Use your brain for a change nlp application in a language classroom
Use Your Brain for a Change NLP application in a language classroom NLP, Neurolinguistic Programming, is a set of beliefs, attitudes and skills that enablepeople to achieve more than they could previously conceive. The theory has gained more andmore popularity among various professional groups since it was introduced by John Grinder(an American professor of linguistics) and Richard Bandler (a psychology student) in theearly 1970s. The neuro part of NLP is concerned with how we experience the world throughour five senses and represent it in our minds through our neurological processes. Thelinguistic part is concerned with the way the language we use shapes, as well as reflects, ourexperience of the world. The programming part of NLP is concerned with training ourselvesto think, speak and act in new and positive ways, in order to release our potential and reachthose heights of achievement which we previously only dreamt of. Working in Education today is a constant challenge as more and more children andyoung people display negative attitudes to learning and school. Teachers who areexperiencing increasing behavioural and learning difficulties in their pupils are looking fornew solutions. NLP is one of them. It can help you and your students to access and buildinternal resources and then install strategies for effective teaching and learning. But how to doit? I hope this article will give you some useful tips and will also encourage you to delve intothe NLP theory. NLP Presuppositions The NLP, guiding philosophy, consists of a series of so called presuppositions.Basically, they form a set of ethical principles for life. It is not necessary to accept them as theabsolute truth, though acting as if they were true can make a world of difference both in yourpersonal and professional life. 1. Mind and body are interconnected: they are part of the same system, and each affects the other. It is common knowledge that the better your body feels, the better your mindfunctions. But how many teachers keep in mind that the statement refers to their students aswell?
• First of all, remember that breathing in fresh air can help your students to learn more effectively. No matter what the temperature outside is, remember to open the windows widely during the break to let as much oxygen into the classroom as possible.• Do physical activities in the classroom to optimise the learning state of your learners. Controlled breathing, physical exercises and relaxation activities can help your students to learn more effectively.• If your students are upset about something, you can “break state” by choosing to do something else: shake your hands, say a tongue twister, count backwards in twos from 30,. stretch and yawn, do “gorilla thumps” – bang your chest with both fists and say aaaahh very loudly. All these activities can help you and your students to become more aware of mind andbody interconnection. Moreover, you will apparently experience how your teaching becomesmore effective. 2. The map is not the territory: we all have different maps of the world. We are different. We differ in how we experience the world and how we represent“reality” in our mind. Our beliefs are different and what we believe influences what we doand what happens to us. The statements refer to your students, too. What are the implicationsfor your classroom?• Your way of thinking about things and doing things is not the only one that is valid and effective. There are some other ways that might be even better, or at least as good as yours. Keep in mind that your students are individuals and make the effort to get to know their “maps’. Use them to generate learning.• It happens very often that instead of asking people about their maps, we play mind-readers and guess. We create certain presuppositions about others which can be very harmful to them. Wouldn’t it be much simpler if we asked, for example, why they have behaved in this way, or what they have meant by saying something? Then you will see how much you can learn from the others, even if they are your students. Paradoxically, not only teachers teach students, but also students teach teachers.• You as a teacher are potentially very powerful among your learners. Instead of imposing, rather offer the students your own opinions and ideas.
NLP offers a clear technique for viewing things from at least three different points ofview, called perceptual positions. Good communicators (and good teachers, too) know howto switch easily from one position to another as needed. First position is your own view ofany situation. You need to know yourself and your values to be an effective role model andinfluence others by example. Second position is understanding the other person’s emotionsand the ability to understand how another person thinks. Third position is a step outside yourview and the other person’s view to a detached perspective. There you can see the relationshipbetween the two viewpoints. Teach from a position of strength and calm confidence (first position) but also answera few questions: What is it like to be one of your students? (second position) Would you liketo be a student in your class? Enable your students to take risks and grow by developing theirsecond-position skills. From time to time stand back and watch yourself in the classroom(third position). Would you employ yourself? Are you the teacher you would want to teachyour child? Perceptual positions are basic to NLP. In any situation you need to know your ownposition and understand another person’s position without necessarily agreeing with it. Thenyou need to be able to take a mental step outside and evaluate the relationship. The solution toa relationship problem must involve taking the perspectives of both people. Negotiation isimpossible without understanding the conflicting views. Why not to try this technique withthe conflict situations which a teacher encounters so often in the classroom? 3. There is no failure, only feedback. In our school system, mistakes are usually considered as something negative. Manyteachers are very harsh and not only critical, but also too self-critical. Nevertheless, it does notchange the fact that we all make mistakes and without them we would never change orimprove. In NLP making a mistake equates with making progress. It is worth noticing thatmodern approaches to language teaching share the same viewpoint on the issue. One of themain teacher’s tasks in the language classroom is to create a safe atmospheres where it is finefor learners to take risks, make mistakes and get things wrong. Research shows that the mostsuccessful learners are those who jump right in and have a go, who are not afraid of making amistake or even making a fool of themselves. However, such an atmosphere can be created in the classroom only by a teacher whoputs a lot of effort in improving self-knowledge. Moreover, only when you are aware of your
mistakes and failure, you can help your learners to take advantage of them. I think that thefirst step which should be taken in order to apply NLP tenets in the classroom is to apply thetenets in the teacher’s life. It is not possible to convince anyone of an idea about which youare not convinced personally. Jane Revell suggests certain task for a teacher. It can help you to realize theimportance of mistakes and failure in your life. Get some paper, a pencil and a clock or watchready before you start. You have exactly one minute to write down your answers to each ofthe following questions. • Write quick notes on how you feel about failure and mistakes. • Write down everything you learnt to do before the age of 10. • Write down everything you have learnt to do without making a mistake. • Write down any successes that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t made a mistake, or if you hadn’t “failed” at something. • Write down the most important lessons you have learnt because of failure or mistakes. • Write quick notes on how you feel about failure and mistakes (after you’ve done this activity)1. The above activity can help you to recognise the voice in your mind which veryfrequently reminds you about the negative experiences in your life. Once you become awareof the voice, you can change it. You can change the language used by the voice. For manypeople it has been a great discovery how much they could change in their lives only whenthey changed the language existing in their thoughts. It was George Orwell who noticed that ifthought corrupts the language, language can also corrupt thought2. The most important implications of the NLP presupposition in the language classroomare:• Give your students positive messages rather than negative ones.• Help them to believe that they can learn.• Acknowledge what your students are doing right instead of cricising what they are doing wrong.• Build self-esteem in yourself as a teacher and in your students as learners, this will improve learning.1 Revell J., Norman S., 2000, In Your Hands, Saffire Press. London, p.48.2 O’Connor J., 2002, NLP Workbook, Element. London, p.140
• Instead of asking the students to highlight the words they don’t understand, ask them to highlight the ones they do understand. In the next part I am going to present the other NLP presuppositions. As I havementioned before, it is not necessary to accept them as the absolute truth, though acting as ifthey were true can make a world of difference both in your personal and professional life.NLP is about having more choices in your life. You can choose to stay as you are or you canchoose to move on, or you can choose to do a bit of both. What is important is to have thechoice.ReferencesRevell J., Norman S., 2000, In Your Hands. NLP in ELT, Saffire Press. LondonO’Connor J., 2002, NLP Workbook, a practical guide to achieving the results you want,Element. London