Answers to 11 Questions from the 11 Blog Challenge

 

So, here are my answers to the questions the people who have tagged me in the “11 Blog Challenge”. Since I was tagged by Carol Goodey, Adam Simpson, Divya Madhavan, Sophia Mavridi and Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe, I thought I’d be better off choosing 11 of the questions they asked and answered those.

1 – What would you do if you were not an educator? (by Juan)

As I thought about this question I was surprised to see the difficulty I had in considering another profession. I’ve done many different things in my life, while I was in college. But I can’t really see myself doing anything not related to education. The best I could come up with was owning a book store, restoring books (like really old books and manuscripts, which would put my love for art, books and history together) or a museum tour guide.

2 –  Do you exercise much? (by Juan)

You mean besides carrying a bag filled with books everywhere? :-) I am not crazy about exercising and sweating… I do love walking and I’ve been taking pilates lessons twice a week (3 times when I can) for the past 10 years. I have taken yoga off and on too. But that’s as much exercising as I can handle.

3 – What is the next language you’d like to learn? (by Divya)

When I was much younger I set as a life plan to be fluent in 5 languages by the time I turned 35. Well, 35 have come and passed and I’m afraid I’m only fluent in Portuguese and English. I can get by in Spanish and I understand the basics of French but I never really got fluent. It just feels so much more comfortable, so much easier to fall back into English when things get a bit more complicated…

So I guess the next one would be French.

4 – Do you have a preferred variety of house pet? (by Divya)

I have always been a dog person, for the interaction you can have, for being able to go out for walks or a run together and play. I was never much of a cat lover. But I’ve had a recent experience of living in a house with 3 cats and taking care of them for a while and I have to say that has changed. I’m a cat lover now too :-)

5 – Do you prefer reading on screen or on paper? (by Sophia)

For me nothing beats the smell of a book, the feeling of the paper, the weight in your hands. I’m still crazy about paper books. I’m especially crazy about old paper books, for the stories that they bring with them. I’m also still stuck to printing texts when I am studying, for my need to highlight and write notes on things. But I’ve succumbed to digital books more than I thought I would, for their practicality and price. I have quite a few titles in their digital form now, especially books that I plan to read while traveling, to avoid the extra weight!

6 – Have you ever lived in another country other than you live now? Where was it? (by Sophia)

I lived in Kansas as a teenager. In a little town in Northwestern Kansas, USA, called Morland. It had a bit over 300 inhabitants when I lived there and the whole high school had 43 students! It was the best year of my life, and I learned a lot. People were beyond friendly, caring and supportive. Things were simpler, people were closer.

7 – What do you most enjoy about blogging? (by Carol)

There are a few things I enjoy about blogging. When I sit down to write, it’s almost as if I’m having a conversation with myself, or with a real interlocutor. And as I write and reflect I think about the issue, I consider different aspects. I also love the fact that by blogging whatever I write becomes available to anybody with an internet connection, it completely ignores borders and distance. But most of all, I love the connectedness that blogging brings me. I love the interaction in the comments, hearing how people read what I wrote, their reactions and experiences, their opinions.

8 – What do you enjoy most about the work that you do? (by Carol)

It’s going to sound super cheesy, but what I love about education is connecting to people and being able to make someone’s life better by giving them a skill they didn’t have. A skill that’s going to empower them, to give them a better job, broader perspectives, the chance to live in another country with dignity. And every once in a while I’m rewarded with the extra bonus of helping a student find (or boost) their self-confidence, overcome a difficult thing they are going through. When that happens it really makes my day – or term!

9 – What month next year are you most looking forward to? Why? (by Carol)

There are two months I am really looking forward to. The first is January and the week off from work I’m taking, which I’m spending in Rio, seeing friends and family or just spending the whole day on the beach with a good book. The second month is May, when the Braz-Tesol national conference is taking place in the neighboring state, and when I’ll be able to see friends and learn some!

10 – Go to You Tube and basically surf around until you find a song you’ve never heard before. Share that song with us here. (by Adam)

I chose this question because I loved the idea of searching for something new :-) Here’s what I found (and I liked it!):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcoycKSU01k&feature=c4-overview&list=UU5w_8_Z7I-VPXpzBiEVB07Q

11 – Would you prefer to be the guy from ‘Memento’ who wakes up and can’t remember the previous day, or the guy from ‘Groundhog Day’ who wakes up to exactly the same day over and over again? (by Adam)

I’d much rather not remember the previous day, than reliving the same day over and over. Not remembering makes it new in a way.

This has been such a fun challenge! Getting to know more about bloggers I read and respect and also letting a bit of the person I am show. Thanks for including me in this, guys! Looking forward to reading what the people I’ve tagged say. Happy Christmas to everyone!

Teaching is like…

Brad Patterson felt the ELT Blogosphere was a bit quiet these days and decided to shake things up a bit by proposing a new blog challenge:

What is you teaching metaphor?

The challenge is very simple: share your “Teaching is like…” metaphor. As many things in life, despite its simplicity, the responses can be very thought-provoking and revealing – not to mention entertaining. We all seem to think for the answer to that question in our personal interests – other than ELT. Brad compares teaching to surfing and some of the people who left comments to his post say teaching is like reading a good novel, Latin dance, catching fireflies and jogging.

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t choose just one thing to make the analogy, so I thought Brad wouldn’t mind me having 2 metaphors. Especially because each relates to different aspects I see in teaching. So here is my contribution to the challenge (which – shockingly – are two of my favorite things) – teaching aspect of the analogy in italics, between parenthesis:

I have a thing for red shoes… (by miss karen on Flickr – CC )

Teaching is like buying new shoes. As soon as we buy them, we are all exciting and we can’t wait to start wearing them. (In the beginning of a new term we are all excited about our new groups and students, we want to get back on, start teaching again.) But the first time(s) you wear a new pair of shoes they may be tight in certain spots, they may hurt your feet and you might end up the day thinking: “What the heck was I thinking?”. (Starting to teach a new group of students many times means getting a group you don’t immediately hit it off with, they may bring difficulties and the excitement of a new semester soon fades and is replaced by routine and lots of work. And you are soon thinking: “What the heck was I thinking?”)

However, with time, as you wear that sparkling new pair of shoes they start loosening up, adjusting to your feet. And they become comfortable. (As the term rolls on you begin to know your students, they start to know you and your teaching style. Adjustments are made, you learn how to prepare and deliver lessons that work with each group. And things are not as bad anymore. It might even be fun!) Ok… there are those that you still need to put a little band-aid on that one spot that keeps hurting and you sigh with relief when you take them off. (Eventually there may be those students / groups that never get to the “comfortable” level, and that make us do our job but look forward to the end of the term.)

Pilates

I strongly recommend pilates as a way of keeping fit

Teaching is like doing pilates. It may seem easy to someone looking from the outside – gracious, slow movements. (Many people seem to think teaching, and may I say in particular teaching a language, is a very easy thing to do. You just present the structures and correct the students. Right?) But once you are the one on those straps, bars and huge balls, surrounded by springs and bands you see your first impression was not accurate. It is hard to keep the movement slow – it takes twice the strength of doing weights in an automatic way. (Once you’re in the classroom you realise there are many ways to “present” the language; that it’s not enough to just correct when the students make a mistake. You’re surrounded by different students, different needs, new techniques and tools to be used, long hours… It is hard to do everything and see learning take place.)

Some exercises and movements in pilates can be quite challenging. Coordinating different – sometimes quite complex – movements to be done at the same time by different parts of the body while also concentrating on your breathing can seem impossible. (Sometimes as teachers we feel overwhelmed by all we have to do in order to effectively doing our jobs. And many times we feel we can’t make it. Sometimes we feel there is no way we can teach a group of 15-20 people from different backgrounds, different levels, different interests. How can we tend to everything and everyone at once?) But once you start developing your muscles and they develop a memory – yes, muscles have memory! – and the movements become effortless, natural. You become motivated by your progress, you start to see the benefits of the exercises and they become worth it. (Once you become a more experienced teacher, things and procedures take less time and work. You start to see the results of your work: a student that gets a job or a scholarship, another one that travels abroad and can effectively communicate and get around… And you see the value of what you do.)

So, teaching for me is like buying new shoes and doing pilates. What is your metaphor?

Before a Language Teacher… I was a Language Learner

For me, one of the best things about blogging is reading the comments after the blog ans seeing how people from different places, different contexts and experiences read and understand the same post. How they see different aspects – our view of things passes through the lenses that our experiences have given us. I love learning about how other teachers around the world see things, wonder what makes them that way. And one of the most effective ways of doing that, and getting a wide variety of teachers sharing their experiences and views on the same topic, is a blog challenge.

Brad Patterson proposed the latest challenge in my PLN with a post where he shares his story of learning a foreign language and posing a question for anyone wiling to share their story:

“I challenge you to blog a story of your language learning, be it a success or a story about what didn’t work for you OR for your students if you’d like.”

So… without further ado, here’s my story.

Curly-haired, blondish Ceci with dad and bro

My mother used to be an English teacher. I was a very curious child – always wanting to learn things and asking questions. So naturally, I was intrigued by that different language my mother spoke. I leafed through her books, looked at the images and wanted, more than anything, understand what the books said. I learned to read and write earlier than most kids I played with – at 4 to 5 years old. Books have always been my passion.

So my mother bought me English books that came with records (Yes, records!) of cute songs and had beautiful pictures and words under it. And I listened to the records and repeated the words. I listened to and sung the songs. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to communicate. So my mother tried to enroll me in a private English course when I was 6. The course wouldn’t accept me as a student, because the minimum age then was 7. My mother, after much talking, convinced them I wouldn’t fall behind or have discipline problems, so I started my formal studies of the English language.

And a whole new world opened up. It was easy for me. I could reproduce the sounds quite effortlessly, I learned without major problems, I spoke English in class all the time and progressed quickly. By the time I was 13 (with 2 hours of class a week) I had completed the whole course, including advanced conversation classes. Languages are a passion. Communication is a key aspect of my life. Nothing makes me more frustrated than not being able to talk to – or understand – someone.

The first time I really understood what it meant to be able to communicate in another language came when I was 12 – my first trip to the USA, to visit Disneyworld in Florida. I could talk to everyone, get around, order things and, most importantly I understood all the explanations, all the signs… I knew what people were talking about. More than the adults on  the trip! I could never understand how a person can visit a foreign country without being capable of fully understanding what is being said to them. How could they go on a ride (in one of the amusement parks) and not understand the story, what the guides said?

When you visit a foreign country and you don’t speak the language, you don’t get the full experience. You can’t really experience the culture. You don’t get a full idea of the people and their habits. That, for me, is special.

In Kansas, on top of some bails - at 15

After that, when I was 15, I spent a year as an exchange student in rural western Kansas – a year that changed my life and gave me a much broader view of the world, the different people in it. It opened my eyes to diversity and the beauty of it. To how much we learn and grow from being exposed to different cultures, habits and beliefs. I started teaching English when I came back from the exchange program, after some training at the school I had studied at (yes, I know…too young, no real training… that’s a topic to a whole post, I’m afraid)

At about the time I got back to Brazil, I also made a decision. My first life goal. By the time I was 35 I wanted to be fluent in 5 languages. I can tell you right now I did not accomplish that (35 is passed and gone). I did, however, study Spanish – where I consider myself fairly fluent. I also started studying French after I had my second child. But the method and the lack of time didn’t help and I quit after a year. I still want to go back to it. My phonetic talent has persisted, and I still seem to be able to internalize and process foreign languages fairly easily.

But for me, the biggest consequence of my experience was my awareness of the world and to how important knowing other languages is if you want to communicate effectively while experiencing the world. Both my children study at a bilingual school, and I plan for them to be fluent at English by the age most kids go on exchange programs, so they can go to a country to perfect their third language. I speak to them in English often – for them it’s not really any difference whether I speak in English or Portuguese (though they do struggle more with English). They love it and see the benefits and reason for it, because they have been to foreign countries and were able to communicate on their own. I took my kids to visit my Kansas host family and they felt confident (and safe) enough to spend full days with people other than me. They would go on their own to ask for things and information when we went to Disneyworld. They talk to my English-speaking friends when I am on a call on Skype. They see the why, even if they can’t quite verbalize it.

After all, in the age of globalization, information and communication… being able to express yourself properly is key, isn’t it?

Here’s The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth

Which fact about my life goes where? (photo by xtrarant on Flickr- CC license)

 

One of my last posts here was my contribution to Dave Dodgson’s PLN Challenge, where we had to tell 5 things about our lives – 2 of them being lies. We should then invite the PLN to guess which things were the truth, which were the lies. If you haven’t seen my post on it, you can check it here.

I have been overwhelmed with work – hence my absence from Twitter and blogging – but I thought I had to “let the cat out of the bag”.

#1 – Taking up a Touch Typing Course – LIE!!!

It is true that I’ve always envied people who can touch type… I can type fairly fast, but I still have to look at the keys as I do it. I have tried a few websites (such as Touch Typing ) that help you improve your typing – and hopefully teach you how to touch type. But I have to admit to never being resilient enough to get through any of them.

#2 – Teaching at a University – TRUE!!!

Despite what many people from the PLN thought (and said as much in their comments) about the timing not being right (I’ve been teaching English for 18 years – it just wouldn’t add up), it is true. Right after I got my BA in Graphic Design, there was a selection for teachers at the same university where I had studied (and the only one with a graphic design course at the time), because so many teachers were abroad getting their post-graduate studies done. I got the job (I have to admit that I believe what got me the job was the “class” I had to teach to the team of professors who were in the selection committee – I was fresh out of college, but had been teaching – English – for a few years, so I think it gave me an upperhand). I taught the history classes: art history (focusing on design), Design History, Typography History (1 and 2) and Science and Technology History. I had that job for 2 years, before I got fed up with politics and people pressuring me to teach in a more traditional way. Then I quit. but my love for art never changed :-)

But during those two years I still kept my job as an English teacher at a private language course. I only taught English on Saturdays. That is how I was able to do both things, and that’s what makes the timing work.

#3 – At my Wedding, the Groom Fainted – TRUE!!!

Yes, my (now ex) husband fainted, twice, during our wedding. It was a combination of nerves, heat – we got married in January, which is high summer here – not having eaten well during the day… He fainted twice. After the second time, I said I’d only go on if we were given chairs and they found fans to place right next to us. My requests were met and the ceremony went on… for another hour!!!! It was truly an unforgettable wedding, and an experience I have no desire to live again. Later that night he even asked me to tell him about the wedding – he had no recollection :-P

#4 – I am as Fluent in Spanish as I am in English – LIE!!!

I have formally studied both French and Spanish, but have not mastered any of them. Although I can get around on my Spanish – I got to the advanced level and the similarity between Portuguese and Spanish helps – I am (by far) not fluent on it. I won’t even comment about my French!

#5 – I Was a Successful Javelin Athlete – TRUE!!!

While I went to high school in the US, I had the chance of being more active and practicing many sports. When track season came, the school’s coach made me try all sports, since I had no idea if I was any good at anything. Surprisingly enough, I was really good at javelin throw. I won a few medals in competitions among schools – even a few big meetings! And if I have failed to remember what was my best mark, it’s only because it has been so long (20 years!!!). I guess I had a good arm ;-)

 

So, there you have it. The truth. And if I learned something with this challenge it is that I am a good liar (thankfully I don’t do it often enough to have realized that before!) and that my PLN has sooooo little faith in my physical abilities! ;-) Shame on you!!!

So Alfonso, you were the only one who caught my lies!!! Good one!

 

How good a liar am I? Taking up a PLN challenge

No, I can’t resist a challenge. And even though I am completely overwhelmed with the arrival of midterm, with grading, assessing efolios and report card writing, I made time to take up Dave Dodgson’s Challenge. On his post, he talks about an acitivity many of us have done in the first day of class, which is saying things about ourselves and slipping a lie in the middle, to have students speculate which one is a lie. Dave recorded himself doing it and invited readers of his blog to guess among the five things he said which two were lies, which were true. Here’s the challenge:

  • Post a video, audio recording or just a regular post on your blog in which you state 5 facts about yourself – 3 truths and 2 lies.
  • Invite your PLN to quiz you and speculate on what the lies are!

So here’s my recording, and I invite you to guess which 2 things are lies. I have always wondered how good a liar I am.;-)

Can you tell which two things are not true???

PLN Blog Challenge – Compare and Contrast

A new PLN-proposed blog challenge…. by Anne Hodgson and turned into a challenge by Brad Patterson.

Choose two photos to “compare and contrast”.

Now, if you have read some of my posts – or have known me for some time – you know I have a problem with challenges – or rather my inability to decline them. It’s a weakness, one that has been very linguistically fruitful :-)

But as I was looking through photos to choose a couple for the challenge, I caught myself looking at it a little differently. I have always focused on ELT here, but this challenge will take a more… personal.

So here are my 2 photos:

One little ballerina...

And…

... and another ballerina - and a fan ;-)

  • Who are the people in the pictures and how are they related?
  • How do the clothes indicate different situations, despite the obvious similarity (ballet dancers)?
  • What are the similarities – other than the subject being ballerinas?
  • How could you use this in class? What else could you focus on despite comparatives (and superlatives?)

It’d be great to see a lot of people taking up the challenge, so why don’t you???

Others who have taken up the challenge:

Baiba Svenca

Ceri Jones

Chiew Pang

Janet Bianchini

Michael Harrison

Images and Ceri Jones – A PLN Interview

I was super happy to find out we could do more than one PLN interview for Brad Patterson’s PLN Challenge (read more about here). The first person I thought of was Ceri Jones, one of my very favorite people on twitter – and off it as well, as we met in Brighton in April. Ceri was the one who hosted my first ever blog post ( The Day Nothing Became Everything) and has been a great, supportive friend all along.

Her blog is filled with ideas for lessons and reflections on her teaching… If you don’t know it, check it out: Close Up

For the interview, we started skyping, but then the connection went bad and we had to finish it mostly through chatting :-(

So here’s Ceri’s interview!

After Ken's session at IATEFL... finally!

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?


Smiley, approachable and committed.


Smiley didn’t really surprise me… Having met Ceri in person I know she is always smiling. And she has that warm, welcoming smile that just makes you want to smile too. She said she had never noticed it herself but that her students constantly mentioned that to her. I asked her whether she thought being smiley overlapped being approachable, and she agreed.

Students aren’t scared of talking to teachers and asking questions when they look friendly and open.

When it came to committed there was actually a but of “committment”. She thought as committed was a kind of compromise to cover serious, about their learning, committed to them, to doing my best as a teacher I guess, strict and demanding – expecting them to do their best. I couldn’t do anything but agree. Don’t you???

3) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?


Mostly fruit…black cherries , which are in season here, apricots and figs – I love figs.


I wasn’t surprised…Ceri is an extremely committed mother and a very balanced – in touch with herself person – and fruit are delicious healthy food. I have to admit I was a bit jealous of the black cherries… We don’t really get them around here. I blame it on the darn tropical weather ;-P

4) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

“When I was a little girl I wanted to be a farmer’s wife…. And after a little chatting she said “Now I think I’d be the farmer myself – again…I’m not surprised! Recently when she came across an article which talked about people “fighting” over little patches of land on the streets of Spain she said she’d love to have some to plant some herbs and vegetables…. :-)

Image by CatPiper on Flickr - CC



5) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

It happened in Ceri’s first year…and her account of it resonated very close to me. I am one of those people who are glad there are teaches with different teaching styles and preferences… Her experience was with a class of 8 year olds – one lad had chronic behaviour problems – a real attention seeker – literally climbing the curtains and bringing bookshelves down on top of himself – She didn’t really know what to do with him – tried the ignore him, don’t rise to his game ploy – Many of us have been through that experience, I know I have and it’s nothing Id like to relive..

But what called my attention was that Ceri said: “I think I failed him really but at least he didn’t disrupt the rest of the class too much”…That comment took me back to one of my recent posts “Why do We Take it so Personally?“. Why do we always think it’s our fault, that we failed???

After that experience Ceri refused to teach anyone under 12 :-)!  Luckily her school made no objections and let her specialize in teens and adults – better for us! After she mentioned that, I asked her whether she thought motherhood had changed that a bit – because I know it has sure changed it for me! – to which Ceri replied:

” I think it might do better by those kids if I tried now –
a lot more confidence as a teacher, more knowledge of their development etc as a mum”.

Then she proceeded to tell me about an experience she had last year, substituting a teacher for a class of 3-year-olds… She felt there was nothing much she could do except babysit babysitting “no teaching – the lesson plan was total double Dutch” I relate to that, as I have no talent for teaching Young Learners…

6) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

Aravind Adiga – Between the Assassinations – great book, but she read it months ago. She hasn’t been to the movies in years… Can I suggest someone send her a movie coupon???

                                                        7) Being an author and a teacher is…

Great … incredibly stimulating… the two feed into each other … but juggling is exhausting too sometimes“. Then we talked about whether being in the classroom changed things, and she thinks it wouldn’t be the same for her, because being in the classroom makes it easier to know and understand students’ responses and reactions to the activities, to the lesson. And that being in the classroom made it easier to keep up with changes in teaching as well as constantly question and develop what she does.

I then asked if being an author would be the same for her if she weren’t in the classroom, and she told me ““I used to think that too – but I don’t think it’s always true – some authors who aren’t in the classroom are still incredibly aware of all the factors and write amazing material – spot on – others, despite being in classroom might not get is as “right” – depends so much on the individual writer. But passion – interest in learning – effective learning – and supporting teachers thru their materials – I think that always shows” . Hooray for passionate authors like Ceri!

These days writing is taking more of her time than teaching, but Ceri thinks a 50/50 ratio would be nice, and that they were very different skills – but she really enjoys both. Ceri has great ideas for activities – I know that not only from her blog, but because at my school we use one of her books (Inside Out) with our Advanced groups and not only the book is great but I especially like the resource book, filled with great ideas.

7) What’s your favorite place in the world?

“A beach not far from here – called Bolonia – looks out over Africa – big windy, sandy beach, superb winter sunsets”

She still had the sand and salt in her hair from being there that same afternoon – definitely a beach person! And she once saw a woman swimming with her llama there (!??!).

8) My pet peeve is…

“People who complain all the time. I love and appreciate a good rant now and then, but it’s the moaners I can’t stand”

Her answer fits both professional and personal life perfectly and I totally agree with her on it. If people just had a more positive outlook on things their lives would probably start working better. Positive thinking attracts positive energy and good things in my opinion.And the other way around is true too.

After that last question came the twist of this interview (one of my favorite things about these interviews is that each has a different twist, a different thing each interviewer does). Since Ceri loves images – especially close-ups – I decided to show her some pictures that I got from her, from #eltpics and have her tell me the first thing, word, memory that came to mind… And then I did a little video with the images and her replies…

Thanks for the interview Ceri! xx