They say teaching is one of the best ways to learn. I’ve definitely found this to be true – I’ve gained so much knowledge from all of my students! The English language company I work for has mostly corporate clients. This means that I get to travel all over the city every day and tutor auditors, bankers, managers, IT specialists, lawyers and business men and women from all different rungs of Moscow’s corporate ladder.
I won’t be the first teacher to admit that some of my students are more enjoyable than others. I’ve noticed that the really good, really smart students are usually from the top golden-brown slice of their companies. The best students, in other words, are also the best professionals. Not surprisingly, whatever has made them successful in their careers also helps them learn quickly and effectively in their English lessons. Comparing these vice presidents, top managers, and successful business men I work with to the mid and entry-level professionals who also take classes, I’ve noticed a pattern of successful and effective habits. The best students and best professionals simply seem to have their act together.
Here’s what I think goes into making a highly effective student (or professional for that matter):
- They are able to focus. They don’t multi-task, but pour their full energy into the present moment, and the task at hand. Whether it’s a repetitive exercise, fun vocabulary game, or complicated grammar lesson, they are fully present and focused on whatever we are doing. Students who are able to do this learn quickly and avoid a lot of wasteful repetition.
- They are naturally good communicators. If they speak Russian well, they will probably be able to speak English well. A big vocabulary doesn’t matter as much as the ability to organize their thoughts internally, and express said thoughts clearly with whatever English language tools they do have.
- They are curious and interested. The good students don’t get bored easily. They are constantly finding ways to relate new information to what they do. The good students actually like learning.
- They ask questions. They’re not afraid to admit when they don’t know something, need help, or when something is too difficult for them. They refuse to be rushed along through vocabulary or pushed past grammar they don’t understand just because they want to look smart. If it’s important, they take the time to fully understand it.
- They clearly see their goals. Successful students know what they want, and work hard to get it. They don’t get sidetracked easily because they remember what’s important.
- They listen and repeat. I like to let my students do most of the talking, but sometimes they really need to hear a grammar or vocabulary lesson. Some students have a hard time with this – they interrupt, get distracted or are off daydreaming. The good students actually pay attention. Also, when they get an important new piece of information, they write it down and repeat it to themselves to cement it in their brain.
- They are confident. They’re not afraid of looking dumb. They’re not constantly worrying about failure. They don’t let fear hold them back, but quietly, consistently take steps forward.
Also, interestingly enough, some habits that I would think to be detrimental don’t seem to detract too much from these students’ ability to work and learn effectively. My really successful students are quite often late, never do their homework, frequently cancel lessons and always keep their phones on during our lesson – quite often answering calls mid-conversation.
In any case, I’ve really been able to learn a lot from the super smart students and professionals that I’m privileged to work with.