Reduce your anxiety if you’re taking the TOEFL test

Over the last 9 years, I’ve spent a lot of time helping people to prepare for important language proficiency tests.  Many of those people have taken the same test, again and again, hoping to achieve a different result.  However, they keep finding that their score isn’t high enough, in at least one area.  One reason for this can be because they have not had an expert help them out with their test preparation.  Another common reason is that of anxiety.

One resource that I recommend for people who have really struggled is Glenn Harrold’s hypnosis MP3. You can purchase it and download it very quickly to begin working on reducing your stress.

For others, who are feeling that stress is reducing their score, I recommend taking the time to focus on breathing. Even in the middle of a high-stakes test, it’s relatively easy to take 3 slow, deep breaths before each speaking session.  This will reduce anxiety, slow breathing and pulse, regulate the voice, and clear the mind.  Don’t wait until test day to do this.  Incorporate the practice into every practice session, so that it will come naturally on test day.

All the best on your big exam, and if you want personalized help to improve your score and reduce your anxiety, you can book lessons with me here:




10 Signs You Are Enjoying Your Work

I have been very lucky in my life.  There have been brief periods when I had do a job, just to make money that I needed.  A lot of people are happy with this situation, especially if they work with people they like, or if they earn a really good salary.  However, I would be really unhappy about living this way for a long time, since I really see my work as a very important part of who I am.  My work as a social worker was much more stressful than my work as an ESL teacher, but I still had many joyful times in that job, and I always felt that what I was doing was valuable and important.  I was proud to do the job.  If you are still looking for your dream job, I think that this list will give you a good idea about how work should make you feel, when things are going well.

10 Signs You Are Enjoying Your Work.

Do you want to be happy on Blue Monday?


Somebody decided that today is the most depressing day of the year. I think it was a travel agent who wanted to sell winter vacations, but possibly someone thought that it’s very difficult to survive the winter, and people are very impatient by now.  In my opinion, today is a fantastic day.  As you can see in the picture above, the dark part of the day is already much shorter, since the sky was turning red at 0630 hours.  I exercised with friends before starting the day, walked to work, and my students are full of good news today!  These are 2 great stories that I saw about happiness today: one video, and one article.  What’s something that you can do to be happier about your life?  One thing that I recommend is to try to see new stresses and challenges as opportunities for learning and getting stronger.  When we look back on hard times in our lives, we can always find lessons that we learned, as a result of our difficulties.

5 steps to achieving your New Year’s resolutions |

I’ve included a lot of posts on my blog about setting goals, and establishing good habits.  Aaron has an amazing blog with a new English phrase or expression every day.  One excellent English-learning habit would be to take 5 minutes every morning to read about the phrase of the day, and then see if you can use it in conversation by the end of the day.

For me, I have a couple of big goals: adventure and socializing.  I can often combine them, by being a part of groups/clubs, like November Project Canada, Ceyana Canoe, and various Meetup groups.  I want to maintain my habit of physical activity at least 5 days/week.  Since my fitness application (MapMyRun) says that I did 412 workouts in 2014, this has been going pretty well for me.  Quite a few of them included biking or walking to work, but each trip was a mile (1.6K) long, so it all helps me to stay active.

It’s important to identify barriers to achieving your goals, so that you can build habits to eliminate those barriers.  I have a bad habit that interferes with socializing: I let my dirty dishes pile up for a week or more at a time.  It’s pretty gross, but I can ignore it a lot of the time.  So, one of my first resolutions is to wash my dishes every day (at least 5 days/week) for January.  Hopefully, that’s long enough to establish the good habit.

Why is learning English important to you?  Does it break down barriers for some of the big goals in your life?  If it does, think of small habits that you can build, to help you to achieve your language-learning goals.

5 steps to achieving your New Year’s resolutions |

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?.

This post highlights a lot of the ideas that I think are really important for learning, such as embracing mistakes, instead of fearing failure, making a long-term commitment, and including play.

Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates an arena for social interaction and learning. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents.

The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. 

In my experience, when students are having fun, they feel like they are in a supportive environment, and they aren’t afraid of mistakes, then their learning happens very quickly (and pleasantly!).

Compare and contrast: How can you become happier?

We all want to be happier in our lives, and we are lucky that so many scientists are looking closely at what will improve or reduce our happiness.  Here’s an excellent essay, as well as an excellent speech about ways to improve happiness.  It’s a great subject for a compare and contrast essay, as well as an excellent area for us to research for our own lives.  The essay says: “So instead of chasing happiness to the extremes, we may be better off pursuing happiness calmly and rationally.”  Arianna Huffington says,  “Modern science has really validated everything that philosophers and spiritual teachers have said about how giving is a shortcut to happiness. Now we have the data to prove it.”

Arianna Huffington on How to ‘Thrive’ – Knowledge@Wharton.

Happiness Hacks: The 10 Most Unexpected Ways to Be Happy.


17 Small Productivity Habits | Farnam Street


I’ve talked before about how important and useful it can be to build helpful habits.  Once a good behaviour is a habit, it’s not necessary to think about it, it’s a regular part of your routine.  By making small adjustments, you can really change your outcome.  I developed a good habit at the beginning of the year, and then I neglected it, but it’s been pretty easy to return.  Every morning, it takes my coffee 4 minutes to brew.  During that time, I do an 80-second plank (abdominal exercise) and an 80-second squat (lower body exercise).  I know that I’ll be able to sit down with a good cup of coffee and spend time on the internet when I’m finished, but this small habit helps a lot for my strength and conditioning.  This works towards a really big goal of mine, which is being able to do many different physical activities, all year round.  Think about your goals, and small habits which will help you to achieve those goals.

17 Small Productivity Habits | Farnam Street.

Don’t give up!

This video always makes me cry!  Many times, people get stuck in a situation that feels impossible, so they stop trying to improve their lives.  Arthur shows how powerful it can be to make a decision to improve your life and then keep taking steps to make that improvement.  Take the time to watch one or both of the videos, and think about what consistent change will really improve your life.

Short version:

Longer version:


How to Be Productive The Mindmap of 35 Habits of… | Funders and Founders Notes


How to Be Productive The Mindmap of 35 Habits of... | Funders and Founders Notes

How to Be Productive The Mindmap of 35 Habits of… | Funders and Founders Notes.

This is a great list of ways to make your life more productive.  I feel very lucky that I’ve been including more and more of these ideas in my regular schedule.  I’m not so sure about going to a cafe or ordering delivery every day though.  It’s costly, and rarely healthy.

Happy Valentine’s Day! This Infographic Reveals the Secrets of the Happiest Couples


This Infographic Reveals the Secrets of the Happiest Couples.

Infographics are a great way to study a new idea.  They can really help you to connect thoughts, and understand vocabulary better.  These days, you can find infographics on the internet about almost any subject.  For Valentine’s, the subject of love and marriage is important.  Choosing your marriage partner is probably the most important decision you will make in your life, and this information helps you to understand how to keep the marriage as happy as possible.

50 day plan for success: 2/3 of my resolutions

I posted a week ago about the 50 day resolution or “nerdlution”.  A resolution is a promise that you make to yourself, and usually, it involves changing behaviour in some way, to help you become more successful.  I think that habits are “building blocks” for success.  If we really want to reach big goals, then we need to build habits that will help us to achieve those goals.  It really helped me a lot, when I learned that it takes at least 21 days to create a new habit.  After that, you don’t need to think so hard about your new behaviour, it has become something that you do pretty automatically.  So, when my friends began to talk about making a 50-day resolution, I thought that was a great idea.  I prefer to try something new for a set amount of time, and then I can assess whether or not it was a good change to make and to continue making.  One resolution that I made in September was to get up early for exercise every day for 1 week.  That was when I started going to November Project Canada After the first couple of weeks, I didn’t want to continue waking up early every day, but it’s been no problem for me to attend November Project 3 mornings/week at 6 am, as long as my car and my body are working okay!  It’s so much fun to get outside and be active with a team, in the dark, and in the cold.  On Friday, when the windchill was -37 degrees, this was our turnout:

-37 degrees, 37 people exercising in the dark!  December 6/2013

-37 degrees, 37 people exercising in the dark! December 6/2013

You can see that everyone dressed in very warm clothing, but we did hills for 30 minutes, and felt great about it!

Now, I made 3 resolutions from December 2/2013 until January 20/2014.  1 is to blog more, so you can see that I’m adding something to the blog every day, and sometimes more.  I hope that what I add is interesting and useful.  I can see that many people are visiting from around the world.

My second resolution is to plank every day.  Planking is an exercise that works your whole body, and the main idea is to stay very still in the position with only your elbows and your toes on the floor.  It looks like this:

Planking: what, how, and why

10 things ESL students can do with Evernote on their tablets

This is written for teachers, but you can easily see how you can use your tablet, laptop, and/or smartphone, along with Evernote to document your progress in using the English language. I also recommend that you put together a portfolio of any of your work in your field of study!

Oxford University Press

Tablet in handsMohamed El-Ashiry takes a look at how Evernote can be used in the classroom

Portfolio assessment in the ESL classroom offers many benefits. On the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ website, a portfolio is defined as ‘a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas of the curriculum’. Brown & Hudson (1998) have also described portfolios as a ‘family of assessments’. Some of the benefits of using portfolios, as described by Brown & Hudson (1998) include: (1) focusing student attention on learning processes; and (2) increasing student involvement in the learning processes. I have always been a fan of such ‘alternatives in assessment‘ because of the fact that they focus a lot more on the ‘process of learning’ as opposed to the ‘product of learning’ (Brown & Hudson, 1998).

Now that iPads and tablets are spreading into many…

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