I’ve been an English Training Specialist since 2007. Prior to that, I was teaching EFL. With this level of experience, you’d think that I never get the case of the jitters anymore, but the opposite is true. I still get nervous on the first day of class just as I did when I was a student. No, my hands don’t get all wet and clammy and I don’t feel like wetting my knickers. But those first few moments are punctuated by awkward silence, unease and trepidation. This is made even worse on that moment when I introduce myself to the class as I watch them squirm in their seats or look at their beady expressions. Once they get to know each other and their bored or constipated faces break out into a tentative smile, the tensions drops and the mood takes on a different turn.
Looking back to the time when I was a student, I know that this prevented me from learning and achieving my full potential. Now that I’m on the opposite side of the fence, I try to take this into consideration. When I’m nervous, I know that somehow my students can sense this, and this anxiety can translate to them. In the field of training, this is never a good thing. If my students are nervous, they will not do as well in class and will even hesitate to participate. In language learning, participation and use of the target language is key. Thus, for my own sanity, I always incorporate an ice-breaker activity. I just hate that look of fear and panic in students during the first day. I think that’s what makes me nervous, so I try to get them smiling as early during the training as possible.
As I pored over the readings for this class, I realized that I have been ignorant as to how learning happens. I have likewise ignored that fact that my job as a trainer does not stop with teaching concepts. I should also teach them how to learn. At this point, I know that learning is not linear. I see this in my trainees. I am never assured of their progression even with quality input. Studying a particular lesson does not automatically lead to them understanding it, mastering it and moving on to the next lesson. As stated in one of our readings, sometimes what the teacher wants the students to learn may be different from what the students want to learn (http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/whatlearn.htm).
Learning is not a magical thing. It is a physical process, and though it is the student’s responsibility to learn, the process can be aided by the teacher.
I guess the next question is under what conditions can a student learn best?