I used to be a quiet person who didn't like to talk in front of a group of people for fear of making a mistake and having them laugh at me. Luckily, I learned from my high school basketball coach that making mistakes is a good thing, and nothing to be ashamed about. "How can it be a good thing?" I wondered.
She told me that my fear of making mistakes was paralyzing me, so much so that I was not allowing myself to try new things and new approaches.
Many of my international students come to me with the same fears. They are too ashamed of their limited spoken English, preferring to sit and listen, rather than try new situations and challenge themselves. My goal with any new student is to help them understand, the same way my basketball coach helped me to understand, that they are free to make as many mistakes as they can when they are with me. Together, with my guidance, they will learn from their mistakes and gain a lot more confidence in the process.
I never told my basketball coach how much she helped me that day, but she has enabled me to help many other students of mine, of all ages and levels of English language ability, to improve and gain confidence.