in Japan and traveled throughout Asia and South America. These days, he spends most of his time building Wordpress sites, blogging and teaching others the nuances of digital marketing.