You may not want to recognize it, but fear is what stops you in the language class, in real life and everywhere. Fear is taking your dreams out of you, and it is a devil in disguise, as it appears not as fear, but as any excuse that will allow you to blame everything and everyone except you. Let’s face our fears for once when studying a language and let’s start doing the right things.
I am to tell you the real story of one of my students, whom I will call Tristan. Tristan is a normal child, a pre-teenager who hates classes and studying but who wishes to thrive in his studies as he’s already understood that’s the best choice. However; he normally prefers playing football or hanging around with his friends. Being the only child of a divorced couple makes him feel a bit insecure sometimes, and it seems –as far as I could get from his few comments- he’s being used by his own parents to attack each other. I don’t think parents do this on purpose, but an innocent comment can really get into a child’s mind and make him feel insecure.
Tristan really wants to thrive in the class, he looks his classmates with envy when he sees them standing at the whiteboard and writing the proper solutions to the book activities or answering the correct answers to me. When it comes to him, he normally did wrong. It seemed to me I couldn’t teach him anything at all, and I started to feel discouraged. Any written activities given would be a total disaster to him, and he didn’t even finish them at all. I thought he wasn’t interested in the class, and told him off constantly, which didn’t really work… so I decided to change my approach.
I asked him directly when I had a moment alone with him, and the answer was really heart touching. “Teacher, I can’t do this because I’m silly, and I am afraid that everybody laughs at me when I do things incorrectly”. By the time this poor child finished saying this he was in tears, looking at me with an apology on his face, and then I realized what the problem was.
Life experiences, classmates, silly teachers like me, his parents and the entire world made him believe he was a kind of second class person and scared him to death because he didn’t want to fail, so he preferred not doing his work, just because it was safer for him. I have already told you, The Dormant Giant
cannot make a difference between reality of fiction
, so inside Tristan mind, he was really stupid and not capable of doing what the rest of his classmates did. This kid was broken, and so I became by that time.
My instinct was telling me to comfort him, to support him and give him an immense hug, but I didn’t. I motivated him instead! I told him the elephant’s fable, that one that refers to a baby elephant in a circus, tied to a stick with a chain. By the time the elephant was big and strong enough to break the chain into pieces, fear and the thought that he couldn’t do it stopped him. I told Tristan he was a big coward elephant, I told him I only teach champions and that I wanted him to move his ass right now! I told him to stand up and beat his chest while screaming with me:
I’m a champion!!!!!
Let’s do the opposite
Can you guess how Tristan has been doing since then? Well, he’s not the best in the class but he’s doing great. He is currently thriving during lessons, answering correctly, making great homework, he speaks in English -his second language- with security and he esteems himself, and more importantly, he is much happier.
I just made him believe the opposite of what he thought, and yes, is that simple. I could do it with him as he is still like a piece of clay a teacher can model, adults are not. That means it has to be you and only you who stands up and shouts “I’m a champion!” and stop being afraid of everything.
Most adult students are in silence during classes, most don’t do all the homework, and most of them are expert excusers, yeah!
I’m always listening excuses such as:
“I don’t have time for this”
“I’m not afraid… it’s… difficult”
“I have nothing to say”
Or my favourite one, silence, bloody silence in response. And when silence comes it’s very funny to see them avoiding my sight, not moving, not breathing, not even existing… scared to death so the teacher does not ask them, and waiting for a classmate to answer so they avoid speaking. But come on, if you avoid speaking two things happen, one, you send the wrong message to theDormant Giant, telling him you should remain silence during the class, second thing, you will never learn.
You don’t have to experience the whole transformation Tristan had, but you can try by doing only the opposite of what you normally do. It is that simple, if you said you didn’t have the time, you now say you have it. If you said it was difficult, you now say it’s easy. If you said you couldn’t, you know say you can! And if you didn’t speak during the class, you now do it!
I give you my word, everything will change dramatically in a short time. Just remember, and this is the same thing I told Tristan, once you’ve done something good, I will not accept you coming back, you keep on moving your ass and you keep on improving yourself. That is your only focus.
The Comfort Zone
This is a very important concept in modern psicology, and it is a very simple concept, you feel safe in the area you know well, and your Dormant Giant tells you that in the unknown part of the world –the vast majority of this planet- monsters that could kill you exist.
You feel safe translating into your mother language during the classes, and you feel well if you don’t do what I tell you to do, and unless you go out from that little portion of the world you live in you cannot improve.
Yes, it is hard, but just because you keep on telling excuses to yourself, stop doing it, do the opposite you’ve been doing recently and that would be it! The problem would be solved. Once we get out our comfort zones we get to know that a monster didn’t kill us when we spoke in a different class or when we offered ourselves voluntarily instead of hiding. On the other hand, we expanded our comfort zone. Simple, isn’t it?