July 15, 2016 will go down in BrELT history as the first face-to-face event the community has ever had. With the support of Braz-TESOL and in partnership with the Braz-TESOL Teacher Development Special Interest Group (BT TD-SIG), BrELTers had an hour and a half to debate the very necessary issue of teacher development, the core of what BrELT is all about.
After the panel moderator Edmilson Chagas told us more about the Braz-TESOL Teacher Development SIG and laid down the plans for the panel, the BrELT team took the floor to describe the community’s challenges and achievements (you can check out the slides here). Ricardo Nostradamus Barros pointed out how fast the community has been growing and even risked a prediction: by early 2017, we will have reached 10,000 members, the double of what we had 2 years earlier.
Meanwhile, as the panel was being held, about 50 people joined BrELT and the community passed the mark of 8800 members.Spooky!
The sheer number of ELT professionals in BrELT is indicative of its richness of experiences. In fact, a recent survey has shown that the bulk of BrELTers have been around in the ELT world for 5 to 15 years and work in various contexts. Still, our biggest challenge has been reaching out to regular school teachers and to teachers based beyond the Southeast/South. (So if you are reading this from the North, Northeast or Midwest, or if you work in regular schools and feel BrELT can contribute, please spread the word among your colleagues!)
Then T. Veigga and Natália Guerreiro talked about all of BrELT’s projects, namely: the community itself, the fortnightly BrELT Chats, this blog, webinars, interviews, the monthly posts about ELT events, #rovingBrELT, the language development SIG, and our new Instagram account. Phew! That’s quite a list, when we put it like that, isn’t it? Perspectives for the future of BrELT were also listed: keeping our hits, but investing in new projects. The problem? As moderators are volunteers, they have other demands on their time. The solution is simple, however: the help of BrELTers themselves.
After that, our speakers talked about their different teacher development realities: Andreia Fernandes in public schools in Rio de Janeiro, Roseli Serra in private bilingual schools in the Northeast of Brazil, and Bruna Caltabiano in a small language institute in São Paulo. Interestingly enough, all three of them described some degree of resistance from teachers. Bruna, who has a degree in psychology, ventured an explanation: fear. Although most teachers will credit lack of money and time to develop, and these are both understandably contributing factors, in fact many teachers seem to fear making mistakes when practicing the language in front of others, being exposed or ridiculed, and also getting out of their comfort zone. BrELTers in the audience and in the community seemed to agree, and many reflected back to when they themselves were afraid for various reasons. The panelists also reported many achievements, showing how teachers can come around eventually, especially when they feel the teacher developer is trustworthy and really there to help.
A debate ensued and questions from the audience made it clear that this topic is far from being all talked out. Teacher development is very complex, since it drags along issues of working conditions, pay, qualifications, and even the status of our profession in society. Worry not, though, for we have BrELT to keep the conversation going.
The BrELT Team would like to seize this opportunity to thank again, firstly, the members who participated, both face-to-face and online, showing the best of the community has to offer: its power to congregate fascinating people and generate reflection on our practices. We would also like to thank our inspiring panelists, who were able to talk about such a delicate issue with both assertiveness and tact. We always knew you were brilliant, and you still managed to wow us! Edmilson Chagas also set an example to be followed in the way he monitored the time and moderated the debate. Suave has got to be his middle name! Last but not least, we must thank Braz-TESOL and its TD-SIG for their support and partnership, especially Valeria França, Higor Cavalcante, and Claudia Cavalcante. Valeria was in fact one of BrELT’s first moderators and spoke the sweetest words about our community at the end of the panel.
Want to know more? Here’s some #rovingBrELT about the panel: