Leave the stress outside and now focus on the class!
Faster! Faster! I have to be able to speak English faster! If I start classes with you now, when am I going to be fluent? – says almost every student we have ever had. We’ve been living in a so-called Information Era and that speeds everything up, so let’s take a look from a more holistic point of view, shall we?
As anyone born and raised in Minas Gerais state, I grew up around many popular sayings and I remember one of them said “when you go to work, leave your personal problems at home”. And you know what? I actually believed in that! Up to the point when someone asked me if that was an original opinion of mine or if I was just reproducing someone else’s ideas.
The thing is: you are a complex, multitasker person undergoing a constant growth and trying to keep yourself together while managing everything else. The notion of compartmentalization of the different areas of your life is absolutely not as easy as it may seem, since you are one single individual with one single organism unconsciously processing all the information around you and not just those parts you think you are. Proof of that is easy: if you close your eyes now I’m positive that you can’t remember all the details of objects and/or people around you even though your brain has recently processed all this data.
Why does society takes it so well when an employee goes home frustrated about something that happened at work while the opposite is so fiercely condemned? In the same fashion, why do we expect our students to go to class and simply turn off everything else in order to pay attention to us while on the other hand we deliberately ask them to try and keep thinking in English when doing everything else in their lives?
You see, it’s not about compartmentalization… It’s about the acceptance of the whole and all the single little pieces that constitute it. If you regularly practice relaxation and focused exercises like yoga, tai chi chuan or some sort of meditation I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If we have accepted the idea that all these exercises clear our minds and help us stay focused, then why most of us haven’t been using them in class with our students?
When around any kind of exams I’m sure you’ve noticed your students usually deal with a lot of anxiety and tend to get very uneasy. This is exactly the reason why many of them end up with lower results than expected. By the way, this leads me to an important question: have you been meditating with or terrorizing your students before their skills are put to the test?
If anything, I wish this article has lit up a little red light to how stress and anxiety are connected to that crazy hurry of being able to speak a foreign language faster and faster. We must remember that unlike computers, our body is still a living organism with deadly limits and if even the machines have great coolers to prevent burnouts, then why shouldn’t we have our own cooling system as well and also teach it to our students?