By Vanessa Tolino
I talk fast. I’m from the East Coast of the US and lived in New York City for many years – fast talk is kind of accent from that region. Then, I moved to China and had to learn a lot about slow communication. At first it was frustrating, but I worked on it and adjusted. Becoming aware of my own rate of speech has been a valuable lesson in becoming more conscious about my rate of thought, and assisted me in being more mindful of my choices in a broad way as well as in the classroom.
I’ve taught for many years, and it’s become abundantly clear my students light up when I deliberately focus my message. The same goes for personal communication. We all want to engage with others, and when we connect sparkles fly. Engagement is the heart and soul of teaching; slowing down allows a student an opportunity to receive our message.
As a teacher with VIPKids it’s particularly important to keep it extremely slow because our students are working with a brand new language. It might be a tad uncomfortable at first, but here are a few practices to help you:
1.) Be intentional. What a difference it makes to place an intent before embarking upon a class! Take a moment – it doesn’t require a lot of time – just 30 seconds to calm your mind and place the intention to go slowly and engage.
2.) Make direct eye contact. This is about connection, and it’s particularly important when working through the awkward filter of the internet. We have to gain our student’s trust, and even though we are looking at a screen we have to remember the child is a real person sitting in a room far away looking to at us. When we make eye contact we are reminded of their needs, and it becomes natural to slow down in order to legitimately communicate with them.
3.) Prepare realistically. As teachers a lot of us tend to push ourselves to be perfect planners. It’s a fine line. In terms of working with young language learners it’s important to prepare realistically and to remember to give yourself space to go slowly.
4.) Listen to yourself speaking. This is fun stuff. These days there are endless permutations to record yourself talking. You will learn a lot about yourself and gain effective ways to improve your speaking style.
5.) Listen to a language you don’t understand. This exercise is invaluable for all of us. Find a Youtube video and close your eyes. You will be amazed by what you discover about your students.
Last words, keep in mind that slowing down doesn’t mean “not covering material” it means pronouncing and connecting. Trust yourself. Place your intent on the joy of connecting, and have fun with the slow deliberate pace. It will serve you everywhere in life.