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Top 5 Things That Make You Look Unprofessional

Emily Smith

Though being a teacher isn’t the same as a corporate job, you still have to maintain a certain level of professionalism. It may not be the most difficult job you’ve ever had, but it’s important to remember when you are teaching, you are at work, and to take pride in what you do. It’s easy to slack off, but try not to fall in this rut. The more professional you are, the more likely you are to land that dream job teaching at a university or to grow your client list for private lessons. So what are the top 5 things that make a language teacher look unprofessional? Here they are in no particular order:


1. Being Hung-over. That may come as a shock, but you’d be surprised at the number of language teachers who think that living abroad is just an extended holiday, and those pesky hours in the classroom are just momentary disturbances to their party life. Let me spell this out for you – showing up to work hung-over is NOT okay. I don’t care if you wait tables or assist the president, don’t show looking like you’re about to convert your trash can into a barf bin at any moment.

2. The Way You Dress. When you teach – or do any other job – you should take pride in the way you look. I’m not saying that you have to come to class decked out in a three piece suit or wearing a designer dress, but you should look presentable. The acceptable dress code really depends on where and who you’re teaching. If you are about to teach a classroom full of kindergartners, then you might want to leave the heels at home. However, if you are teaching top management of a large company, then a tie or a pencil skirt might be a good idea. Assess the teaching situation and take notes of the way other teachers dress and then make an informed decision about what to wear.

When you teach – or do any other job – you should take pride in the way you look.

3. Being late. Being punctual is the first rule of professionalism. Your students are your clients; they should never have to wait on you. If you don’t know how bad traffic is going to be, leave a little early. It’s better for you to wait than for your students to wait. Oh, and don’t rely on Google Maps to gauge accurately how long it will take you to get from point A to point B, especially if you live in a foreign country. If you leave it up to GPS, you’re probably going to be late.

4. Crossing the teacher-student boundaries. You are a teacher. They are the students. Understand your respective roles and stick to them. It’s more likely that the lines will get blurred when you are teaching adult students and might consider becoming friends or more. This is especially tempting when you live in a foreign country, but don’t do it. Find friends through social networks, religious gatherings, bars, or expat groups but please, don’t make your students your friends. It’s just not a good thing to mix.

5. Being unprepared. You are getting paid to teach, not to talk. You may be able to wing a lesson or two without preparing, but making a habit out of coming into the classroom without a single thought about what to teach prior to the bell only makes you look like an idiot. And nobody feels good about paying an idiot.

As a teacher, your students trust you as the “language authority”. It’s important you play the part and come to class with your A game every time. Teaching is a profession so be professional. Have any tips to help our teachers be more professional? Let us know in the comments section below.

About the author

Emily has taught English to ESL learners in four Asian countries. Although she taught students from 3-60, she has a definite affection for preschoolers and college students. She has also worked as an ESL curriculum writer and is TESOL certified. When she is not teaching, she loves watching and making films.