Thinking Bigger and Why We Need YOU To Do It

The big buzz around the blogosphere this week is for Michael Port’s “Think Big Manifesto“. It’s not a new concept, it just says that thinking big is just as easy as thinking small, so you might as well think as big as you can!

The idea of the book is that it applies to anything, from being happy and relationships, to jobs and finance, or anything else.

I think it applies especially to teaching, and especially to teaching English. Because far too many people, especially schools, think too small. How many times have you heard teachers say that kids can’t do something? Or teachers moaning that parents want their kids fluent in 6 months? Or kids saying they have too much boring homework?

Don’t be “realistic”!

It’s all because too many people are aiming too low. Schools plan English lessons without a set end, “just come and take lessons every week”. But for how long and for what aim? A goal without a time limit means you’ll never get there. Some schools only do things for exams. Simply for the tests? A goal of passing a test means that’s all you’ll be able to do. Why follow the status quo? Why give the kids so much ineffective cramming style homework? Just because it’s always been done? Parents often want kids to be “fluent” really quickly, but teachers often urge them to be “realistic”. Why? What’s so wrong about that goal?

We know how to learn a language, and we know that millions of people already do it. We even know how to teach it with just one classroom hour a week in a foreign land. Stopping Swine Flu from becoming pandemic is tough. Rebuilding the world’s financial system so that it empowers more of the world’s poorest is tough. But we’ll do it.

In comparison, teaching one English theme a week is too easy, too small.

Now it’s your turn!

I’d say “think bigger”. What if your kids had to learn fluent English in 6 months, or 3 months, or even 1 month. How would you teach it? The old expression goes that if someone put a gun to your head you’d certainly find a way. So why not do it now without the gun?

From a business point of view you’d have hundreds of students, because everyone would want to learn from you. From a karma point of view you’d be helping millions of people learn things more quickly than they ever thought possible. And from a personal point of view you’d have tremendous satisfaction at having done something amazing. Your fortune and fame beckons!

So what goals would you set? How many lessons? How long for? What targets? What wasted class time would you cut? What materials would you use? Plan it out now, in your head if you like, or better still on paper or even in the comments here. What English would you teach first? What English would you teach last? What excuses do you have not to do this? School won’t listen? Can’t be bothered? Boss won’t play ball? It’s not possible? Even more reason to do it and prove everyone wrong, including yourself! How would you best use the resources you and your students have? What extra materials would you make? How would you design the perfect system to make kids fluent in months or weeks?

As I say, thinking big is just as easy as thinking small. You think everyday, so you might as well make it as big as you can in everything you do!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

6 Responses to “Thinking Bigger and Why We Need YOU To Do It”

  1. Joy k.

    Good morning Richard,
    Thank you for slapping my head into reality. I got a morning tears falling -down into my cheek. The word of truth is so timely to hit my own ego. Think giantly, Big Big Big. My heart is getting genki “Truth” is like s sword.Thank you sir.

  2. Liza

    I’m reading The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, probably most famous for his TED lecture. An enlightening read if ever there was one. Around page 235 he comments about “reforms” in the education systems taking place around the world. “In my view they are going about it in exactly the wrong way.” “….There are 3 major processes in education: The curriculum, which is what the school system expects students to learn; pedagogy, the process by which the system helps students to do it; and assessment, the process of judging how well they are doing. Most reform movements focus on the curriculum and the assessment.”

  3. Stephen

    Well, I don’t know if you are familiar with the Rosenthal and Jacobson’s Pygmalion study(for which the actual results are a source of debate), but I like the basic premise that expectations are a limiting factor in the classroom. Basically, the general gist is that two teachers are given students with exactly the same ability, but one is told their students are great and the other is told that their students are not so good. Anyway, the results for the students match the teachers expectations. The main point I like to take from this is to remember to start each class with a clean slate!! In saying that, it can be hard sometimes!!!

  4. Maria C.

    The truth is, you got me thinking.
    Where’d I start from, what’d I teach first? Is it really possible?
    I know a teacher here (where I live) who is getting adults speaking in 6 months, his waiting list is so long that he can’t take any student for a year.
    Of course his fees are not cheap but people are realizing that they prefer paying for 6 months high fee course than paying for a 3-4 year course and get not as much results and spend the same money if not more.
    Well I just wanted to tell you all how I believe that it is possible and that there are people who are already doing it.
    I’m going to work on that, think big and make it a goal for my english courses. And I’m starting now

    I’ll let you know.

  5. Susan K

    I do like the style of your articles, Richard. All the key points are given clearly, which is so useful for those of us who don’t have time to read lots of books!

    I feel that my job has been made easier by having the curriculum already set out by the school teacher and I’m working on fluency in speaking and pronunciation (one lesson a week). I follow the topics but sometimes add a bit extra. It gives me such a buzz to hear them speak even a few phrases with confidence, sounding just like native speakers!

    I agree that we sometimes see certain things as insurmountable barriers and when we challenge ourselves to overcome them it is surprising when we actually achieve that goal. I often think I don’t have enough time to spend planning lessons carefully and preparing materials but when there is such a strong motivation – knowing that you’re not only helping students with their future careers but also giving them the gift of confidence – it makes me want to spend every spare minute I have on preparing the best possible lessons.

    I agree that there is too little focus on pedagogy and that low expectations can be a limiting factor, too. When new styles of teaching are introduced, it is surprising how far certain students can get. If I tell myself students aren’t learning quickly because they’re too shy to join in or because they don’t have the ability, I’m putting all of the responsibility for learning onto the students. What I’ve got out of this and other articles here (as well as teachers’ comments) is that I need to put more of the responsibility for students’ success onto myself as a teacher.

  6. Freddy Wong

    I would like to use your system to tech more kids especially those who cannot afford it.

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