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Teaching English Will Teach You Mindfulness

Updated on December 19, 2014

Pay Attention

Paying attention, also called Mindfulness, is a big step on the way to living fully.

Mindfulness is something that we know we need to practice, but often don’t, certainly not when we’re talking informally with family and friends. Only if we know we have to talk in front of an audience do we think about how we will present what we want to say.

If your audience is a group who won't understand you at all, much less listen to what you have to say, you will have to speak slowly and clearly, pronouncing your words. Soon, very soon, you realize how un-clearly you normally speak.

You will practice Mindfulness, whether you wanted to or not, if you begin to teach English as a language. Especially while teaching the ones who don’t know ANY English at all, only their own language. But also if you teach non-beginners, because even though it seems that they understand, often they just pretend to.

Teaching How to Speak English

You have to desire enlightenment, or at least a more conscious life, if you want to teach English speaking to people who don’t understand what you are saying.

And you have to be a bit of a fool, a happy buddha, who makes others happy without worrying about your social status and dignity. Let your students relax and make mistakes, while you may look silly sometimes — gesturing and pantomiming. These are also life lessons.

If they speak a little English, they have listened to music and probably had some English in school that they thought was boring. They are not true beginners and you may slip into a Non-Mindfulness state, forgetting that they won’t tell you if they don’t understand. Then you are in solitary non-communication with another isolated soul.

Remember the goal is connection.

Teach English for your fun and freedom

The complete guide to teaching English and traveling the world.
The complete guide to teaching English and traveling the world. | Source

Body Language Communication

You may be asking, How do I communicate if we can’t talk?

Even if you do know their language, you should not use it in class with them, or all will be lost, as far as teaching time. They will want to talk in their language and not in English.

It’s a Zen exercise. You may not use vocabulary or expressions that your students do not understand. That sounds easy…but no, it isn’t.

If you expect them to catch on or understand because you say it and you understand it, then you can expect them to be frustrated, disheartened, despondent.

They will smile at you and nod their heads as if everything is fine. And you won’t know.

If they don’t know any English, then you have to begin by using sign and body language. If you’ve ever traveled you will be familiar with this system.

Go Forth Into the World

To communicate without speaking, you point and nod and smile and feel like a fool. That’s part of living consciously, on the path to enlightenment - not minding that you may look, sound or feel like a complete idiot sometimes.

I know this from my own experience learning a language. I went to Spain without knowing any Spanish or having studied it. Being the good student that I was, I hated making mistakes. It took me years to get over the fear of making mistakes. The fear of failure.

For more details about teaching and a complete How-To guide for traveling the world and making a living while you’re at it, I wrote an ebook you can take with you:

How to Teach English (as a Language) for (Your) Fun and Freedom

on Amazon at

And have a good trip!


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      8 years ago

      thanks Butterfly Angel. I can't find your hubs... I am back in the States now, back to my introverted ways doing art -- but lots more sociably confident than I used to be - before ESL teaching.

    • profile image

      Butterfly Angel 

      8 years ago

      Good article Rebecca. Nice that you found an audience. Glad to hear you express something that is greatly overlooked in teaching.


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