If you’re anything like me, you will already be sick of reading all the ‘New Year, New You’ type posts that are now flooding the internet. What was so terrible about the old me? What’s suddenly changed overnight? Why should I become a different person? (on second thoughts, don’t answer, I’m not actually that bothered!)
I’m happy being me. I don’t want to change, I just want to tweak…
So this New Year, instead of making the kind of resolutions that I don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of actually keeping, I will be tweaking. I have a pretty good idea of what I am good at and where I could do with making some improvements (both professionally and personally). So that’s what I’ll be doing, just gradually working on a few areas. No wholesale ‘new me’, just the same old me, developing gradually, as I have always done.
No public declarations of things I’m going to do in 2020, no plans for some huge shift in my personality (sorry), no crazy weight-loss projections, no determination to have a class of teenagers eating out of my hand by September. Just a quiet reflection of my strengths and weaknesses and how best to tweak them, not because it is the 1st of January, but throughout the year.
This time next year I will be looking back at the things I HAVE done, rather than stressing about the resolutions that I didn’t keep.
So happy New Year, I wish you all the best for 2020. Be you – after all, it’s what you are best at.
This week’s guest post by the lovely Gabriella Kovács briefly discusses the basics of language coaching and gives you some ideas about how it works… and a very practical takeaway activity to use in your next lesson.
Something to identify is whether you are a coach coaching learners, or a language professional (teacher, trainer) using coaching elements, techniques and tools to add dimension to your classes. When you coach, you coach, when you teach, you may make use of specific coaching elements, but that is not coaching: that is teaching with a coaching approach. In my experience of the past few years, the latter is basically what most language professionals need, this is what learning about LC can provide.
Language coaching is a process focusing on
learner needs, interests, motivation and goals.
By identifying – with the learner – what and why they wish to achieve
concerning their language learning and language usage goals, the missing pieces
of the puzzle fall into place nicely. By
asking questions, guiding with empathy and positivity there will be space for
the learner to come to terms with who they really are as language learners,
language users and will increase their commitment to taking steps to reach
The definition goes: A conversation-based process with a purpose to map and create optimal language acquisition or language usage-related goals. The framework is based on strategies utilising intrinsic motivation and developing learning awareness, where both parties are equal partners. It is important that clients (learners) claim ownership of their own development. (Source: Gabriella Kovács ACC)
Learners may feel stuck or demotivated, keep
postponing exams, cannot significantly make progress, do not seem to find time
to study the language, believe they are not good at learning languages etc.
For some, working on these issues might take
one session, for others 3-6, it really is not about time. I have had clients collaborating
with me for one session and leave happily, while others I support for months
and work in true partnership with them, covering themes related to their
workplace communication issues, exam preparation etc.
Key questions to ask when beginning a coaching
process might be:
way(s) is your goal supporting other aspects of your life?
have an ideal type of teaching or lesson in mind you would feel comfortable
had 15 minutes a day to learn, what would you do in that time?
I work with adults in the corporate world and
blend coaching with communication training. Many times I go in with 3-4
coaching tools and a handout and we discuss what is going on for the learner. I
provide the attention all learners should be receiving – and they strive.
Let me present an activity I often use with
learners when identifying motivation, learning preferences, strategy issues for
Print and cut about 6-10 quotes
and place them on the table in front of the learner/s. (If you have a class,
then get them into pairs or groups of maximum 3-4.)
Go through the quotes and make
sure learners understand the meanings of the words and phrases. Make this as
short as possible. (Don’t interpret the meaning of the quotes themselves to
Ask learners to choose 2 quotes
that resonate with how they are feeling in connection to their learning
challenges right now, why that quote is important for them at present. Let them explain to you or their
Finally get them to highlight and
share some interesting ideas. Let them
reflect on the activity: Why was this activity valuable for you?
You can even collect their
reflections and summaries on post-its and put them on the wall.
This is a precious activity as it needs very
little preparation, will support learning awareness and deepen understanding of
aspects of learning/teaching learners may not have thought of before. It may
take 10 minutes, it may take 30 minutes… Be prepared for a fruitful
These are my favourite quotes, but there are many, many more out there!
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – From the book Narcotics Anonymous
If you limit your actions in life to things that nobody can possibly find fault with, you will not do much. Lewis Carroll
Nothing is impossible… the word itself says I’m possible! Audrey Hepburn
The journey is the reward. – Chinese proverb
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily. – Zig Ziglar
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. – Confucius
Problems are only opportunities in work clothes. Henry Kaiser
Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure. – Confucius
I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn. – Einstein
Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.- Xun Kuang
A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. – Thomas Carruthers
That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way. – Doris Lessing
Hope you enjoyed reading this and found it useful.
Australian-born Gabriella Kovács ACC, an internationally certified language coach, business communication trainer (B.Ed., M.A.), mentor and teacher trainer. She is behind the idea of founding an organisation to support all professionals interested in language coaching, which has manifested in ILCA (International Language Coaching Association).
Her mission is to add dimension and depth to ongoing language learning practices and create a more holistic, person-centred approach for language professionals. She provides webinars, f2f and online trainings, publishes articles and works with her clients.
I’ve read a lot of posts and articles recently encouraging teachers
to get out of their comfort zones and thought I’d start by sharing this graphic
And while I don’t disagree with anything suggested in this
post, I wonder how aware we actually are about what is, and isn’t, within our
own comfort zone? How do we define our own comfort zone? How do we take those
first tentative steps out of our comfort zone? Is it even necessary?
According to The Cambridge Dictionary, comfort zone can be defined as a situation in which you feel comfortable and in which your ability and determination are not being tested
Doesn’t sound like too bad a place to be, if you ask me! But is it really the best a teacher can do for their students? If we spend a lesson testing our learners’ ability and determination, surely it is only fair that we should be put to the same test? So, how do we know, exactly, what might be in (or out of) our comfort zone?
For the purposes of this post I conducted a little (extremely unscientific) research. I asked teachers from around the world ‘How would you define your comfort zone, as a teacher?’ Firstly, yes, I phrased the question badly – I assumed that the concept of a comfort zone would be universal – turns out, it’s not! There were lots of responses involving coffee, a comfy chair, no children and even the pub. Many more responses were about the type of learners or lessons that people like to teach; C1/2, business, adults, poetry etc. What very few seemed to do, was to equate it to their methods, activities and style of teaching. Maybe defining our comfort zones by what we enjoy is no bad thing though.
My favourite answer (thank you Philip Shigeo Brown) was ‘A developmental place where we often strive to be and yet strive to grow beyond by getting out of it’. I reckon he’s pretty much hit the nail on the head there. Or at least he would have done if people were actually aware of the existence of their own comfort zone.
Senninger defined the different learning zones long these lines;
The Comfort Zone – the area in which you feel you have mastery, where you are happy, content and confident in your abilities.
The Learning Zone – where you stretch yourself, try something new, feel a little discomfort but not much in the way of stress. Looking at new ideas and thinking ‘yes, I could probably give that a go’.
The Panic Zone – does exactly what is says on the tin, new practices which genuinely scare the heebie-jeebies out of you. Stress on an unproductive level. Cold sweats, nightmares, irrational urges to go to the loo 47 times in 5 minutes, you get the idea.
On the whole, I get this explanation
and I like it. I would probably make just one teensy change…
I don’t see how the lines can be defined, there must be degrees of challenge? Surely there can’t be some arbitrary tipping point at which things go from stretch to utter terror? (having said that, my first conference presentation came jolly close…). To my mind there are some ideas that I am more comfortable with trying than others; some practices I would more readily incorporate into my teaching than others; some contexts that I would find more challenging, terrifying and stressful than others, but would still give it a go (as I do, periodically, with teenagers) and some stuff that I would just never even countenance (not much – but some).
The thing is, as we stretch ourselves, the things that start off panic inducing, gradually move into our learning (or stretch) zone. As the comfort zone becomes wider, the slightly scary thing becomes the comfortable thing and the terrifying thing also moves – to become a somewhat less terrifying thing. Imagine the plughole in the bath – that big hairy spider will go down it eventually, as the water spirals round.
If you google the topic you will find loads of ‘inspirational’ graphics along these lines.
Now, I don’t know about you – but I just find this plain depressing. Is it really suggesting that unless we take some almighty leap into the unknown, we will never be any more than mediocre, with sad mediocre lives and an uninspiring outlook on life? This is just unrealistic (a bit like a celeb’s Instagram accounts – where everything is perfect, they all wake up with a full face of make-up, a kale smoothie in their hand and no-one sweats at the gym). If we used this as ‘inspiration’ we’d NEVER get to the ‘good stuff’ because it’s just too far away!
The key is to take little steps. Reflect on your teaching, see where your own comfort zone lies and then decide where and whether you should move on a little (or a lot). Find something that interests you; a question you’d like the answer to, a new activity that helps your learners, collaborate with a colleague, read, observe a colleague and copy something that you feel works well, research other approaches to a recurrent classroom problem.
Your comfort zone is just that, comfortable. It isn’t a prison but neither should it be your goal (I was going to say it isn’t a gaol but neither should it be your goal – but wasn’t sure if old English words were universal and, actually, it looks a bit naff, but hay ho).
There is nothing wrong with being comfortable in what you do (although there have been suggestions that the boredom of staying within your comfort zone may contribute to burnout) but, just for kicks, maybe add just a frisson of stretch.
Senninger, 2000 – Learning
Zone Model; Abenteuer leiten – in Abenteuern lernen (Facilitating adventures –
learning in adventures). Münster: Ökotopia Verlag