The Most Important Skills For Teachers (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar
Sep. 19, 2022

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Creating a truly memorable educational impact requires teachers to exercise a variety of both hard and soft skills.

Many of these skills are indispensable no matter what type of teaching career is involved, whether it be university professor, primary school teacher, or camp counselor.

Before you head into a job interview, you should make sure you know what these important teaching skills are and whether you’ve mastered them.

This way, you’ll know which skills you can tout to improve your chances of securing the position versus which skills you still need to improve on.

Key Takeaways:

  • Some of the most important teaching skills include communication, critical thinking, and patience.

  • A love of learning is huge for a teacher. Your own love of learning will create a positive atmosphere that can inspire your students.

  • Communication is important for both how you speak to your students, as well as their parents and other adults.

  • To improve your teaching skills, considering setting up a plan that uses SMART goals.

The Most Important Skills For Teachers (With Examples)

10 Important Teaching Skills

No matter what type of teaching job you have, several key skills are always critical to have.

The subject matter and nature of the class may change, but the skills that help you effectively engage and interact with students always stay the same.

These critical teaching skills are:

  1. Communication. The ability to effectively communicate is perhaps the most important skill for teachers to possess.

    Simply understanding the subject material is useless if you can’t communicate it in a way that engages students and is easy for them to understand.

    Various types of communication skills include:

    • Listening and adaptability. Most classrooms will have students of all different types of personalities and learning styles.

      It’s not enough to simply prepare one style of a lesson plan, you’ll need to anticipate alternative ways to communicate the same information.

      This involves listening to students and understanding their questions and points of confusion and then adapting properly to address those needs.

    • Interpersonal. Interpersonal skills are especially important when students require individualized attention.

      You need to convey a welcoming and friendly personality so they’re not hesitant to seek your help.

      Interpersonal skills help you build a relationship and understand their strengths and weaknesses as a student, allowing you to help them again in the future.

      Interpersonal skills are also important in case you have a disruptive or troublesome student in the classroom. They’ll allow you to build respect and resolve such issues effectively.

    • Parent communications. The ability to communicate with parents can either be critical or unneeded depending on whether you’re a primary school teacher.

      Speaking about your students’ strengths during parent-teacher conferences can earn them praise at home and encourage them to enjoy class even more.

      Meanwhile, discussing their weaknesses requires a level of finesse.

      Speaking about their children’s poor school performance is a delicate subject for many parents, yet one that’s extremely important to discuss so that all parties can agree on an improvement plan.

    • Creating lesson plans. How to create effective lesson plans is a subject that experts are constantly researching and one that we could devote many separate articles on.

      However, all we’ll say here is that it’s a skill you need to be constantly committed to improving.

      The visuals, pacing, and a hundred other elements concerning how you present class material all greatly influence how much information your students pay attention to, understand, and retain.

    • Written communication. You’ll exercise written communication skills when sending emails, writing tests, and creating homework.

      When it comes to matters of scheduling and instructions, it’s important to be clear and consistent in how you communicate.

  2. Critical thinking. Teaching involves much more than what takes place directly in the classroom.

    You’ll also need to do things such as:

    • Answer student questions quickly. Questions may take the form of a math question or other technical matter, which you’ll need to know how to quickly solve while explaining your steps.

    • Resolve student conflicts. Managing student behavior requires more than just communication skills; it often demands strategy.

      You’ll need to weigh the available options, whether they be separating students and reassigning their seats or administering discipline.

      What you choose to do will also influence how seriously they take the class and whether similar problems will arise in the future, so you’ll have to think through the correct actions.

    • Edit lesson plans and creates new ones. You’ll inevitably need to change your lesson plans, whether for scheduling reasons or because something didn’t go as planned.

      It’s your job to rebalance the schedule and determine the right path for moving forward.

    • Deal with issues involving colleagues. Disputes often arise between teaching faculty members, even though they may hide it from students.

      A common reason is that teachers need to share resources such as rooms or lab equipment, resulting in scheduling conflicts and disagreements.

      Every situation will require a different solution that you’ll just have to navigate and handle yourself.

    You’ll need to effectively tackle all of these challenges and much more, often immediately or on an extremely tight deadline.

  3. Patience. Being able to stay patient as well as display patience ties into every other teaching skill on this list.

    You’ll need to be patient when helping students work through their questions and areas of weakness.

    Not only because some students may require much more time and help than others, but because if you give off an impatient tone, you’ll discourage many students from seeking your help in the future.

    You’ll also run into plenty of lessons that require revision, disruptive students, and disagreeable parents and teachers. Dealing with all of these issues professionally will require patience.

  4. Creativity and passion. If you’ve ever taught a class of children or young adults, you’ll know half the battle is just holding on to their attention spans.

    Educators who can make their classes more dynamic by incorporating unique, energetic, and creative teaching material are rewarded with highly-engaged students and higher grades.

  5. Confidence building. Many students aren’t aware of their potential, and it’s your job as a teacher to encourage them and help them unlock it.

    Teachers who can build confidence in their students earn more respect and see more engagement and higher grades in their classrooms.

  6. Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is often contagious and can turn even the most uninteresting class material into something that students want to tune into.

    If students observe that you’re passionate and serious about the class, they’ll also respect you more and be willing to listen.

  7. Flexibility. Your lesson plans and scheduled activities won’t always go along as you hoped.

    As a teacher, you need to be flexible and creative enough to adapt to these situations. It’ll be your job to find alternatives that are just as educational and engaging for your students.

  8. Novelty. Educational research shows that teachers who use novel ways to teach class material see their students score much higher grades.

    Human brains love the information that is presented in unexpected and new ways, even if the information itself wouldn’t otherwise be that interesting.

  9. Love of learning. Especially when touching young children, teachers need to display the positive values that they wish to teach to students.

    If you’re passionate and show a love for knowledge and learning, then your students will emulate it in turn.

    One highly-effective way to do this is to relate to your students by sharing stories about when you were in their position. Talk about a learning experience you had in or out of class.

    If your students see you as a life-long learner rather than just a teacher, they’ll be more likely to engage in the class.

  10. Technical skills. Depending on the type of class you teach, you may need to be able to use various tech tools.

    This is especially the case amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as almost any teaching position you take on will require you to use Zoom and remote testing software.

    Other technical skills many teaching jobs require include:

    • Exam grading. You need to establish a testing methodology that’s consistent, accurate, and makes sense for the type of class you’re teaching.

      You’ll also need to document the details of that methodology, or else students will complain and ask questions.

      This is especially the case if you’re teaching a college course. If you’re inconsistent in how you grade or your grading rubric is vague, many students will complain if it costs their grades even a few percentage points.

    • Individual counseling. If your students are seriously struggling in class or facing life issues that are leaking into their coursework, that may be the job of a specialized school counselor to deal with.

      But for any issues less serious than those, it’ll typically be on you to speak with the student and develop a solution.

      You’ll need to weigh their conflicting circumstances and decide how lenient you can be without being unfair to other students.

    • Training. When schools hire new teachers, they often shadow existing teachers and learn from them before teaching their classes. You’ll need to learn how to effectively provide that training and be prepared.

    • Curriculum knowledge. Of course, you’ll need to be extremely proficient in the subject matter of your class.

      It’s not enough to simply understand the instructional material, you have to be adept enough to answer any student question on the spot and provide detail.

      It’s fine for teachers to make mistakes here and there, but if your students ever feel that you fundamentally don’t understand any part of the teaching material, then they’ll lose all respect for you and disengage from the class.

How To Improve Your Teaching Skills

No teacher is perfect at every teaching skill, so every teacher should work to improve their skills. This includes some of the best teachers out there. In fact, that is what makes some of the best teachers. The ones who work to continually improve themselves as they teach make for great teachers because they are so invested.

To improve your teaching skills, consider the following:

  • Determine strengths and weaknesses. If you are going to improve yourself, it helps to know where to begin. Use your strengths to build your confidence as you focus on your weaknesses. Use your weaknesses to focus your time and energy on improvement. Consider where you struggle the most in the classroom or where you would like to see better results.

  • Come up with a plan. Once you know what you need to work on, you then need a plan. Come up with a plan that uses SMART goals so that your plan has tangible results. Your plan should focus on segmenting your areas of improvement. Consider making a plan that ties into your work schedule to make it a habit.

  • Monitor and adjust as necessary. An improvement plan is no good if you do not track your progress. This is why SMART goals can help. As you try to reach your goals, observe your progress. Use a journal or some kind of data entry.

  • Ask for professional feedback. It can be hard to work on improving your teaching skills alone. Reach out to any peers or mentors for help. Ask them for feedback on your strengths, your weaknesses, your plan to improve, and your progress. A system of accountability can go a long way.

Final Thoughts

Teachers play a critical role in the lives of students by inspiring them and enabling them to take control of their futures.

Teaching isn’t for everyone, but it is a very rewarding profession for many. To be a great teacher requires the right kind of personality, but, as this article shows, also the right collection of skills. If you are a teacher, or a thinking of becoming one, then knowing these important skills will help you improve your situation. These skills are teachable, which means that even if you struggle in certain areas, you can become a better teacher by working on your teaching skills.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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