Special BrELT Chat: discussing successful practices in the YLT classroom

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As part our our Young Learners and Teens Week, we are going to have a special BrELT Chat tonight at 10pm, Brasília time. We will discuss successful practices in the YLT classroom.

The chat will take place in English and in Portuguese, feel free to use your language of preference. If you want to receive a Facebook reminder, click here and confirm your presence in the event. The chat will take place here.

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I’LL BE NO PARTY TO “ESCOLA SEM PARTIDO”. HERE’S WHY.

On the day of the presidential run-off, when the opposition was still reeling from the results, a recently elected congresswoman put up a post asking students in her home state of Santa Catarina to film their teachers talking about politics, “indoctrinating youth” as some call it, and send it to her so she could take the legal action she sees fit. Never mind that the state of Santa Catarina prohibits students from taking smartphones to class, so that she was actually encouraging students to break the law (LEI Nº 14.363, de 25 de janeiro de 2008 – not a law I’d support, but nevertheless, a law). Never mind that “Escola Sem Partido” is not yet law, so we should follow the ones we already have, which grant teachers (principled) freedom in the classroom, not to mention the right to their own image. No, she wanted to expose teachers and she wanted it now.

Case in point: the future congresswoman herself. She is a History teacher, so right after her post, a student uploaded a picture of him next to her, by a classroom desk, with her wearing a T-shirt with the name and face of her candidate for presidency. According to the student, she went to work like that. If that’s true (it’s hard to say what is and what isn’t true), was she trying to influence her students? Would that be indoctrination, or is it only political indoctrination when she doesn’t happen to agree with the point being made or the politician being supported?

Personally, I would never wear a t-shirt with my candidate for presidency to class. With adult learners, I might say who I vote for if they ask and the context seems to allow it, but with young learners and teens I would probably not. I would, however, as I have, after a listening exercise, ask students whether the nationalities or genders in the audio were stereotyped. I never imposed my opinion or even made it clear, but I asked questions to get them talking and considering different points of view. In a conversation class, I’ve brought topics for discussion such as “Can men and women be friends?” and “Are women better at multitasking?”, which often led to a discussion on sexism. New Headway Advanced had a unit on immigration that portrayed America largely as a welcoming country, so I brought the group of 16 and 17-year-olds texts (a comedy video and a few cartoons) that showed the other side of the coin. I had students compare and contrast the views from the text in the book with the ones I brought them, since they are expected to argue and counter-argue in vestibular, in CAE, and in life. With very young learners, some common topics to work with are family and play. Their families, however, come in all shapes and sizes, not just a father + a mother + a son + a daughter, and when they play, some boys like dolls, some girls love team sports, and some like both.

Honestly, if anyone can safely navigate an English language classroom with those topics never coming up, with a student never mocking the other for liking pink or being curious about the teacher’s significant other (and what if the teacher is LGBTQIA+?), with the teens in their rebellious age not bringing up politics, with students that don’t conform to typical gender roles, etc., they must be interacting with human beings that are quite different from the ones I’ve come across. Yet the bill being voted by the Senate specifically outlaws talking about gender (what they call “ideology of gender”, with no academic or legal definition of what that could be) and sexual orientation in schools, not to mention “party politics”. With the recent addendum to the bill, those topics wouldn’t be able to be mentioned by the teacher, the materials or the curriculum, and it’s not clear by the law how that would be done or what kind of mentions would or would not be accepted.

Mind, on the surface the project looks almost all right, especially if you look at the info graph their supporters put together rather than the bill and justification itself. Wouldn’t it be great if teachers brought different points of view to class and didn’t impose theirs?

Yes, it would, but that’s what Brazilian law already tells us to do! According to the Lei de Diretrizes e Bases (LEI Nº 9.394, DE 20 DE DEZEMBRO DE 1996.), “Art. 3º O ensino será ministrado com base nos seguintes princípios: (…) II – liberdade de aprender, ensinar, pesquisar e divulgar a cultura, o pensamento, a arte e o saber; III – pluralismo de idéias e de concepções pedagógicas; IV – respeito à liberdade e apreço à tolerância.” (Teaching should abide by the following principles: II – freedom to learn, teach, research and publicize culture, thought, art and knowledge; III – pluralism of ideas and pedagogical views; IV – respect to freedom and appreciation of tolerance).

Are there teachers who do impose their views? I bet there are. Not as many as people like to say, but yes, I can believe there are teachers who don’t offer a balanced diet of views and who still regard themselves as the ultimate authority on everything on earth. There are, unfortunately, incompetent teachers, as there are incompetent professionals in all careers. However, when an English language teacher can’t make an accurate sentence in the language, we understand the context that led to that, one of lack of teachers and poor training. If the teacher only focuses on decontextualized grammar or doesn’t foster enough speaking opportunities in the classroom, it’s yet another training problem. Now when a teacher doesn’t know how to balance views in the classroom, it’s no longer a training problem, but a moral and legal one?

Speaking of legal issues, this brings me to the last point: let’s think of Brazilian teachers vis-à-vis American physicians. It’s becoming increasingly expensive to be a medical doctor in the U.S. because of insurance premiums against potential lawsuits. Still, doctors there make very good money and are respected by society, so it’s an attractive profession. In Brazil we don’t usually sue medical staff, even though they deal with much more pressing (actual life and death) issues and we would like to start doing that to teachers… Really? In this political climate? We want to start suing or firing teachers willy-nilly, teachers who notoriously have little money and time to deal with the Justice? How’s that going to help us make the profession more attractive so we get the better trained teachers we so sorely need?

In short, I’m against Escola Sem Partido because:

a) even though the name of the project is brilliant (credit where credit is due!), it’s not really about being against all parties in school, but against political views that are to the left of the political spectrum, as the case of the right-wing teacher turned congresswoman shows, or more progressive. In other words, it favors a representation of the world that is skewed in favor of certain conservatives (the people who currently use the term “ideologia de gênero”);

b) it’s not even been approved and it’s already started a witch-hunt climate (search McCarthyism to see where that got the U.S. — and mind, that was when there was a Cold War going on);

c)  it outlaws important discussions that the school needs to tackle, and many more discussions could be avoided because of fear of potential reprisal;

d) it could close up an important space for LGBTQIA+ students to feel welcome and supported in school;

e)  political indoctrination in the classroom is a teacher training problem, not a legal one;

f)  it could make the teaching profession less attractive with the potential lawsuits, paranoia, and lack of basic freedom.

In other words, to me, Escola Sem Partido toma partido (=takes a side) and it’s one that is in favor of certain ideologies and against teachers. I’ll be no party to that.

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Natália Guerreiro has been a teacher since the year 2000 and currently works for the Brazilian Air Force. She holds a CELTA, a B.A. in English & Portuguese from UFRJ, and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Melbourne. She was a member of the  BrELT Team for 3 years and has been elected BRAZ-TESOL’s Second Vice President for the 2019-2020 term.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of her employers and association.

Chat hoje sobre saúde mental

Hoje o nosso chat traz um assunto muito sério e que precisa ser debatido extensivamente: a saúde mental do professor.
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O chat acontece hoje às 10 da noite, horário de Brasília neste tópico. Se você quiser receber aquele lembrete do Facebook antes do chat começar e não perder nem um pouquinho, confirme sua participação no nosso evento clicando aqui.

Your vote should not be based on gender

BrELT is very happy to have VOICES Sig from Braz- Tesol helping us think of the current elections. Braz- Tesol is Brazil’s largest association of teachers of English to speakers of other languages. BrELT is happy to support the association.

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Well, not gender alone!  In this post we’d like to advocate for diversity and give some suggestions for things we believe are essential to consider when you cast your vote in these BRAZ-TESOL elections.

Cintia Rodrigues, Claire Venables, Ila Coimbra, Nina Loback

VOICES SIG

 

Diversity is a topic that has become increasingly discussed in business, marketing, international organizations, social media and many other channels of communication.  

And it’s not just a buzzword.  

According to an increasing number of experts “non-homogeneous teams are simply smarter” because “working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpens its performance” (Heidi Grant).  Team diversity takes into account a range of individual differences such as age, ethnicity, religious background, experience, skills, sexual orientation, and political preferences, among others.

This, believe it or not, has a lot to do with the upcoming BRAZ-TESOL elections.  There are almost 2000 official members with the opportunity to vote for who will represent them for the next 2 years.  The result of this election is of utmost importance as it will decide who gets a say in many of the decisions made on our behalf.  

As you consider your options from the list of candidates, we’d like you to take into account the following:

 

 

  • Do your homework

 

Take the time to find out who the candidate is.  Avoid voting for someone based on how familiar their face is.  Find out about their professional background, experience and what they stand for within ELT.  If this is not clear in their bio and personal statement, contact them and ask questions.

 

  • Think collectively, not individually

 

As we mentioned earlier, a diverse team brings multiple perspectives for solving problems and representing the interests of a greater range of ELT professionals.  For the benefit of all, take into account multiple criteria when selecting your candidates such as geographical location, ELT sector, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.  These people should not just represent you, but rather they should reflect the needs and interests of all of us.

 

  • Look to the future

 

BRAZ-TESOL is growing. There are an increasing number of members, SIGs and events to be looked after.  More than ever, we need to elect candidates who are open to input from the members and support transparency and democratic models of leadership.

Don’t forget that while both the Executive Board and the Advisory Council are there to work for the association only the board have decision-making power.  However, who we elect for the Council will potentially influence the culture of the association and the direction it moves in. Make your vote count and remember that together we are stronger.

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Got inspired? If you are a Braz – Tesol member in good standing, click here to vote.  You need to log in and you will see ‘General elections Braz – Tesol’ on the left. Make sure you check out the videos the candidates made on the Braz – Tesol Facebook Page.

Troika & BrELT: The Results

In partnership with Troika, we were able to offer two teachers the opportunity to attend two signature courses. Mary Ruth Popov got the Wired Sounds scholarship and Jonathan Macedo got one for the Iungo course.

Read and comment on Mary’s and Jonathan’s impressions on the Troika courses they were given the chance to attend.

Thank you for your kindness, Mary and Jonathan!

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Jonathan Macedo on Iungo:

To go tech or not to go tech, that’s the question! 

Using technology in the classroom is something that is challenging for anyone – especially when its use is mandatory at your workplace. Some teachers struggle to implement technological resources at their lessons, not because they don’t try it, but because instead of being something natural, it is something clunky and some teachers are not used to it.

We perform rather mundane activities like checking our messages, posting and commenting on updated, checking our emails but why is it so complicated for us to implement the use of some technological tools in our daily teaching practice? Are we looking at it through the most complicated angle? Having those questions in mind, I was happy I was chosen by BrELT to attend the IUNGO course by Troika.

Paulo Dantas, our trainer made us think about topics such as:

  • How is a particular technological tool going to transform my students’ outcome?
  • Is it going to be something practical to everyone?

What am I going to use?

When we are asked to use technological tools in our lessons we find the first struggle: What am I going to use? That question shouldn’t be your first concern. As mentioned previously, technology in our lessons should be a tool to transform learning, and not the other way around. As a suggestion, write your planning, decide your activities, THEN you check if your lesson needs to have something different.

If you need your students to describe what people are wearing you could use their Instagram/Facebook and describe the pictures they shared with their network. By doing that, you personalised your lesson, you used a technological resource, you transform your student experience, and last, but not least, you didn’t have to spend extra work hours on designing something miraculous.

How do I know if what is going to transform my students’ learning experience?

That’s one of the questions I made to myself for sometime. During the course, a model was presented to us to help teachers assess if the use of that technological resource was going to transform the learning experience or not. It’s call the SAMR model. So when thinking of using something different during your lesson, consider the answers of the four questions below:

  1. Will it substitute a step of my lesson?
  2. Will there be functional improvement?
  3. Will it redesign my task?
  4. Will it achieve a level that was never achievable before?

If the answers to the questions above are yes, you MUST use the tool you chose. If not all the answers were yes, consider carefully the use of the tool you thought of – it might not have as much impact as you would like it to have.

When should we use it?

As I see it, you should use technology whenever you see an opportunity to transform your students’ learning experience and, at the same time, it should be something that won’t harm your dynamic with students. There is also something else, we all have or have had those students who are heavy users of specific APPs, in this case I think technology might be even more beneficial to their learning experience, than simply ignore that fact and persist on old habits.

Answering my own question, I DO think we should always go tech, but with responsibility. To go tech with responsibility is to use the tools you have at your disposal with the certainty it’ll transform your students’ learning experience, bring peace to your coordinator’s heart, and won’t be another thing to trouble you.

I’d like to invite you tell us ways you can transform your students’ learning experience with the use of technology. 

 

Mary Ruth Popov on Wired Sounds:

One of the things I love the most about language and communication is that whatever we say and how we say it can have an impact on people, sometimes for a lifetime. So, it came as a pleasant surprise to find out that BrELT offered me a place on a mini-course by Troika. Being able to learn a bit more on how pronunciation and language can impact on a person’s life was very rewarding for me as a teacher.

Troika’s Wired Sounds mini-course brought insight to an aspect of the language that I had not yet given much thought to. Even though I teach pronunciation to my students, Catarina Pontes’ course showed me a whole new approach. Her charts, colorful sticks and blocks gave me an array of ideas on how to get the students more involved in the process of pronouncing words. Her love for language was transparent as she spoke and emitted the different sounds, almost as if she were singing a song – a language song! She was enthusiastic about her work which was tangible throughout her lecture.

The second part of the course with Paulo Dantas was excellent. His personality showed how passionate he is about helping teachers become better equipped. He put out questions that made us think on how we could use the internet to our advantage–such as making our own polls and questionnaires. Not having much experience with using the internet to make my own material, the whole afternoon was quite enlightening. In addition, he also shared a couple of websites and apps that could add to a variety of classroom tasks. I was all eyes and ears during the whole course.

My classmates were all very involved and ready to share their own experiences which helped all those who were present. It is so interesting to see how easily one can connect with other teachers. This first contact with Troika was exceptional to the point that made me want to participate in other Troika and BrELT events. My daughter and I went to BrELT on the Road on September 7th and thoroughly enjoyed it. We are now in the process of taking our teachers to other Troika and BrELT events. In the end, it does not matter how much you study, how many years you teach or how many conferences you attend, there is still so much more to explore and learn about the English language.