Ideal English Teachers

What makes an Ideal TEFL/TESOL Teacher? What kind of person is the perfect person to teach English abroad?

In some cultures being a good teacher means you are good at teaching and that is it. In other cultures being a good teacher means you are the right age, you are not gay, you never drink and you are of the right religious bent.

This article looks at issues facing teachers which have nothing to do with their ability to teach or not:

  • your age
  • your sex
  • your sexual preferences
  • your ethnicity
  • your look
  • your religious beliefs
  • your family circumstances

And by the way, we do not agree in discrimination shown by some schools towards some teachers; what we present here is the situation as it is, not how we believe is should be!


Most schools prefer younger teachers in their twenties. This is perhaps because they can pay them less and manipulate them more easily. However, there are certainly many schools which prefer older teachers who can often bring authority to the classroom as well as greater experience and style to the lessons. Although most jobs won’t specify an age limit, it is as well to let the school know when you apply how old you are to avoid them turning round and cancelling everything once you send a photo over for your visa.
See the main article: Age Limits in TEFL Teaching‏‎.


This is only really an issue in certain countries. Male teachers are accepted almost anywhere (whilst being excluded from certain female only schools in most countries). Female teachers have a harder time of it in places like the Middle East and Asia where the culture of the country treats them as second class citizens anyway. Job advertisements will usually say whether they are for one sex or another; if they don’t then usually that means it doesn’t matter.

Sexual Preferences

Whilst in some countries it is best to keep any non-heterosexual preferences hidden (notably in certain Middle East and African countries where it is still punishable by death) in the main it is not an issue if it is kept discreet. In many countries the school owners have no problem with any sexual preference but have to bow down to the pressure of the parents.

See the main article, LGBT in TEFL.


This is the way it is: in virtually all countries white people stand a much better chance of getting a job and will have less problems than anyone else.

In some countries this may only mean that if you are black or Asian you will be stared at in the street and the subject of curious comments. (This can happen to anyone in some remote areas where any stranger is the subject of great interest.)

In many countries black people will be the subject of a prejudice fostered by local perceptions of them as violent and troublesome. Likewise if you are of Asian descent you will find it difficult to find work in Asia as the schools there want their English teacher to look “foreign” and some will not believe you are really an English native speaker.

Most job applications ask for an accompanying photograph and this is where many non-whites are removed from the process, but if you are not white and do find yourself working for a school abroad, then be prepared for possible problems which may be more or less than you can find at home.

See the main article, Racism in TEFL.


Your look refers to just that – the way you look. Do you sport numerous tattoos‏‎? Do you have piercings and bright green hair? The simple truth is that conservative is more likely to land the job. It’s common sense really and to give yourself the best chance of finding work you should be prepared to remove extraneous piercings, tone down the hair and the clothes (see What to Wear‏‎) and err on the side of conservatism. It’s what most parents want so that makes it what most schools need to provide.


Much of the talk here is common sense. Whilst it is unlikely that you will be hired or fired because of your religion, you should simply not preach or try to find converts in the country you go to. Bad move. Practice your religion in private and never parade it; this is especially true if you are working in a country with a very different religion from your own.

The exception, of course, is if you are working for a faith-based school.

See the main article, Sensitive Subjects‏‎ dealing with subjects which should be kept out of the classroom: religion, politics & sex.


In most cases schools employ single teachers. There are cases of couples working together, but in general this is not recommended – to learn why see the main article, Applying as a Couple‏‎.

When it comes to teachers who are part of a family the situation can become quite difficult.

The first issue is one of economics. Most entry-level teaching salaries are fairly low and whilst they are enough for a single person to live on and enjoy themselves, they are (in most cases) simply not enough for a couple to live on, let alone a family.

Another issue is one of day care for children. In many cases teaching hours are outside the usual working hours so a teacher may well find themselves working either early in the morning or, more likely, late at night. Sometimes there will also be split shifts. This means that if a teacher has children there will need to be some kind of babysitter or day-care available. Most schools won’t provide for this and, in most cases, a teacher’s salary will simply not be enough to pay for day-care or several hours of babysitting per day.


See also Teaching as a Single Parent.


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Posted in Finding TEFL Jobs.

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