Thursday, August 30, 2018

Living Up to Expectations

As I have worked with many students and people around the world, one common emotion I often see is the desperate desire to be valued and seen for whom they really are.

At times, students comment that they are trying to live up to the expectations of family and friends who live so far away, yet these people seem so unaware of the personal struggles these students face: homesickness, the challenge of learning a language at the pace their family might expect, cultural isolation, the overwhelming fear if they aren't able to progress fast enough to get into a university program.

As a result, these students may question their self-worth, as if that depended upon someone else to give that to them. (Seeking external approval and validation is a common response when you feel your self-worth hinges on the judgements of others.)

Some students deeply struggle in learning a language despite the fact that they spend countless hours studying, while others seem naturally wired to learn without effort. The fear that their parents will erroneously assume that they are lazy or not being serious can consume their thoughts and add to the unneeded burden of feeling that they aren’t enough.

My hope is that as teachers, friends, fellow students, and neighbors, we learn to understand these fears. Never dismiss them. A true friend is one that sits with you in your discomfort and listens, without the need or inclination to give you advice. People just want to be heard, and from that small act of listening, greater courage and self-compassion and self-worth can blossom, grow, and thrive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Being Real

All too often, and because of the fear of appearing inadequate, we run around pretending to be someone we were never meant to be. Embracing our true selves can be the key to greater inner peace.
In this conversation on my site, we see a classic example of this in which I play the role of a guy who is afraid to be authentic and hides behind an image of what he wants to be.
Enjoy. I think the guy eventually figures this out:

Monday, August 20, 2018

Personal Growth

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” - Oliver Wendell Homes
Coming home on the train after a good day with new students from across the globe. They are eager to learn and expand their understanding of the world as they learn English. They come from so many interesting places: Japan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, the Ukraine, Mexico, Canada, Chad, and the list goes on.

Once they begin to discover so much more about the cultures around them, they see this new knowledge as the gateway to a more expansive worldview and deeper human connections.

At the moment when we assume that we have the world figured out, the potential for growth wanes and fossilizes. Elasticity of thought dissipates.

However, every time I walk into the classroom, I try to be humble enough to see that I could on the verge of new discoveries.

I relish in that feeling.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Danger of Stereotyping

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”
- Robertson Davies, author
As human beings, we tend to think that we are rational creatures who see the world the way it really is, but what we don’t realize is that we often unconsciously seek out information that tends to confirm our current views, and we often dismiss information that disconfirms our long-held perspectives.
This is true of so many facets of our lives, and we often are unaware of the fact that we do this. We convince ourselves that we give all information a fair and equal treatment, but we generally don’t because analyzing information takes more cognitive work, and the fear of being wrong and of having to set aside past views can at times be paralyzing. You would think it would be liberating to learn more, but our current perspectives may have been so much a part of our identify that letting go can be deeply uncomfortable.
As a result, we tend to see only what our mind is prepared to see.
Where I see this play out in my work is the fact that students often hold certain stereotypes about people from other cultures, and unfortunately at times, don’t seek out new information to debunk views that aren’t accurate.
As a result, students sometimes feel uncomfortable, disappointed, or hurt when other people claim this or that about their country that only misrepresents its people. Broad sweeping statements like, “Yeah, I know that people in your country ________.” You can fill in the blank. I’ve even seen students deeply hurt over characterizations that aren’t true.
And rather than limiting my comment to just international students, this thinking error plagues all of us—-teachers, organizations—-and people like Randall.
All this said, I have also seen relationships built when people come together because they were ready to listen and learn with open minds and hearts.
So the next time you are absolutely, 249% sure that your view represents reality, stop and ask yourself if you have analyzed all relevant information before arriving at your ironclad conclusion. Chances are you haven’t.
Have you ever seen such examples in your own life? Feel free to share.

Understanding Others

If you want to hear a powerful message about broadening your understanding of other people and cultures, you may very well find this lecture very thought-provoking and life changing:
“The danger of a single story. Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

Self-Study Guide -

For many teachers and students, school is just around the corner. If you are looking for specific listening activities to plan your teaching/learning, take a look at my self-study guide which organizes my listening activities by topic: