Quite often a lesson is not maximised because the learner is thinking of another problem, perhaps at work or in their private life. They come to class, and from the very beginning seem distracted by something at work, or perhaps someone in their private life. Is this you ? If so, it’s great that, despite feeling stressed, you are coming to class: let’s just see if we can get more out of this valuable time with your teacher by looking at the following tips below.
“There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”
- W. Clement Stone
This past year I’ve got to know quite a few students who are taking individual lessons with me. In a big class at a language school an individual can sometimes get lost among the crowd, whereas in a one-to-one session I’ve found that one of the biggest influences in what makes a lesson successful or not is, put simply, the state of the learner.
‘State’ is a word self-development experts use to refer to how you are feeling, whether you are in a positive mood or not, and whether you are present in the moment or thinking of work or the guy you met last night. If you’re feeling down, distracted, or anxious, then the lesson will be less productive because you’re mind is elsewhere, and you’re because you’re in a negative or depressed state.
It’s quite hard for the teacher to know how to manage this ‘gap’ between where your most productive and effective state is, and the one you are in right now. But let’s back up a minute with some ideas on how you can get into state before you’ve walked in the door: the following tips should help lift you before the lesson, and encourage you to find your own strategies for dealing with your pre-lesson frame of mind.
1. Pop on some music as you leave the office
Music is a great mood enhancer. If you work in one part of town, and need to get to the centre for your lesson, that gives you some time for you to relax a little and slowly unwind. Put on your iPod and listen to your favourite ‘feel good’ music. If you don’t have an iPod, then most mobile phones now have a function for uploading MP3s. If you still can’t access this, then play music from your favourite station.
Tap your feet in the metro or tram to the rhythm of the beat. Try it – no one will even notice. Keep your head up and have a good posture. Research says this will help you lift your state!
2. Take a short time out before you get to class
Sometimes I have a tea just before my French lesson (I study French and Czech). It helps me have a break between the busy day I’ve had rushing about Prague and the next lesson, and so I am usually really focussed and in a good frame of mind as I walk through the door.
These days it seems like you can find a cafe everywhere you go. You can order quickly and be sitting down with your coffee in a few minutes. Even if you are here just for five minutes, sit back and relax. If you need to text that gorgeous girl you met last week or confirm a meeting for tomorrow, now’s a good time to do it – it is not really helpful to anyone when students leave the classroom to make ‘important’ calls.
3. Switch off the world
Do you really need to have your mobile phone in front of you in class? Just switch it off or put it on ’silent’. Give yourself a break here. If you leave your phone in front of you, it can distract you – and also the other students.
4. Chat to the others
Some students are shy and, especially at the beginning of a course when people don’t know each other as well, there can be an awkward silence in the classroom before the teacher walks in. Try to chat to the others. It helps improve the class dynamics, and will definitely make for a more productive and enjoyable learning experience for everyone! And once you start chatting more with the other students, you may well find new friends to go out with.
5. Keep a list of positive pre-class ideas with you
What helps you get in a better state? Try the ideas above. Is there anything else you can do? Create a list of 5-10 things you can try out before each lesson, add them to your diary, and look at them as you leave home or work. Add a new ‘pre-lesson habit’ each week and see how effective they are.
Other ideas for you to add may include revising the previous lesson’s notes, and checking you have at least looked at the homework questions.
It takes a while to create a new, healthy habit. At least a month in fact. So be patient and persistent. Finally, if you have any extra ideas, please write a comment below, I’d love to hear them!
To your learning
david [at] GetIntoEnglish [dot] com