Students come to me for help with TOEFL iBT because they need all kinds of things — most of which they don’t even know they should be asking for. They need something as reliable as Google Maps GPS navigation, a project manager, a tutor who understands the nooks and crannies of English, and a system for shifting their accent patterns. After coaching countless students through exam prep for the TOEFL iBT, I find it even more fascinating and rewarding than I did back in 2010 when I started.
The main reason that students enroll with me is so that they can soak up my energy. I simply make them feel better. Happier. Lighter. Hopeful.
In the beginning, though, their faces are pinched with stress and frustration. They have already taken the exam. Some as few as 2 or 3 times, others as many as 20 or 25. Every time they “failed,” they were slapped with a message of being not good enough, not smart enough, not capable enough. None of that is true, of course, but that is the challenge.
When students talk to me, they tend to be terse in an attempt to control the anger and frustration that brims just below the surface. “… Mustn’t let the acid splash on Jaime…” they think and try to hide it like the good adult learners they are. Ahh, but the acid is there and it will eat holes in my lesson plans and homework assignments.
I know if I can neutralize the anger and stress, if they know they have an ally in me, then we can start untangling the self-sabotage and make some serious progress.
This is why I allow myself to fall into each student’s story, each student’s life, each student’s unique challenges. I find out what they want in their life. When you really take the time to talk to the people who are stuck with low TOEFL iBT scores, you see the arc of the Hero’s Journey in every single one of them. They need me because when they are down, they are so down. At the lowest point, students question their faith, their career choices, their ability to be the kind of mother, father, husband or wife who they long to be — the very fabric of their being.
I let them cry and vent and rage. I give them space to be vulnerable and share things they haven’t told their partners, families or friends — often things that have only echoed in the dark corners of their own mind. I kneel down into their reality. I witness their frustration and feel why this matters so much in their lives.
And because I go with them to that place, when I find a unique path that leads that particular student out, they trust me and follow it. They slog and they slay and they slog some more. It is witnessing this transformation that gives me crazy amounts of energy and enthusiasm. They pull themselves through their own self-doubt, frustration and the very real challenges of their life, and they raise themselves up. They recreate themselves and their identity in English.
There is a very palpable shift in energy of a student who is ready to walk into the most demanding ESL exam test currently known to mankind and emerge victorious. These learners literally have a different face. They smile. They joke. They are relaxed. Through the webcam, across the miles, no matter how bad their lighting, or how pixelated they are, there is an undeniable shift in their energetic quality.
The fearful victim who was getting crushed by the boot of The Man is gone. Their chapter of purgatory (which I once saw stretch for eight years for one learner) is about to end. And they know it.
The new energy that I tap into and pull out of them is the energy of a learner who has discovered their own ability to self-actualize and has proven to themselves in the last few weeks that they are, without a doubt, a force to be reckoned with.
Together, we figured out how to get into the control panel for their own psychology — and with my help — they reconfigured their default settings.
Without that kind of rewiring, stories like Ramon’s would never have happened. (Watch the first few minutes of the video below to get a sense of what we did…)
It is endlessly rewarding because it continues to mean so much for each learner who can move on with their life.
This is why I do what I do. In my own way, I spread happiness and freedom.
My approach to exam preparation for TOEFL iBT is really different from the industry standard. It is about putting humans back at the center, where I think they belong.
The reality is that there are countless students who need my approach but will never fit in my schedule, or have the opportunity to discover my school.
That was the reason that I created an exclusive training program for ESL teachers where I share my techniques and approach…