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TESOL/ESL Teacher Character Traits

  • Patience
  • Adaptability
  • Studiousness
  • Adventurousness
  • Curiosity

The English language has become, in effect, a near-global de facto language of commerce. Students around the world are studying English in order to gain greater access to opportunities in the professional world, and in turn, more individuals are studying to teach ESL and ELL students in a variety of environments, from brick and mortar classrooms to digital learning environments. Becoming an ESL teacher grants  opportunity to travel, study other cultures , and learn other languages as well.

To become an ESL teacher is at once challenging and rewarding, and the best are able to instruct students to the highest levels of fluency in the English language. But aside the training an ESL teacher has to undergo, a few essential qualities of character are also necessary to be successful at this growing profession. Here are five character traits needed to become a TESOL/ESL teacher.


Above all, patience is required to be successful as an ESL teacher. Teaching foreign languages is one of the most challenging educational occupations, on merit of the fact that acquiring a second language is incredibly hard, particularly for adult learners. ESL teachers must be prepared to give some students extra help and guidance to help them keep up with the rest of their class without becoming frustrated with the student – making patience a critical trait.


ESL teachers will frequently find themselves in new and unfamiliar places, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires. Instructors who each abroad will need to be greatly adaptable to new circumstances, handle change well, and be willing to embrace each new environment as a learning experience.

In addition to adapting to new cultures and customs, instructors must also be willing to adapt their methods to individual classrooms. Whether for educational, psychological, or cultural reasons, an instructor’s default method of teaching might not work for every student – or even every classroom. Being willing and able to adapt as an educator is another vital characteristic.


The realm of ESL and ELL instruction is always changing, requiring educators to keep tabs on new texts and methods, best practices, and new training opportunities. ESL teachers dedicated to keeping abreast of their profession will enjoy greater career opportunities and, generally, lengthier careers – not just in teaching ESL and ELL students, but in instructing new ESL teachers via training platforms or academic conferences.


A sense of adventurousness and a strong desire to see the world outside one’s own back yard makes for an enthusiastic and dedicated ESL teacher. Those with a strong desire for cultural exchange, as well as travel will find their profession even more satisfying – and will be able to make each new teaching experience its own adventure.


Intellectual curiosity is perhaps one of the most important characteristics of a successful ESL teacher. Instructors who are intellectually curious will rarely be content for something to be “good enough”; they will study and learn to improve upon existing processes, be curious to learn about and participate in other cultures, and very often will develop fluency in several languages. Intellectual curiosity about the world, like adventurousness, will make the ESL instructor’s career even more satisfying to them – and they will pass that curiosity on to their students, as well.

For those who choose to become an ESL teacher, these character traits will take them far in their profession – and will help them to send their students on to new heights of scholastic and professional achievement.

Related resource:

Top 10 Cheap Online Master’s in English Language Learning Degree Programs

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