Cam Goes Back to Class! (3 Insights For More Effective Lessons and Conversations)

Hey guys what’s up??? Sorry for going silent on you this past month. I just finished my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course here in Vietnam.

I wanted to develop a greater understanding of how we learn languages and indeed I did. Even more than that, however, I learned a lot about the psychology of students in general.

The concepts I’m going to share with you are useful far beyond teaching English in the classroom. If you apply them in your own life you’ll become a far better teacher and conversationalist.

1) Cater Your Speech to Your Audience’s Interest
This concept here is key. While it’s true that passion is contagious, it’s only true to a certain extent. If you’re super passionate about wine you can draw me into your reality for a while with talk about the slight differences you can perceive in exotic wines, but even in IDEAL scenarios you’re still going to lose me (a non-drinker) before too long. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about wine with me, however.

It just means you need to make a slight adjustment to make the subject relatable. If instead of talking about the flavor of different wines you instead talked about how your passion for wine developed and how you believe others can find or develop hobbies they’re passionate about you’re much more likely to keep me engaged. Why? Because I see that the conversation is relevant to me, you’re able to relate with me, and because there may be some practical value I can extract from the conversation.

The same goes with even this blog post. Why am I talking to you in general concepts and relating them to improving your conversational skills rather than focusing on teaching English? Because you’ve probably never taught English and thus are unlikely able to relate or be in a position to find that information to have much practical value.

Catering your speech to the interest of your audience will make it much more likely they’ll take something away from their conversation with you. It also makes them more likely to engage and insert their input into the conversation, which makes things more interesting for both of you!

2) Warming
Are you the kind of person that thinks small talk is pointless and just wants to get to the point? I don’t blame you. I was like that growing up too. Especially in business conversations I never understood why they’d ask me about the town I grew up in or what sports I enjoyed playing in high school? I always thought it was totally inauthentic. Shut the fuck up. We both know why we’re here. Let’s put together a deal and make some fucking money.

What I’ve since come to learn, however, is that even in business or educational settings people need time to get comfortable with you. When you jump straight into your speech without addressing and acknowledging the other person without some level of small talk beforehand it has the potential to cause more difficulty for you for one BIG reason.

It doesn’t give the other person time to feel comfortable and open up to you. Remember when you were a kid and your dad would yell at you to swing the bat differently or your mom would scream at you to clean your room? You likely closed yourself off to them emotionally because you felt they didn’t understand you, and even if their advice was valid you didn’t heed it to the extent you would’ve if they’d asked nicely.

The reality is that just not being mean doesn’t prevent a conversation from dying. Showing the other person that you care about them, and value them as a human being and not just a business or social commodity is HUGE.

When you make someone feel that you care about them they begin to care about you as a person as well AND they become infinitely more receptive to any material you may be attempting to convey to them. Apply this concept in your life alone and you’ll drastically increase the interest others take in you even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly interesting person. Being interested in others is one of the best ways to be seen as interesting yourself.

3) Explain New Concepts Based On Existing Points of Reference
Imagine you’re learning English. Someone tells you to meet them on their front porch. You ask, “What does front porch mean?”

They reply, “Well you know, it’s just like the back porch, but it’s in the front of my house.”

Would that help you? Not really, you’d know a front porch wasn’t in the back of the house, but you still wouldn’t know what the word porch meant. Why was your friend’s explanation unhelpful? Because they tried to explain a concept to you using a point of reality you’d never established.

Language is a great example of this concept because we intuitively understand that if someone doesn’t understand a word that we shouldn’t use that word in a definition for itself. Instead, we’re more likely to offer that person examples, show them pictures, or simply give them a definition using other words that they already know.

The same applies to all teaching. You can only expand others’ realities by building upon points of reference they’ve already established. Understanding this concept is perhaps THE biggest differentiator between poor teachers and great ones.

Poor teachers lose their students by answering questions with tangents that exist outside the student’s knowledge base while great teachers relate new information to old information that the student already understands. The great teacher and poor teacher can both have the same level of knowledge themselves, but only the great teacher leverages their knowledge in a way that allows students to absorb it.


Hey, hope you enjoyed the post! It’s something that’s really boiled inside of me over these past few weeks as I dove deep into the psychology of the teacher-student dynamic. I’ve got some SEO work for a client that I gotta hit hard so I’m gonna shoot out now. Subscribe to the blog so that you don’t miss out on KICKASS posts in the future, and feel free to check out my books on Amazon until next time. Peace!

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