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When I first started teaching English, 14 years ago, I made a point of making my classes stressless. That meant that I gave no difficult assignments to students, didn’t keep correcting their mistakes, gave them no homework, and didn’t ask them any hard questions. In essence, we were like chatting friends.
I wanted to create an environment for English learners where their minds were open to learn and not filled with pressure.
Within two weeks my classes were almost empty. The students transferred to other classes with teachers who were strict, gave lots of homework, asked difficult questions, and put lots of pressure on them. Those teachers were not popular and their classes were stressful – but they were always full.
Needless to say, having empty classes caused me stress – because having empty classes meant that I could lose my job – so I had to change. Otherwise, I would never have become a successful English Teacher. I thought I was helping students by taking away stress from their learning, but the opposite was true.
They flew across the world to be in my classroom, hoping that I would stress them out and push them to improve their English.
A great example to remember the importance of stress and pressure is to think about how diamonds are made.
Diamonds don’t just pop out of the ground without any effort. Diamonds were once carbon. They are the result of millions of years of pressure pushing down on them, literally transforming them into one of the most valuable gems in the world.
Without pressure, diamonds would be mere lumps of coal that you use in your barbeque. No one would pay thousands of dollars for a coal necklace.
The secret is not to remove stress, but to focus it and create something valuable and beautiful as a result.
Stress can be harmful, of course. It can crush you or it can transform you. It all depends on how you handle it; it depends on your ability to focus stress into success.
The most successful people in the world don’t hide from stress, they thrive on it. In companies, we have deadlines and employee assessments. Without these pressures it would be difficult to perform at a high level.
The same is true with learning English. Put pressure on yourself, correct yourself, don’t be satisfied with mediocrity. Have high aspirations.
Then your English skills will be as polished and valuable as a diamond.
- Sidhartha Desai, www.ExpertEnglishTeacher.com