If you haven’t been involved in #ELTChat discussions on twitter for the past couple of years, you should know you’ve missed the chance to connect with fantastic like-minded educators who pursue PD and always strive to do best for their students. #ELTChat is a discussion held every Wednesday on Twitter, and even though I wasn’t able to participate in the last discussions, we could always refer to the website that had been created as a repository for the discussions. This was only possible due to the hard work of all those who are involved in getting things up and running. If anyone here has been involved in any kind of endeavour, be it online or offline, you’ll know how hard it is when things seem to fall apart – but they only seem. As someone who has benefitted a lot from #ELTChat, and someone who appreciates the work that’s been put up by the team of moderators in ELTChat, I’ve decided to share what Marisa Constantinides has written on her blog here. This is not meant as a manifesto, but I believe those who keep looking for opportunities to keep growing professionally should know where they’ll be able to find the new website for #ELTChat, and a couple of words by the moderators on the reasons for the change. I’m posting the post in its entirety, as it’s been written on the original blog post, without adding nor deleting any word from it. Without further ado, here goes the repost from Marisa’s blog:
Blog post August 10, 2012
Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.
The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.
Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy eltchat.com and announced the good news to us after the fact.
A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011, he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.
We never found out for sure.
We never received a single word of response to our emails.
eltchat.com was and still is registered in his name.
And yesterday we lost it
On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.
The news is really upsetting.
The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment
We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.
But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased – eltchat.org
It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet
And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations
We will be back with a vengeance
We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!
We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!
See you all in September!!!
Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden
P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers, teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers, reposted this on your blog
If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.
On November 3rd 2009, I posted my very first blog post. When I first started blogging, I honestly didn’t know where it’d take me. I’d tried creating blogs on topics completely unrelated to education, but now, when I look back, I believe the reasons and the drive were not right. Or at least they were not right for me. You see, when I thought of creating blogs on many different topics I was a lot more interested in being able to write a blog that’d have thousands of visitors after the first post. That’d never work for me, or at least it wouldn’t work currently. The thing is I suck at advertising, especially when it comes to self-advertising, which is something I’ve learned about the hard way after (no puns intended) doing some thinking about a lot of things I’ve been through.
I must say that creating a blog on ELT had never been a goal – I usually feel like I’m preaching to the choir when writing or when presenting a workshop or lecture to teachers on ELT. I mean, what usually springs to mind is that if I know it, pretty much everyone else must know it as well. But I do have a passion for teaching and learning, this is something I can’t deny. I can easily spend hours of my free time discussing education – ELT has always been the starting point, but education in general is a point of interest. It was only after I started following a couple of blogs on ELT that I found out how good it was to have, in blogs, a space to share my views. It all started with the comments. A blog was still not in mind.
To be honest, having found myself amidst conversations with loads of teachers who also shared a passion for education was enough. That’s when I saw it even more clearly that writing helps me organise my thoughts. And then some comments felt like they were just way too big to clutter somebody’s post. I never had a problem with how big the comments are, but I read somewhere it’s good practice not to do so. In case you’re wondering, I do love thoughtful comments, regardless of how many words they may have. Fortunately, the reason why I started blogging was to have a place to share my thoughts. I write what I believe in, and I don’t really have a problem with changing my mind later on.
It was through the blog (and twitter, I must say) that I was able to “meet” lots of other interesting teachers who have helped me do some MORE thinking. I never thought I’d be able to keep writing for 2 years, and sometimes I did feel like not writing here any longer. I still hope I’ll one day be able to meet you all in person. This is what I’ve gained from blogging. If nothing else, it’s been nice to hear praises, compliments, criticism and exchange ideas with all readers who paid Doing Some Thinking a visit. If you look on the side, this blog hasn’t received any kind badges for awards, nominations or anything like that, but I can guarantee that what I have gained from keeping it going for these two years is worth a lot more than any kind of award. It’s already been mentioned by people I respect and admire, and what’s better than having the recognition of those you look up to?
I guess finding your true passion does make a difference, and to me, the passion is being able to interact with all of you who read the blog. There are just way too many fantastic blogs on ELT in the blogosphere, and the fact that some of you do take a little of your time to read what I’ve got to say means a lot. I only wish I could have already met most of you. If only I’d been to one of the many conferences in Europe, I’m sure I’d have even more reasons to be thankful for all that Doing Some Thinking has done to me.
Now, two years on, I’d like to ask you two things:
- How many posts do you think there have been in these 2 years?
- If you may, is there any old post you particularly enjoyed reading? One of the challenges I participated was about finding the gems in the blogosphere. I’d love to hear which blog posts I’ve written were somehow interesting to you.
And one last time, I’d just like to thank you for your time to read the posts, for sharing your thoughts, and for helping me grow professionally. I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it this far if it weren’t for all the feedback I’ve received. You’ve certainly helped me keep it up!
Here’s to some more time doing some thinking together. :)
Coming back to the blogosphere after a rough beginning of year has been, well, tough! To be honest, ever since I joined the cause I knew it would be pretty much impossible for me to read every single post with all the care and attention they truly deserve, and despite all the learning that the experience has led me to, there are times when your life beyond the computer/Internet does not give you enough time to do the things you both enjoy and profit from. Anyone, I’ve read a couple of interesting posts recently, and decided to participate in David’s mini-challenge. It consists of creating a word-cloud from your blog and then doing a brief analysis of it. I used wordle, and this is what I got:
Apparently, I’ve been writing a lot about students and language. The words writing and tests were also quite big on the cloud, maybe because I’ve written two recent posts on these topics. However, I guess I’ll look at this from a different perspective and try to give meaning to the way the words appeared together, shall I?
The first thing I noticed was the position of the words L1, English, far, big, and things. When looking at this, I thought about the fact that, yes, learning a foreign does open doors (excuse me for the cliché), it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. If Google and other companies are finally able to perfect online text and voice translators, why would anyone care to go through the hardships of learning a foreign language, say, in 15 years’ time? I guess the answer is that learning other language apart from your L1 allows you to do far bigger things and accomplish a lot more by the simple fact that learning a foreign language, in my humble opinion, does broaden the mind.
The second bit that called my attention was this one on the right that puts the words grammar, reason, and testing together. First, I’m not against tests and I see a good reason for them in the language classroom. However, if the only reason for testing is grammar in some kind of an order, this is likely to fail flat and not allow for learning opportunities. Tests have got to allow for learning opportunities. Otherwise, we’re just pretending to be testing learners, and they’re just pretending they’ve learned the subject for the test. Assessment is a lot different from testing, and teaching is a lot bigger than both.
This was a rather interesting one and I guess pretty much all words are important, so I’ll just talk about it instead of pointing out the words. I guess speaking too much is one of the first problems one faces as a language teacher. there are, of course, times when it’s OK to forget about Teacher Talking Time (TTT) if you know what exactly you’re doing and depending on your approach to language learning. It also seems acceptable, at least for certain levels, to speak a bit more. If you want to teach well, just don’t forget you’re not alone in the classroom and always remember to take your students into account.
Following the train of thought from the snapshot above, it’s only clear to say what good teachers do, or at least should do: help learners. And if you’re in teacher-training, you should get your teachers to help their learners, which will, in turn, change them into good teachers. Got it?! :)
This is also rather interesting. In spite of my personal interest in pronunciation, it’s not just about having a pretty accent. Learning involves many different things, such as grammar, vocabulary, pragmatics, speaking, listening, and reading. Learning, however, also needs writing. It’s not just about writing, obviously. Nevertheless, I truly believe that pronunciation is not the only thing that is neglected in out teaching (for many different reasons), but so is writing. Perhaps we could also look at it more carefully, huh?!
As a dogmeist, I couldn’t leave aside the bit of the cloud that deals with conversation. In a way, if we give our students a chance to talk and really communicate, it might be a lot easier for them to learn the language. Nevertheless, teachers cannot lose sight of the fact that mere conversation isn’t enough – learning has got to be the main point of the activities if we want our students to succeed and come across as independent users of the language.
This last bit I’ve chosen to analyse might be a note to myself. Even though I’ve been feeling like writing more often, perhaps my writing isn’t exactly good. Has it actually gone bad? Has it ever been good? I mean, maybe it’s time I started changing the focus of the blog and the posts, which might perhaps help me improve on my reflections on teaching and learning. Or, you know what, maybe the blog should keep on as it was conceived – a place where I can share my views, hear other people’s voices on the matter, and finally be able to learn a tad more about what I was thinking. To be honest, I don’t expect it to be good or bad, as long as it was worth your time reading up to this point. And if you happen to have the time to leave a comment, or go through some of the old posts of mine I linked to throughout the post, even better!
Even though things have been a lot quieter than I wanted them to be, I’ve been doing lots of thinking lately. There are many posts yet to come in response to other blog posts I’ve read, and a couple of extra material on the way. This semester’s been particularly busy as I’ve taken up some new responsibilities, and I’m still getting used to the new workload. It’s all falling into place, and I hope I’ll soon be able to resume my writing on the blog.
However, I’m writing this quick blog post as a call for collaboration. Last year I wrote a post asking for the same thing. A couple of teachers responded to it and we even started planning things, but it never took off. Regardless of this unsuccessful experience, I asked my students to create a wiki page on topics of their interest and, closer to the end of the year, I was joined by a teacher in Atlanta and we could actually put our students to work together. It was a wonderful experience for students, albeit short.
Nevertheless, it was enough to give me some practice and also to spot some problems that came up and think of strategies to solve them. This year, I again call for the collaboration of teachers interested in getting their EFL/ESL learners to collaborate with our class in Brazil. I’m trying to keep things simple, and they seem to be working all right. I’ll also introduce new tools for students to work with as time goes by and more people join in. The idea is for learners to practise using English in an authentic and meaningful environment.
Our learners are from all different levels – A1 to B2 in the CEF, or beginners to upper-intermediate – and they have been told they are to work together to get their message across. Anyway, in case you are interested in joining, pay a visit to our wiki: http://crossculturalelt.wikispaces.com and send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a message on FaceBook.
Teachers who join are free to work in any way that suits his or her needs, be it for assessing students or simply giving them a chance to talk to people from different cultures. They may also choose to help me with the organisation of the wiki and the tasks or not – no need to worry about extra work on our already over-worked lives! :)
Once you join, I’ll also ask you for the logo of your school to add to the main page.
This blog is about to turn one year old and I must say I’m rather surprised by that. I guess once we find out our true passion, it’s easy for us to keep doing things, huh?! But what exactly does that mean to me? Is it a landmark to be celebrated on its own? Not really. Is there a lot more behind this? I truly believe so.
I recently paid a visit to my very first posts, and I thought back about what motivated me to write the blog. What I had in mind is that this could serve as a nice place for reflection, and I believe this is still what I’ve been doing. I have shared lots of my personal beliefs towards language teaching and learning, and general education as well. I said once and I’ll repeat again: I believe I’ve “learned” more in almost a year of blogging than I did in 4 years of college. However, this doesn’t mean my education in college was useless. Much on the contrary. I don’t think I’d be able to profit as much if I hadn’t read and studied the basics. Would it be too much? I still remember Jason’s post referring to the sharing of information that takes place in blogs and social media in general as trying to drink from a firehose. And I can’t say he was exactly wrong. If one does not lean how to handle all this wealth of information, one is bound to be gobbled up by it.
However, how can one turn off so many interesting posts that lead us to reflections and to sometimes question our own beliefs? How can you simply decide you’re not going to participate in twitter discussions such as #edchat (I still remember the first adjective I hear to describe it was eye-ball spinning), and, more recently, #eltchat? The more we connect, the more we learn. I don’t think we have ideas because we have to be the very best at what we do at all costs. An idea, alone, can hardly ever be a great idea. It’s only through sharing, listening, discussing, changing our minds, and discussing again that big changes can occur. I recently heard an interview on the radio in which the interviewee was talking about a book whose author investigated the origins of good ideas. Do you believe in those ‘Eureka!’ moments? Apparently, none of the 250 inventions mentioned in the book happened that way. This is a short version of the author’s ideas:
I guess that’s pretty much in synchrony with what I believe in. My hunch is that in the near future people will start valuing informal learning a lot more than today. People have been forced to learn new skills, to collaborate, to think outside the box, to understand and tolerate differences. It doesn’t really matter if you know more in the class – information is easier and easier to find. The big question is: do you know how to look for the right answer? Is there anyone you can turn to?
How about your PLN? You still haven’t heard about this concept yet? There are just so many new ideas percolating on the Web these days that you can’t help but be a part of it. Learning is dynamic, and teachers have got to keep the pace. We’re trying to teach people to learn how to stand on their feet in a world we still don’t know what it will be like. But one thing is a fact, these students will need to be able to respond to change a lot faster, they’ll need to learn the power of collaboration, they’ll have to learn how to listen to one another.
This is what blogging for almost one yea has done for me. I started out following some of the tips I got mainly from Karenne, Shelly, and Burcu. I’m really happy to see that one year after I have started, these people are more and more responsible for my learning. I’ve made friends and connections I could only dream of in the past. All right, I have to say I’d love to have the chance to go to the US soon and talk to some of the friends I’ve made online, such as Brian. And what about going to Europe and getting to know many of the people in my PLN, some of which were people I really look up to and I never thought I’d ever have a chance to engage in conversation with! And I can’t forget the land down under, as Jason himself has been mentioned in this post. Luke, Herbert, Nick, Jason T., Kelly, Susi, Barbara, Cecília, Willy, Denilso, Sue… you know what, it’s just too hard to name them all, and it’d probably add at least another 1000 words to this post. Perhaps you should pay a visit to my twitter page and check the people I’m following. They’ve all been very important to me these days. :)
What have I got from blogging? A lot more than I could ever expect. Fortunately, I’ve never thought of it as a place to build me a name or anything like that. Truth be told, I didn’t really think I was going to get past the third post. But learning is fun, sharing is fun, blogging s a lot of fun as well. And the best part of blogging so far are the comments – which is why I’d like to thank each and everyone of you for helping me out on my journey of learning. I really appreciate each and everyone of the visits and comments I’ve had. And if there was ever anything that you disagreed with in one of my posts and you felt you’ve wasted your time reading it, think twice. You’ve helped this chump learn a bit more. :)
In case you’re interested in the full lecture given at TED by Steven Johnson, here it goes:
There are two different kinds of PLNs, as I see it. First, there’s the virtual PLN, the one you create through your visits to other educators’ blogs and engaging conversations on Twitter, blogs, or Skype to name but a few. This is a PLN which is filled with teachers who are willing to share, grow, learn, and keep an open mind to all that’s new and everything that might enhance your students’ learning. It’s an active space, and it’s open 24/7. The second kind of PLN is your real one, made of teachers who work with you in your school. The good side of this PLN is that it shows you you that, sometimes, the world you live in is still not ready for all those changes that so many educators worldwide have been talking about. They understand your context, and they face exactly the same difficulties you have to face. That could even be called the ‘keeping-it-real PLN’.
However, one thing that usually strikes me as odd is how often I hear people from my virtual PLN complain about the lack of interest and willingness to change from those present in their real PLN. I’ve already heard a couple of times that it would be wonderful to have all of those people from your virtual PLN working together in the same school, aiming at providing their learners nothing but the very best. This would be a place where people wouldn’t fear making mistakes, and mistakes might as well happen. However, no mistake would be made owing to lack of action. Things would always be going forward.
If this ideal school existed, perhaps change in education would come at a much faster rate. If there are people who are also as committed as you are working with you, it’s always easier to make things happen. If, on the other hand, there is no one interested in joining you and helping you in your physical surroundings, things get much tougher. Fortunately, the distance between the virtual and the real PLN is getting smaller by the day. Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to get your students to interact with students whose teachers aren’t that afraid of attempting to get things done. Sometimes it’s easier to get two classes from two different continents to collaborate than to get two neighbouring classes to do so.
That’s one of the things that most people realise once they join the world of blogs and twitter, to begin with. They learn that there are other people who are also interested in bringing about change. There are other educators who are 100% sure they’ve still got a lot to learn, and they find other educators who think just the same way. Working alone is pretty hard, but the power of two has something magical about it. If you’re working together with people who also share your principles and, despite being snowed under with work, still manage to make time for sharing and learning, you know that’s the right place to be in.
Nevertheless, sometimes our co-workers and members of the keeping-it-real PLN need a little push. They’ve all got it inside themselves – this ideal towards learning and helping students thrive. It may have been forgotten somewhere because of the treatment that’s been dispensed to educators for many, many years, but it’s there. If we all work together and give this little push, we’ll find out we’re not alone anymore. The power of two will make it a lot easier for you to do what you want to do. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you all have got to agree on everything; it only means there are at least two people willing to shift gears and get things evolving at a faster pace.
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).
A while ago, I published a post asking for EFL/ESL teacher whether they’d like to join in a cross-cultural exchange project. We actually managed to get a good group of committed teachers who were willing to take it further. We moved from a wiki to a ning, and more and more teachers joined it. However, I believe there were just so many teachers involved that it was hard for me to keep track of it. Unfortunately, that didn’t really work out the way I thought it would when I wrote that post. You see, it outgrew the idea of a cross-cultural exchange project for students learning English and became a cross-cultural exchange project period. Wonderful, yes! But, again, not what I had in mind. Nevertheless, I haven’t given up on the idea – having a space for English Language Learners to collaborate and have another space to learn English in a more meaningful, authentic environment.
So, we’ve piloted a project on a wiki with some of of our students. You can check the results by clicking here or on the image below:
First of all, the students would be thrilled to see on the little globe in the main page that their work has been seen by people from different countries. If you could even send them a message on this wallwisher, I’d be very grateful.
Second, and I daresay most importantly, I’d like to invite teachers who may be willing to have this kind of project run in collaboration with our students. As I said, this has been piloted in the first semester, but now it’s time for it to become a tool for interaction instead of a “mere” tool for information sharing. I’ve already created a wiki called http://crossculturalelt.wikispaces.com, and there are some guidelines already on the other wiki, which had been created for teachers: http://crossculturalelt-teachers.wikispaces.com/
If anyone is interested in joining, please let me know by comments, tweets, or even by filling out this form. We have run the project with student from their very first semester studying English to students preparing to a CAE exam. All students from all levels are welcome.
A while ago, Darren wrote a post claiming that theres a vast pool of human knowledge that’s been neglected. On his post he asked us to revisit some of the blogs we usually visit and find some #hiddengems (twitter hashtag) to make the topic active again. Even though when I commented I said I was going to do my homework, this doesn’t feel like homework. I can still remember a couple of blogposts from my early days here, and I just need to spot them again. Here goes:
1. On books, publishers & teachers – This is a post by Gavin Dudeney and he puts forth some interesting ideas regarding, well, books and publishers. I’ve already had the chance to talk to some people about such ideas, and most seem to find them quite sound. I wonder whether publishing houses think the same…
2. None for the teacher, none for the students? – Jim Burke talks about his experience with blogs and using blogs with students. There’s also a file to download with some guidelines so you can do the same thing with your students.
3. Thoughts on assessment 1: a response – Greg Thompson writes about rethinking school and other educational matters on his blog. His blog posts are always thought-provoking and insightful. This piece is one I like for two reasons: his sound ideas and arguments, and also because this was the first post written in response to one of my posts. It certainly was responsible for truly making me feel part of the blogosphere. I don’t think I ever got to thank Greg properly, so here it is! I hope he’s still following my blog.
4. Highly qualified teachers: who’s paying for it? – I really enjoy the personal tone Mary Beth Hertz puts in her blog posts. In this particular piece, she writes about teacher qualification and makes us think about something we all know – teacher’s pay checks. I’ve had the chance to meet many teachers who said they wouldn’t bother improving because they wouldn’t be recognised for their efforts and if they’re not going to be paid more, why should they spend more on qualification… people who have found themselves in any profession will go out of their way to do what it takes to become better professionals. This is what MB has done.
5. Thank you so much! – Nick Jaworski‘s blog has been on my blogroll from the very beginning. This post is a good example of how joining the blogosphere and interacting online can help in one’s growth. If only more people could understand that spending time on blogs and twitter (to name but a few) isn’t a waste of time…
So, these are my #hiddengems. I hope you’ll also benefit from any of these posts. :)
A short while ago there’s been a discussion on the blogosphere related to the treatment given to foreign speakers in detriment to local teachers. I’ve read lots of blog posts in that area and chose not to say anything for myriad reasons. The most important reason is that I haven’t been to any of the conferences that people were talking about. As a matter of fact, it’s been a while since I last could attend a major ELT conference. The last big conference I attended was the national Braz-TESOL in 2006, when I was the Master of Ceremonies together with a very good friend of mine. We had to make sure all was ready for plenary speakers and even our workshop was cut short from a 90-minute hands-on workshop to a 45-minute hands-on (???) talk. But that was not an issue. In that conference, all were treated equally and all parties were open to all (as far as I know, at least). Needless to say, arrangements were made to host foreigners, but nothing particularly special. I had the chance to meet and take pictures with lots of people I’ve always admired in the profession and whose faces I used to replace with book covers, if you know what I mean. :)
However, I don’t want to discuss that here. What made me think about writing this post was a short period of time I spent with some former teachers of mine this afternoon. Just like I hold some of the people I met in very high esteem, like Scott Thornbury, Penny Ur, Luke Prodromou, and many others I had the chance to meet and briefly talk to, I’ve also always held my own teachers in very high esteem. This afternoon I was in the teachers room when two of these high-school teachers started discussing assessment. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay until the end of the discussion, but it was a lot of fun for me to be there listening to them. Actually, this was the highlight of the afternoon. I really haven’t got the chance to sit and talk to people like H.D. Brown, Jeremy Harmer, Scott Thornbury, Ken Wilson, Luke Prodromou, Luke Meddings, Lindsay Clanfield, Penny Ur and others who are considered the big names of ELT. At least nowadays I have the chance to follow them on twitter and read their blogs, interact a little bit here and there, but because of all this media revolution, I’ve also got to know lots of other people I’d be dying to meet in person and sit and talk to. I could go on and on saying names, as they are the vast majority of my PLN and the ones I’ve learned a lot from whereas the names I mentioned above were the ones I knew (among others) before I joined social media. But what about the other people? What about the ones right next to you? Just like I’ve learned a lot from the people whose names I deliberately (as this truly illustrates the arguments I’ve put forth) chose not to mention, the same seems to happen outside web 2.0.
I’m fortunate enough to work very closely to my primary and secondary school teachers. These are people who have been working in the field for more than 25 years, and even though they haven’t written any methodology books in any of their area, they’ve still got so much to teach us. Many times I’ve sat down next to them on purpose to exchange ideas about teaching. If they had taught me a lot when they were my teachers, you can’t imagine how much more they teach me nowadays. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and the fact that nowadays it’s just so easy to get in touch with people overseas that some people end up overlooking those who are right next to them. There are many people who aren’t on the blogosphere due to lack of time or maybe because they simply don’t feel the need to be here, nor do they feel the need to join twitter. Some people may say they’re passing out on a great opportunity to learn more, but a 2-minute conversation with them will easily show they haven’t stopped in time and keep learning their own way. And the best thing: they’re right there. It’s very easy to talk to them over a cup of coffee.
I’ve already felt like one of those who are “taken for granted” for being a ‘local’. For instance, sometime we take our staff to workshops which take place in Brasília. And sometimes all the presenters do is repeat, to a much simpler extent, what had been discussed over the course of a week during our training sessions. However, this time teachers leave the lecture saying they were impressed and that what was said was particularly clever and that now they’d give it all a try. Well, to be perfectly honest, I guess it’s better that someone can instill this on them. If they need a foreigner to do so, fine by me. And this seems to be true of many different areas. For example, a friend of mine is a wonderful musician. He used to be invited to play in all sorts of festivals in Brasília and nearby cities when he lived in São Paulo. However, as he had lived in Brasília for a long time, he moved back to Brasília. Suddenly, all of those invitations disappeared. When I talked to him, he said he’d heard from music producers that now he was a local musician, and as such, it wasn’t that appealing to invite him. When he moved back to SP, all those invitations magically popped up. Weird, huh?! And this very afternoon, I had a talk with one of my former teachers whose wife is an artisan. She’d been advised to do something outside Brasília as this would help her work locally. Call me naïve, but I guess the idea of the available local versus the foreign expert is slightly more complicated than I thought.
Shall I do a Shelly here? I hope she doesn’t mind…
Challenge: Find a local #hiddengem and share some thoughts on education, teaching, learning and what have you. How much do you think you can learn?