Examples of soft skills for teachers include organization, communication, teamwork, patience, and leadership.
Soft skills are skills that are not very easy to define because they’re not measurable skills.
By contrast, hard skills are skills that are easy to define and measurable. Examples of hard skills include the ability to do math tasks, write computer code, and complete a tax return.
We often call soft skills “personal skills” or even “interpersonal skills”. They’re usually skills that can be used across a range of different professions. But today we’re talking about soft skills specifically for teachers.
Let’s get started with the 21 top soft skills teachers need in the 21st century. You could discuss these skills in your resume, teaching philosophy, teacher values statement, or in a job interview.
Video: Soft Skills for Teachers
A List of Soft Skills for Teachers
Any teacher needs to be able to show their ability to lead a classroom. They need to be able to make sure that all the students are doing the task that they are required to do.
A teacher needs to make sure that they have control over the students at all times.
Teachers might even need to make sure that they’re leading the parents as well, especially during parent-teacher nights.
Teachers need to be able to communicate with the parents and let the parents know the direction the curriculum is going, and that the teacher has the confidence to get the students there.
As teachers progress through their careers, they may also need to develop leadership skills for leading other teachers.
For example, a headteacher or a principal in a school needs to be a leader for other teachers and help teach other teachers to become better educators.
Communication skills are also very important for teachers.
Imagine a teacher who in your life who was not able to teach you as well as you would have liked. The reason that they had trouble teaching you concepts is probably because their communication skills weren’t good enough.
To have good communication skills means having the ability to communicate things clearly and making sure that the communication at the right level:
- If you teach something that’s too difficult, the student is not going to understand it.
- If you teach something that’s too easy, the student is going to find it a bit boring.
As a teacher, we need to be able to communicate information in a way that’s engaging exciting and at the right level for the students. In education theory, we explain this perfect zone for communication (not too hard, not too easy) as the zone of proximal development.
Teamwork skills are important for teachers. Every teacher works with other teachers to get their job done.
They might work with other teachers on developing their curriculum, sharing resources, and tag-teaming on the teaching of lessons.
A teacher might also be working with other teachers on things like co-curricular events for the school and extracurricular activities or sports. So, teachers need to work together all the time.
Any teacher who spent even one day in a classroom knows that multitasking is central to the job.
Imagine a teacher who is teaching one-on-one with a student in one corner of the classroom. That teacher also needs to be able to know what students in the other corner of the classroom and doing. They need to be keeping one eye on those students at all times to make sure that they’re okay.
This is just one example of how a teacher always needs to be balancing a lot of different things in their mind at once, and we call this multitasking.
Can you imagine a teacher turning up to a classroom 10 minutes late? What would those students have been doing for those 10 minutes?
They would have been sitting around in the classroom, scratching their chins, and wondering what was going on.
Even worse, when you have a classroom of 10-year-old children, you just cannot leave them unsupervised. It’s unsafe.
Therefore, a teacher always needs to turn up on time. It is not only for the safety of the children but also for respect.
With older students, for example, the teacher needs to make sure that students know that they respect the students’ time and that the teacher takes their learning seriously.
An unorganized teacher would find themselves in a situation where they are unable to teach a lesson.
So, a teacher needs to be really organized and know exactly where all of their resources are so that they can retrieve the resources and provide them for students whenever the students need them.
Similarly, they need to make sure they have got a well-prepared lesson when they walk into the classroom rather than a disorganized, unclear plan of what they will do.
7. Time Management
Time management means being able to plan out each lesson (and unit of work throughout the year) so an appropriate amount of time is allocated to each lesson.
If the teacher does not do this, then they may find themselves at the end of the day, term, semester, or year before they have taught everything they need to teach.
Imagine you’re a teacher and you have a class that goes for three hours and you have four lessons that you need to teach across those three. If the first three lessons took two hours and 45 minutes, then for the fourth lesson, you’ve only got 15 minutes to teach it. This won’t work.
The teacher in the above example hasn’t managed their time appropriately.
Therefore, teachers need strong time management skills so that they can teach things at a controlled and comfortable pace.
This doesn’t only go for the classroom on one day, but it also goes for throughout the term or semester. The teachers have a curriculum that they need to teach and they need to make sure that they’re teaching the right pace so that by the end of the year, they have taught everything that needs to be taught in the curriculum.
Teaching is a very exhausting job. Teachers will go home at the end of some days and be very exhausted.
Teachers need to be able to develop their resilience skills so that they can manage through those tough times that all teachers are going to have throughout their careers.
Resilience will also be required when teachers have to deal with a tough misbehaving student and when working late nights grading papers.
Patience is the ability to wait for success. Patient people don’t expect to see results straight away, but they persist nevertheless.
Not all students learn something the minute that they’re taught it.
Sometimes we need to sit with the student and help them slowly learn something until that light bulb goes off in their head and they finally understand the concept.
The teacher will need to sit there and work with the student, helping them slowly gain confidence until they have that ‘lightbulb moment’ where they finally understand the concept.
Teachers can’t rush things. They have to make sure that they’re patient with the student.
Related: 15 Examples of Patience
Teachers often need to sit and reflect at the end of the day to see what went well and what didn’t do go well in their teaching.
If we didn’t reflect on our teaching, we would not become better teachers over time. We need to reflect in order to identify ways to improve, avoid old mistakes, and try new things.
We even have models of reflection in education like the Gibbs model of reflective practice that help us reflect in a series of steps. Other examples of reflective teaching include keeping a teaching diary and seeking feedback from students.
11. Goal Setting
All teachers are going to have goals that they set for themselves at the beginning of the year, day, term, or semester.
A common goal a teacher might have might be to develop a better relationship with a certain student who they might have had trouble relating to lately.
That’s just one example of goal setting.
Teachers will have a whole range of different goals such as:
- Becoming a better teacher of a certain subject,
- Having more creative lessons, or
- Being a more organized educator
When you’re given a curriculum and you need to teach a topic, it’s your job to think about the most creative way to teach that topic.
A teacher needs to make sure lessons are engaging for students so that they learn something at the end of the day. If the content isn’t creatively introduced in the classroom, there’s a good chance that the students are going to be bored and disengage. They will not learn as well as if you presented it in a more engaging way.
13. Social and Emotional Intelligence
Social and emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand your emotions in a situation.
Teachers need to make sure that they’re aware when they’re getting stressed or when they’re getting angry so they don’t bring that out on the students. They need to look at their own emotions and self-regulate at all times.
A teacher needs to stay calm and positive in the classroom at all times.
See Also: Examples of Emotional Intelligence
14. Cultural Competence
In today’s multicultural world, most teachers are going to be teaching a classroom full of students from a range of different cultures.
It is the teacher’s role to know the best way students of different cultures learn. There may be unique ways some cultures prefer to learn (such as the 8 Ways of learning in Aboriginal Australian culture).
There may also be taboos within some cultures that teachers need to be aware of so that they’re not offending the students in their classrooms.
Therefore, teachers need to be culturally aware and culturally sensitive at all times.
See Also: Examples of Cultural Competence
An example of a time when teachers need to show professionalism is during the parent-teacher interview.
In this situation, the teacher has a role or a responsibility to be the professional and present what they had been teaching as well as how they have been teaching in order to be accountable to the parents.
They also need to be available to the parents so the parents can ask them any questions that they have.
Teachers are always going to come across problems in their day-to-day work.
One of the most common problems teachers come across is when their lesson isn’t going the way they would have hoped.
At the end of some lessons, the students still don’t understand what the content.
At times like these, the teacher needs to stop and search for ways to solve their problem. They need to find out why the lesson didn’t go too well. They might need to change their teaching strategy or even the content being taught.
Go Deeper: Problem-Solving Examples
17. Change Management
A good example of a change management challenge teachers is when they bring new students in from a previous school.
The student might come into the classroom in the middle of the school year and they are not caught up with the rest of the class. This student will need to adjust to the new classroom and also catch up with the rest of the class.
It would be the teacher’s job to manage that transition so it is smooth.
18. Quick Thinking
Every teacher will have come across a situation when they needed to think very quickly on their feet.
An example of a time when a teacher would need quick thinking is when a student asks the teacher a question that the teacher doesn’t have the answer for.
Often, teachers muddle through the answers in these situations. A good alternative strategy is to say you don’t know the answer and turn the discussion to a brainstorming or research session. This strategy involves co-learning with your students instead of acting as if you’re the authority.
19. Nonverbal Communication
Teachers don’t just communicate with their students through words. The best teachers can use their gestures and body to communicate messages efficiently.
An example is the ‘teacher stare’ that happens when a student misbehaves. The stern teacher just needs to give one glance to the misbehaving student to rectify the behavior.
There are, of course, other ‘teacher looks’ as well that are much more positive. A teacher might give a little wink to a student to let them know they did a good job or they might simply point at certain things within the classroom to stimulate students’ thinking on a topic.
One tip for nonverbal communication is having a ‘teaching spot’. This is a spot where you stand when you want the students’ attention. Whenever you want your students’ attention at the end of the lesson, go and stand at the same spot.
Over time, the students will learn that this is the spot that you stand on when they need to be quiet and listen to you.
Every teacher is going to have to adapt over their time. Schools get new technologies, changes to their curriculum, and even changes to staff. All of this requires adaptation by the teacher.
Education is a fast-changing field. Increasing amounts of online learning, technology-enhanced learning, and changes to best practices, all need to be managed by teachers.
This is why educators are constantly doing ongoing education and attending conferences to make sure they’re up to date with the most current information.
Teachers always need to be compassionate and sympathetic with their students.
Oftentimes teachers are delivering lessons on topics that they think are very easy. But for those students, it’s the first time they’re coming across these new ideas. So, a teacher needs to be sympathetic and patient with students.
When teaching children, we also need to remember that it can be hard to be a child. Children are dealing with the emotions involved in growing up, learning to deal with social interactions, and often also dealing with bullying issues.
See More: A List of Skills for Teachers
Of the above 21 soft skills for teachers, it’s worth remembering that you can develop these soft skills over time. Not every teacher starts their career having all of these soft skills in abundance.
And that’s okay.
Over time, as you get exposed to new experiences as an educator, you will develop these skills.
However, a future educator can also look at the above list of soft skills for teachers and think about the ones that are their strengths right now. These are ones that the teacher can talk about in a resume when applying for a job. For example, if you are a compassionate person or you’ve got great time management skills, you can talk about them in both your resume and job interview.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]