I learned something important from one of my students last week.
We met for our regular Tuesday lesson on Skype around noon. My student works in finance and had already had a busy week. She was in the middle of a crazy day and as the international markets fluctuated, she kept one eye on our Skype video lesson and one eye on the changes in the market, while her boss interrupted every few minutes, demanding updates on her invesment decisions.
To put it simply, it was a hectic and busy day for my student. She was not in the right state of mind for the lesson that I had planned. I didn't make the situation any better. I had some goals for that lesson and wanted to be sure we covered certain grammar points that we hadn't been able to get to during the previous lesson. As a result, I led my student through some grammar activities while she remained distracted, overwhelmed, and not present.
What did it lead to? Frustration for both of us and a major disconnect between teacher and student.
At our next lesson on Thursday, we talked about what had happened on Tuesday. My student acknowledged that she was in no state of mind to be doing difficult grammar exercises that day, with all of the other work-related pressures on her mind.I should have recognized that and moved into some lighter activities but I didn't.
Your life outside of your English class is busy, so today I want to remind you how important it is to check in with your state of mind when you sit down for your English lesson and why you must communicate that with your English teacher.
5 Tips for a More Successful English Lesson
1) Check in with yourself
Before you meet your tutor or before you sit down to begin studying on your own, find a few minutes to sit quietly and reflect on how you are feeling in the current moment.
Are you stressed out?
Is your mind overwhelmed with details from the day? Are you open and ready to learn? Be realistic and get a sense of what you are capable of for the upcoming lesson. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is my current energy level?
- What else do I have on my mind today?
- What emotions am I feeling in my body? (tense neck, tight shoulders, etc.)
- What kind of lesson structure would work with my state of mind today?
2) Let your teacher know how you are feeling
Communication is crucial here!
Although many teachers tend to be good with people and are often able to sense how their students are feeling, they aren't mind readers! It is important for you to communicate your state of mind to your teacher so that he or she can tweak the lesson plans based on that.
Are you feeling tired?
Unable to focus?
Don't be afraid to express your state of mind.
Your teacher will appreciate your honesty and the lesson will be a much better use of time for both teacher and student.
3) Ask your teacher to be flexible
When you take private English lessons, one of the great benefits is that the lessons can be customized to your needs.
Your needs include your goals, your schedule, your learning style and your state of mind at each lesson!
Your teacher should have the skills and experience to change the lesson plan or teaching methods and still help you accomplish your goals.
With my student last week, we decided that when she is in the middle of a stressful day, we will lighten up on the grammar activities and we will spend more time working on conversation, listening, and vocabulary. She will complete some grammar exercises for homework when she is more relaxed.
We will still be working toward her English goals but we will be doing it in a way that won't add to the stress that she is already feeling at work.
4) Be patient with yourself
When you were learning English as a kid in your home country, you were probably asked to do grammar drills, pronunciation exercises, and dictation every day and I am pretty sure that no one asked you about your state of mind. For that reason, this concept might seem strange to you.
The truth is, we live in a world where people believe that the route to success is pushing themselves at all costs. People become aggressive with themselves because they believe that they "should" be able to sit down and do those grammar exercises or pronounce those words correctly but do you know what this leads to? It leads to English leaners' burnout.
I think that patience is the way to success. Having patience with yourself and being able to observe what you are capable of in each moment, at each lesson, will get you much further in your English development.
You need to find a balance between pushing yourself when you are ready to be pushed and being patient and compassionate with yourself when you need to slow down.
5) Remember that online lessons might make this harder
In some ways, Skype lessons are wonderful. Teachers and students are able to meet from any corner of the globe, at any time, and have an English lesson.
However, I think it makes it harder for the teacher to sense what the student is feeling during the lesson.
For that reason, if you are working with your teacher on Skype, it's important for you to be vocal about your current state of mind and ask your teacher to adapt the lesson plans accordingly.
So if you want to get the maximum return on the money and time that you have invested in taking English lessons, you need to communicate what you are capable of during each class. Observe your state of mind, let your teacher know how the day is going for you and remember that patience with oneself is the key to success! Good luck!