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The Good, The Bad and the Useful about Stress-May 2020


We start our newsletter this month with an exciting update about our first online, live instruction, 5-day TESOL Certification Seminar. While preparing for it, we did not come across any other other online courses. Naturally we were a little doubtful that this could even be possible. Could more than 30 methods really be successfully taught in a virtual classroom? Could students covering a wide range of ages really be able to take 5 days of intensive training online? Happily, as the course got under way, our doubts were soon obliterated, as our students not only successfully assimilated the training, but, also were able to skillfully demonstrated the methods right in front of our eyes! Watching them overcome their fears, complete the tasks set before them and knock it out of the park in the practise sessions was exhilarating! Well done class!!! Check out our fun video of what the class was like click here.

If you are interested in getting qualified to teach English in a classroom or online please check us out at We warmly invite to join us in our next class. Enroll now!

Additionally, we are privileged to have one of our students who has been teaching online for some time contribute very practical suggestions for those who are starting out in this exciting and lucrative field. We look forward to your article Melodi!

We will finish off our newsletter with very important information on how stress can hinder or help in the classroom.

Well, without further ado… let’s get started with our May edition of the Pure Language Institute’s “Adventures in Language Learning!

Online Teaching Tips

By Melodi Koether

Hi everyone!

Starting something new can be really nerve- racking! Whether it’s a new career or even just changing your hairstyle! Online teaching is no exception. I have been teaching online now for about two years and it has been both rewarding and challenging. From the day I had my interview to the day I started teaching I was a ball of nerves. I sure could have used some advice! So here are a few points that I’ve learned in my time that I hope can help you as you navigate this new field:)

Fake it till you make it!

The Interview

This will determine, salary, what types of students you get and if you get the job or not Be yourself- as long as that means full of energy and ready to make a fool of yourself Be animated, more than usual, Be prepared, Have a reward system in place They want to see that you are an experienced teacher already, try to shine!

HOW big was the fish?

The courseware will be deficient in some way so one way to keep the lesson going is: Need to expand look at your hand! Each finger is a W question word. Who, What, Where, Why, When, with the How in your palm! Why is it raining? Who is getting wet? What happened to his umbrella? Where is the umbrella? Why did he jump in the puddle? How will he get dry?

Sticks and Stones

Unruly kids – for whatever reason they are lashing out at you, who knows what’s going on in their house. Of course, try to maintain the teacher/student dynamic but maybe try a few tricks before resorting to calling the parents. Try to turn the insult into a lesson for example:

  1. S: Teacher you’re fat!

  2. T: You know who is really fat? A panda! Why? He eats all day…

They will realize that its not working and your not taking the bait so they move on If its really bad, wait for the after action report – parents read them or stop the lesson and write a note to the administration. Either way… the student will get an ear-full from their parents. Who are paying a lot for these lessons…

This Too Shall Pass

There will be Good days , there will be bad days… it will end you will get through it! Try to accomplish one goal, make it a game, try to get up and move around. Manage our own expectations.

Nosy Nellies

Parents sitting there, chiming in maybe even telling the kids the answers. First off: don’t be intimidated! Get them involved!

ex: T: mom what color shirt are you wearing? It is Yellow, my shirt is yellow student what color shirt does mom have? It is Yellow, her shirt is yellow.

The parents will eventually trust you as they see how you are teaching their children and either stop interfering or will be as engaged as the student. Either is a win!

Practice Makes Perfect

Are you scared they will ask something we don’t know the answer too? Be honest- don’t fudge it, it’s ok to say you’re not sure about the answer but make sure to do the research and get back to them! Preparation is the key! Look ahead and try to anticipate the questions that might come up. Especially the dreaded Grammar questions!

So I hope that has been helpful, and don’t worry YOU GOT THIS!

The Good, The Bad and the Useful about Stress

We continue our perusal of John Medina’s insightful book “Brain Rules” with a discussion about stress- the good, the bad and the useful for classroom settings.

Firstly, a quick primer on stress: Two chemicals that are released in response to stress are adrenalin and cortisol. Medina explains: “You can feel your body responding to stress: Your pulse races, your blood pressure rises, and you feel a massive release of energy. That’s the famous hormone adrenaline at work. It’s spurred into action by your brain’s hypothalamus, that pea-size organ sitting almost in the middle of your head. When your sensory systems detect stress, the hypothalamus reacts by sending a signal to your adrenal glands, lying far away on the roof of your kidneys. The glands immediately dump bucketloads of adrenaline into your bloodstream. The overall effect is called the fight or flight response.” According to Hormone Health Network,1 once the fight or fight response is triggered “… this reaction causes air passages to dilate to provide the muscles with the oxygen they need to either fight danger or flee. Adrenaline also triggers the blood vessels to contract to re-direct blood toward major muscle groups, including the heart and lungs. The body’s ability to feel pain also decreases as a result of adrenaline, which is why you can continue running from or fighting danger even when injured. Adrenaline causes a noticeable increase in strength and performance, as well as heightened awareness, in stressful times. After the stress has subsided, adrenaline’s effect can last for up to an hour.” Medina adds that Cortisol is also released which “in small doses wipes out the most unpleasant aspects of stress, returning us to normalcy.” Cortisol also assists with memory formulation. Since we are always looking to optimize learning we are intrigued by the relationship between these two stress chemicals and teaching a language.

Stress- “The Villain” Since the topic of stress usually resolves more around the negative than what it’s good for, we won’t “stress you out” by describing in great detail all its destructive potential. We’ll limit the negative to the field of learning. Medina applies it to learning when he says: “Stressed people don’t do math very well. They don’t process language very efficiently. They have poorer memories, both short and long forms. Stressed individuals do not generalize or adapt old pieces of information to new scenarios as well as non-stressed individuals. They can’t concentrate. In almost every way it can be tested, chronic stress hurts our ability to learn.” This being true, does that mean that encouraging and consistently nudging students to publicly practise the language they are being taught is counter- productive because the stress of preforming and making mistakes will obliterate the memory of the vocabulary being taught? A good question since so many schools encourage only a bare minimum of oral, public practise in the classroom. The answer lies in the beauty and power of… well, yes- stress! Stress, in the positive role for which is was designed. Stress-the hero!

Stress- “The Hero”

On a short term basis, stress actually speeds up learning and improves memory. How so? Medina explains, “The brain is just as influenced by stress as the immune system is. The hippocampus, that fortress of human memory, is studded with cortisol receptors like cloves in a ham. This makes it very responsive to stress signals. If the stress is not too severe, the brain performs better.

Its owner can solve problems more effectively and is more likely to retain information.” Returning to the question: Should we encourage, even gently push our students to regularly practise the target language in the classroom, even though this can cause them some stress and even moderate anxiety? Yes, but they need to be medicated… Not by prescription man-made drugs, rather by a miracle chemical produced by their own bodies. It is called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. Medina expounds, “BDNF is the premier member of the powerful group of proteins called neurotrophins. BDNF in the hippocampus acts like a standing military armed with bags of Miracle Gro, keeping neurons alive and growing in the presence of hostile action. As long as there is enough BDNF around, stress hormones cannot do their damage.” As we teach and demonstrate during our TESOL methodology course, BDNF is produced when we engage in exercise. When we incorporate mild to moderate to vigorous movement in conjunction with learning, BDNF is released which neutralizes harmful stress hormones. Thus, consistently having your students move around while they are practising will keep their stress levels to the acceptable level for optimal learning. References 1Hormone Health Network.”Adrenaline | Endocrine Society.”, Endocrine Society, 5 May 2020, hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/adrenaline

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