Hello everyone! I know I’ve been quiet on the blog for a couple of months now, I do have some (good) reasons for that. First and foremost, this blogger got married in June, which meant a lot of hard work with planning everything, and a bit of partying afterwards. I’ve also attended and participated in the 13th National Braz-TESOL convention in Rio de Janeiro. I was really honoured for having been invited to be the MC for the convention (and I hope those who attended it thought it was a decent job), and I also presented a Pecha Kucha in the very first PK night in the history of Braz-TESOL. Most importantly, it was a great pleasure to have the chance to attend the convention with other staff members. One of these has actually written a guest post and has kindly accepted to be published here. Without further ado, here comes the first text of this new semester in Doing Some Thinking, a guest post written by teacher Luiz Eduardo, or, simply put, Teacher Dudu. I hope you enjoy what’s to come!
The teacher must have a heart
After attending a week of professional development, such as the 13th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention, teachers normally go back to their schools full of new ideas. They heard Christine Coombe talking about the 10 characteristic of a highly effective teacher; Kathi Bailey speaking about the bridges to link what students can say to what they want to say; Ben Goldstein and the metaphors in English; Jim Scrivener developing the interaction between teaching and learning; David Nunan mentioning the proto-language and real language; Luke Meddings giving ideas to teach unplugged; Herbert Puchta showing thoughtful aspects about Neurolinguistics; Nicky Hocky and the digital literacies; Jeremy Harmer elucidating the myth of multi-tasking; and Lindsay Clandfield talking about critical thinking, among other speakers. And I’m not even mentioning what teachers have certainly learned from all the workshops and talks they have attended in addition to the plenary sessions.
Although they have probably enjoyed learning and remembering so many things, they now have a big problem in their minds, which is how to apply all those things in their classroom. Is everything suitable to their reality? Should they try to do everything they have heard from these highly-respected professionals in ELT? But… how???????
This is exactly my point in this reflection. Though teachers should always try to keep up to date, they are the ones who know their students, classroom, school, city and country. They are the ones who must feel when to use certain activity. They should know how adapt activities to different contexts. They have to make students embrace the activities and the ideas they’ve been presented with. They are in charge of the responsibility to teach their students. Finally, they are the ones who have to cope with such diverse teaching situations.
Thousands of activities without feeling aren’t worth it, just as feeling without any activity is equally worthless.
It’s possible to say that the teacher should have this balance: to keep up to date, but always remembering that they need a reality filter. As Christine Coombe ranked ’the calling to the profession’ as the number one characteristic of a good teacher, I think I can say that the teacher’s heart is this reality filter I’m talking about.
I fortunately work in a school which encourages teachers to try new ideas, and to be always pursuing self and professional development. I am, most definitely, looking forward to putting to use the new ideas I had during this fantastic brainstorming week.
I am a teacher at Atlantic Idiomas in Brasília, Brazil. I was born and I’ve grown up here in Brasília, the city which has the most beautiful sky in the world. I have a BA degree and teacher’s course in History from Brasilia’s Federal University (UnB). I am finishing my undergraduation Language course, majoring in English, this year; also at Brasilia’s Federal University (UnB). I’ve been teaching English since 2004 and I really love what I do. From now on, I want to participate more actively in the online teaching world.
A while ago, I wrote a post about what had brought me back to twitter. As we’re on this subject matter, another post I wrote was on the effect of PLNs on my professional growth. I’ve also written something about my fond memories of Braz-TESOL conventions and how much I treasured them. That’s all fine, and I do believe all those things, namely twitter, PLNs, and conventions do add a lot to my professional life. But how so? And, even more important than that, why bother?
How does being the member of a community help?
Even though this is not the most important question, the answers to this question are just too many to be written in a single blog post. Pretty much all posts you can find on this blog were the result of some sort of interaction I had with other teachers, students, or just people who weren’t even in the field of education. When you join a community and become an active member of it, you’re allowing yourself the chance to reflect on lots of things you believe in. However, you must always keep an open mind as this activity is bound to show you ways of thinking you couldn’t probably fathom before.
A lot comes from online communities, building your PLN, sharing and contributing with like-minded people as well as people who disagree with you, but know how to do so reasonably and also in attempt to get something out of the discussion. When we’re online, we also have the chance to interact with people from different countries a lot more easier than you can do face-to-face. However, I always feel there’s something missing in the online component of interaction.
Despite all the benefits that arose from Web 2.0, it’s still hard to beat the atmosphere from a face-to-face convention. Having had the chance to attend the last Braz-TESOL national convention with more than 1200 teachers from all over Brazil and all over the world, I can certainly assure you that the things you experience in such a convention are a lot more intense than what you usually get online. It’s like one thing complements the other.
Finally, joining a teachers association, online or face-to-face, is helpful because it puts you together with people who, just like you, believe that teaching means acknowledging you must constantly be learning. Teachers who are members of a teachers association are willing to share information, experiences, and anecdotes that might help other teachers. Members of these associations aren’t selfish and believe that the ones who benefit the most of such exchange of information are they themselves. Oh, really? But why is that?
Why should I join a teachers association?
I believe that sharing what I know with others and listening to what they’ve got to say, and trying out new things in class is done with the sole purpose of helping learners. I usually tell my students that teachers should care a lot less about their teaching and a lot more about their students’ learning. This means teachers should learn how to truly listen to their students. In language teaching, I very much agree with the idea of working with language that’s produced by learners themselves as this is more often than not a lot more personal and meaningful to learners than a pre-fabricated chunk of language used to show a point. If you’ve paid a visit to this blog before, you probably know what I mean by this.
That’s fine, but what’s this got to do with joining a teachers association? In a nutshell, the better the teachers are, the better students will be. If you believe you’re a fantastic teacher but you don’t share what you do in class, you’re likely to have to start from scratch every semester or year. I honestly can’t think of an educational setting in which students only have one teacher. This means that the better our peers are, the easier our job will be every new semester or year. Instead of having to teach students from scratch, you can just continue what had been done in previous semesters. Now, if that happens, and if you believe you’re such “a fantastic teacher, like, the best teacher in the world ever”, how much do you think you can accomplish if you haven’t got to worry about teaching your students the basics, or things they should have learned long before they were your students?
If we accept that teachers who join teachers associations as teachers who are always willing to seek what’s best for their learners, then it’s likely that students who have been the students of teachers who participate in such associations are better prepared than students whose teachers do not take part in such associations. And the better prepared our students are, the easier our job is. Would you agree with that?
Where to go now? Well, if you’re reading this and you’re an English teacher in Brazil, you could start by clicking here (or on the image below).
On July 19th, the 12th Braz-TESOL National Conference will take place in São Paulo. The very first time I attended a National Braz-TESOL was exactly in São Paulo, in the year 2000. I had the chance to be introduced to this world of ELT where there are many teachers trying to find out about what’s new in their profession, hear those iconic people we only had the chance to see in books talk, and if we were lucky, we could exchange a word or two with them. On that occasion, I was fortunate enough to attend Ken Wilson’s workshop on Drama (here’s a link to Ken’s blog and twitter). That was one of the highlights of the convention for me, as it instilled in me a desire to start a Drama club in the schools I worked. I could finally start that in 2003, when I was teaching at a different school. Last time I checked, the Drama club is still running and doing very well. Another highlight of the event for me was Adrian Underhill’s workshop on pronunciation. Being completely honest, that’s the first recollection I have of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and I was truly gobsmacked for not having been properly introduced to that earlier by my teachers. I mean, of course I’d seen what at the time I called funky symbols in dictionaries, but I didn’t know there was an international board that regulated that ‘periodic chart’. Underhill spoke about his book entitled “Sound Foundations” at the time and it’s also something that made me realise how important teaching pronunciation is. As I’d never lived abroad myself, I always felt that pronunciation was an area I had to improve if I ever wanted to take teaching seriously. That workshop (you can see short sample of it here – video 1 out of 4) was also something that made me think about a couple of things related to ELT and I believe it’s also shaped my current beliefs. Another thing that I remember is the person who introduced me to the world of Braz-TESOL. He was one of the very first bosses I had and who was also one of my former teachers when I was studying English – Rogério. We actually went to the convention together and had it not been for him and the other boss I had at the time – Virgílio – I probably wouldn’t have decided to really take ELT as a profession. I’m grateful to them and I’m also happy to still be able to be in touch with two of the people I look up the most.
I remember that it was upon returning from the Braz-TESOL in y2k that I first thought it would be nice to start presenting workshops, and the very first workshop I presented was only possible due to, again, Rogério’s support. He was the one who said we could present something together in a regional Braz-TESOL, and so we did. I guess one of the reasons why we attend these workshops is to spread the word and share what we’ve learned. I rememeber we talked about ice-breaking activities and Ken Wilson’s workshop on drama was actually a big source of inspiration. I’m pretty sure I profited from a lot more during that 2000 Braz-TESOL convention, but these are the highlights. As digital cameras weren’t that popular back then, I haven’t got pictures in my computer to upload to the post.
The second time I attended a Braz-TESOL convention was in 2004. As I already “a bit” more experienced in the area, I could actually relate to some of the names of presenters and some of the topics that were being discussed. One of the things that worked a lot better for me in that convention was networking. Actually, it was in 2004 that I had the chance to meet Terry Shortall, who is probably the guy who influenced me the most to take my MA at Birmingham University. I also had a better chance to bond with some of my co-workers at the time, among them I can highlight Helder Melo, Gustavo Barcellos, and Shaun Dowling. On the left you can see one of the pictures we took when we saw this bus. Come on…. HELP tourism?!?!?
The next convention was going to be in Brasília, my hometown. We were all really excited about it as we knew we could do a very good event. In addition, as we wouldn’t have to pay for a plane ticket neither the hotel accommodation, that mean we could actually have some spare money to buy some books. Shaun Dowling was the president of the Brasília-Goiânia regional chapter at that time, if I’m not mistaken, and Helder and I were invited to be the Master of Ceremonies of the convention. It was a lot of work, but that also meant we had the chance to meet and talk to some people whose work we were big fans of. As MCs, we unfortunately couldn’t attend lots of workshops as we had to make sure the plenary speakers had everything ready for their talk. Among some of the people we had a chance to talk to were Luke Prodromou, Scott Thornburry, Penny Ur, and George Pickering, as you can see in the pictures below:
Even though we couldn’t really attend many workshops, we did manage to sneak in few sessions, but we always had to forewarn the presenter that we wouldn’t be able to stay until the end as we had to be in the auditorium on demand. We also had a shot at presenting a workshop together on pronunciation.
Another highlight of the event was having the chance to get to know Terry a bit more and chat about the the MA programme. I still wasn’t so sure I was going to go for it, but it certainly helped me make up my mind. I still needed a little push, though, which was given by a very good friend of mine who is also going to the Braz-TESOL with me and who is also taking her MA. If it weren’t for this final push Uyhara gave me, I’d probably still be thinking about it instead of actually doing it.
And now it’s the 2010 Braz-TESOL conference in São Paulo. I’m glad I’m taking with me a greater deal of readings and experience. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I think the more we learn, the more we profit from other people’s speeches, talks, and workshops. It’s much easier for us to ‘fill in the gaps’ and ‘create bridges’. In addition to that, I’m also looking forward to meeting some people who have been reading this blog and with whom I had chances to have conversations either through the comments but also on Twitter. Too bad there’ll be no wi-fi available, but I’m sure it’s going to be worth it.