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male teacher writing on white board

What Are the Professional Qualities of a Teacher?

4 September 2019

male teacher writing on white board


Are you considering a career in teaching? Whether you’re fresh out of university or looking for a career change, you should think carefully about your suitability to the profession. Teaching can be highly rewarding, but it also presents daily challenges that not everyone is equipped to deal with. Of course, we can all learn and develop new skills. But before committing to a degree or teacher training course, make sure you understand the professional qualities of a teacher. Be honest about your ability to develop these if you don’t already possess them.

The Ability to Build Relationships with Young People and Other Professionals

Building effective relationships with young people requires a different skill set to that required for working alongside adults. Most people who enter teaching do so — at least in part — because of a desire to work with young people. Positive student-teacher relationships are an important part of student success and teacher well-being. The Department for Education’s (DfE), Longitudinal Study of Young People in England found students who feel encouraged by their teachers perform better. When a teacher forms a positive bond with their students, the classroom becomes a supportive space where students are more likely to thrive academically and socially (Hamre & Pianta, 2001).

However, good teachers also need to have the professional qualities to develop positive working relationships with a diverse range of adults too. Teachers come into daily contact with a wide range of people with whom they need to collaborate effectively — from teaching colleagues, support staff and parents to external professionals such as Speech and Language Therapists.

A Commitment to Hard Work

In a recent Teacher Tapp survey, we asked some questions relating to the Rotter Locus of Control Scale. This scale aims to find out if people attribute the things that happen to them as due to “internal” or “external” factors — or hard work versus luck. Approximately 60% of teachers felt professional success and the ability to encourage people to do the right thing was down to hard work rather than luck. Headteachers were least likely to think that luck plays a part in their success.


teacher survey - hard work and luck

In another Teacher Tapp survey saw 72% of secondary heads “strongly agreeing” that they are “hard workers” and 61% of primary heads responding likewise.

teacher survey - I am a hard worker

This data suggests a commitment to hard work is a common professional quality of a teacher. Perhaps it’s also an essential one if you wish to enjoy and thrive in your role. If you’re easily defeated and have a tendency to blame your setbacks on bad luck and other people’s success on good luck, you may find teaching a struggle.

A Dedication to Teaching

The news is filled with stories of teachers leaving the profession in droves and a national teacher shortage, which is throwing the UK school system into chaos. Teachers are burning out due to ever-increasing workloads and sky-high stress levels. Yet, 67% of teacher tappers “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with the statement “the stress and disappointments involved in teaching at my school really isn’t worth it”.

teacher survey - stress and disappointments worth it

Senior leaders felt even more strenuously that the stress of their role is worth it.

teacher survey - stress and disappointments for senior leaders


Despite the challenges of the role, the majority of teachers remain dedicated to the profession. It seems this sense of commitment overrides the negative aspects of the job. Successful teachers have a strength of passion and ambition that makes them effective in the long-term.

A Thirst for Knowledge and Professional Development

Teachers are expected to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) throughout their careers. Both primary teachers — who deliver the whole curriculum — and secondary teachers — who specialise in one or two subjects — need to stay up-to-date with developments in relevant fields. Additionally, government policy and educational theory regarding best teaching practice is in a constant state of flux. This means teachers have to keep informed and continually make changes to their practice. A recent Teacher Tapp survey revealed one in three teachers undertakes weekly professional development during term time.

teacher survey - taking part in professional development

If the idea of continually learning and being required to make changes to how you work fills you with dread, teaching is not the right profession for you.

So, Is Teaching Right for You?

This list of the professional qualities of a teacher is far from an exhaustive. However, these are some of the fundamental qualities you need to have — or can develop — to have a successful, long-term career as a teacher.

Do you want to learn more about teaching? Check out more of our blogs here. We draw our data from a daily poll of thousands of teachers across the UK. We provide you with the latest insights into what’s happening in schools.