Expected and Accepted — Preparing for Stress
Learning a new language can be incredibly challenging. To even attempt to learn a language that is not one’s mother tongue takes both incredible courage and humility, especially when the language is English. As a teacher of English, stress must be expected and prepared for in order to keep students feeling encouraged and wanting to try. These are my tips for doing just that.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate AmyJoy G. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
First, make sure that students know you care about them by building rapport with them as they begin the class. With this, it’s helpful to see that other’s aren’t perfect so that I can also have space to make mistakes. When I begin I will tell a story in their first language in which I embarrass myself by saying something I shouldn’t have. Though speaking in their native tongue will be very rare, I find it helpful in the rapport establishing process to make sure that students know that everyone, including their teacher, makes mistakes. This should not take away from my professionalism nor should it lead the students to think I’m untrustworthy; simply it is for the purpose of showing my humanness.
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Second I will, at times, offer treats to those who give answers and are trying to speak English (even when the answers are incorrect). Of course, there will be people who want to dominate this time which will require boundaries on my part so that everyone gets a chance to speak. I also will use something like to the ball pass system as often as possible in order for students to be called on by their friends whom they trust instead of feeling like they’re called out by a teacher. This will help with getting each student to share individually while decreasing the pressure of performance.
Another idea to help students overcome stress is to make sure that they are enjoying themselves and can point to what they’re learning. I myself am a hands-on learner and know that games are very beneficial in engaging some specific knowledge. Whether this is through a game of charades, hangman, I took a trip…, or something else entirely, to have the ice breaker games (with previous lesson reminders or precursor engagement to the day’s lesson) goes a long way in making sure the class is energized and excited to be there. Because sometimes these games can be a flop, it is always helpful to have a few backs up ideas in case they are needed. (Which is also necessary for the other sections of the lesson.)
Organize the Environment
Student’s can also overcome stress because they feel comfortable in their environment. It is of utmost importance that each classmate feels accepted by myself and as much as possible by all the students. If the student is prone to being a wall-flower, to pair him/ her with another helpful student could be of great benefit. Pair work, in general, helps to counter the fear one may have of getting concepts wrong in front of others. Though people often find themselves internally comparing, to minimize on the spirit of competition is a wise choice for overcoming stress. The times of competition should be when playing a competitive game, but even after that, the teacher out to point out strengths from both/ all teams, not just those who won. Sometimes it may even be helpful to have a “last will be first prize” and reward those in the last place instead of those in first.
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At the end of each day I also want to give the students time to write a note anonymously on something they learned, something they’re confused on, something that they wish to learn, or any funny story from the day or of how they used English in real life. At the beginning of the next class, I’ll share a few of these notes (just the positive ones) to engage and encourage the class. There are many more things that can be used to minimize stress, but I think the most important is normalizing it and mistakes so that people will have the courage to keep trying even when faced with setbacks. With that is the need for camaraderie so that students know that they are among others who also care for them.
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