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!

The 11 Challenge – The person behind the blog

Hello blog! Long (long, long, long) time no see!!!

It’s been quite a year, which will be a blog on its own. And I’m not sure the readers of this blog will be impressed by this “come-back” post. But it’s a challenge, and those of you who know me it’s really hard for me to turn down a challenge. :-) And I’ve been tagged by a few people: Carol Goodey, Adam Simpson and Divya Madhavan.

So if you are tagged, here is what you need to do:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

So, you’ll get two posts: one with my eleven random facts and one with the answers to the 33 questions :)

Eleven random facts about me:

1 – I love to cook. Unlike most of my friends. I love to cook for myself, when I don’t have the kids with me or a schedule, I’ll spend hours cooking my own dinner.

2 – I have a BA in graphic design and used to teach art history at the federal university.

3 – I cried at Musee Rodin in Paris. It’s still my favorite museum in the world so far.

4 – I am extremely flexible. I have a “condition” in which the joints are “loose”, so I can touch the floor with my hands without thinking about it. It also means the bonesxjoints get out of place more often than not.

5 – I am terrified of flying insects, no matter how small or threatening they are. I got treated in therapy for it.

6 – I live in the same apartment building as 3 of my brothers (one is still not here) and my mother. I live on the 5th floor, my mother on the 7th, a brother on the 10th, 2 brothers on the 14th.

7 – I make the best brownies you’ll ever taste. (And am extremely humble about it!)

8 – I once won a competition online and went somewhere else to meet the actors of a TV show called “Scrubs”.

9 – I can’t play any musical instrument, which is frustration for me. I dream of playing the cello.

10 – I take the filling out of all the cookies with fillings I eat (oreos included!).

11 – I can’t drink whisky. It makes me immediately sick.

 

The eleven bloggers I nominate:

@eltbakery

@harmerj

@llea_dias

@barbsaka

@brad2earth

@willycard

@kenwilsonlondon

@lauraahaha

@TEFLPet

@sandymillin

@theteacherjames

 

And here are my eleven questions:

1 – If you were to lose one of the main five senses, which would you part with?

2 – What’s your favorite comfort food, the one you long for after a bad day?

3 – What kind of music do you listen to when you have to work?

4 – What would be your last meal?

5 – What is the one book you’ d recommend to people?

6 – What are the three things you’d take to a desert island for a year?

7 – What’s your favorite board game?

8 – What’s the funniest situation you’ve been in?

9 – What are you currently reading?

10 – What’s your dream purchase?

11 – What keeps you blogging?

A New Mantra

Last Friday I delivered a talk to a fantastic audience of English teachers in Brasília, Brazil. It was the final session after a full day of lots of interesting sessions, filled with practical ideas, reflections and research on English teaching promoted by the Brasilia chapter of Braz-Tesol.

The topic of the seminar was “From Strength to Strength“, and it made me think some before deciding what I should talk about… This semester has been a incredibly busy one – and hard as well. Many classes to teach, new challenges (going back to teaching beginner adults for one), leading projects, keeping up with life… Just a couple of weeks ago, I saw myself thinking: “Is it worth it?”. Is all the time, effort, sweat, blood, tears and heart we put into teaching worth it?

A little background information may be needed at this time… In Brazil, education seems to be the least of priorities. Teachers are underpaid (big time), so many time they have to keep more than one job, teaching at different schools, with endless contact hours, to make ends meet. On top of that add the fact that English teachers are at the bottom of the ladder. That (IMHO) is related to the belief that all you need in order to be an English teacher around here is being able to speak English at a decent (suuuuuuuch a subjective aspect!) level.

Is that what it takes to be a language teacher? To be able to speak the language you are teaching?

No!

(big resounding NO at this point, mind you!)

I am a mentor this semester. Someone who observes each and every class of a certain group (a beginner Adult 1) and prepares classes with me. And when we meet to prepare classes I ask her why for every activity and decision (peer correction or whole class? Pair work or Whole class? Predicting difficulties and questions… It has made me realise how much thinking goes into each and every class we do. (She’s a fantastic person to mentor, though. She picks up the reasons and inferences, the rationale behind the activities).

One day we were preparing classes and she said: “Students have no idea the amount of thinking and effort it goes in each class, do they?” No they don’t. Should they?

 That’s a good question… No and Yes at the same time. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be told of how much effort, expertise, study and hard work goes into each lesson…. But in the end they do. They feel the teacher is more or less prepared.

Anyways… I was thinking about the talk and then one day it hit me during a chat. I was chattng to Barbara Sakamoto on Facebook one night and we were talking about how much a teacher has to do. She was telling me the enormous amount of things she has been involved with and I was just about to voice my opinion and then type ” But what do I know? I am JUST a teacher.”  And then I stopped myself.

I have said “I’m just an English teacher.” (or just a teacher for that matter) countless times. Why do we do that? Why do we undermine our own profession? When we say “JUST” a  teacher we’re saying teachers are not that important. We’re saying we (and our opinions) don`t matter that much,

Now, that is a contradiction. We ARE teachers. We influence people. We make people get better jobs, better education, travel better…and we are JUST teachers?

My point is: If we think of ourselves as JUST teachers, how can we expect anyone to see us as more than that? How can we expect people to see us as educators, people who have a very active role in changing people’s lives and realities.

Some changing of concept is in order, methinks. Me included.

We are ENGLISH TEACHERS. We give people a (much needed) skill. We help students develop and grow as people and members of a global community.

We are certainly NOT just teachers. And we have to be proud of what we are. We have to be proud of the long hours, sweat, love and tears… We have to build on our strengths and not be afraid of our weaknesses.

I am NOT just a teacher – THAT is my new mantra. And I am VERY proud of what I am.

The Worst Class I have Ever Taught… So What?

Today I taught what I (now) feel might have been the worst class I have ever taught in nearly 20 years of ELT.

To add to it (or just because Murphy loves me…) I was being observed by my school’s pedagogical coordinator. I was observed because it is part of our routine, to be formally observed. But first and foremost I was being observed because I had asked to. It has been a while since I have last taught beginner adults and I wanted to make sure I was doing it right.

It was all fine in the beginning. I got the students to stand in a circle, talk about how they were feeling, practice new chunks of language…

And then…. Booom!!!! Disaster hits! The Power Point I had prepared as an activity to last 20 minutes – and be the lead for the rest of the class – didn’t work.  What??!?!

What do you do when something like this happens? You improvise, you tap from the pool of activities and knowledge you have built over the last (nearly) 20 years, right? Right!!!

What if your mind goes blank?

Because that’s what happened to me. Despite having taught the present simple countless times, and this being a revision, I panicked.  I couldn’t think of what to do. Frustration took over for a minute or two and I didn’t know what to do next. Within a few minutes I managed something, let go of the PowerPoint which had taken me an hour to do, and moved on. I drew a smiley face and a sad face on the board and wrote things I liked / didn’t like to do. And I moved on from there, got students talking, monitored… But still I feel like I fell short. And you know what?

I did. I feel I fell short and I know I could have done better. And that makes all the difference,

We all have bad days, don’t we? Maybe it was the frustration of having  thing go wrong, maybe it was the fact I was being observed that made me nervous… I just wasn’t myself. But it worked. And I feel the students learned. So why am I writing about this?

Because most teachers are terrified of being observed. They feel their job (or life) depends on every move they make, every activity they do – especially when being observed. But surprisingly enough, I didn’t.

I was upset (to say the least) the class hadn’t work the way as planned. I knew it wasn’t the kind of class I’m used to teaching. But it was all fine. No nervousness, no anxiety. I just want her (the coordinator) to observe me again in the same class.

Now… a few years ago, being observed in such a lesson would have devastated me. It would have made me crumble and question my abilities as a teacher. But tonight, it didn’t. And I left the room feeling ok, and analizing the lesson so as to think of what could I have done differently / better? I didn’t feel I was a bad teacher, or incapable. I was frustrated, yes, but that was not as important.

So what has changed? Is it me or the classroom? Is it my self-confidence as a teacher? Does having 20 years under my belt make a difference? Should it? Is experience in the classroom THAT important? Or is confidence more important? Or, even more complicated, are experience and self-confidence  so tightly related?

I’d really like to know what you think, and hear about your worst classes.

A Valentine’s Activity Talking About Gestures

Just a quick post in honor of Valentine’s Day (or “Dia dos Namorados”) in Brazil, which takes place on June 12th.

I have always been fascinated by the video clip for Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine” song, featuring Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp. Her gracious movements, how movements related to words…. So I decided to use that clip as the essence of a Valentine’s Day activity. One that should raise students’ awareness to the importance of gestures and body language, as well as sign language and those who can’t hear.

This is how I did it…

First, I played some love song (in my case “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” performed by UB40) in the sound system as the students came in and offered them whiteboard markers to write any words that came to mind when they thought of Valentine’s Day.

Then, after they had settled down, we talked about what they had written and the meaning of Valentine’s Day in different countries, the different dates. Then I approached whether the students demonstrated love more through words or gestures. And I asked the id they thought they could decode body gestures.They were all very confident, so I proposed a challenge: WATCH the video of a song that would be sign “languaged” and try to fill in the blanks of the lyrics. They would need to take in the context of the song as well as the gesture to try to figure out the words. So I played the clip once for them (you may play it twice if your students are at a lower level (mine are at a B1/B2 level) to try to get the words.

Most of the words are obvious valentine-related, but still… After a first run, I asked them to share among each other and discuss their word choices. I played it once more without the sound, for students to get a better idea of the gestures. Then I played once more, this time with the sound on so the students could check their previous answers. After we had all checked the answers I focused on the last question:

“Were you able to infer the words from the signs? Why/ Why not?

After (or maybe during) that, we went on to a discussion of body gestures, sign language and the effectiveness of it, how much sign language resembled feelings and so on. We talked about whether it was beneficial or not to have a person who can’t speak to learn sign language, what were the alternatives…

It was a very interesting discussion. The students enjoyed the activity. I am now looking forward to hearing how it went (or that you’d think it’d go) in your groups and why :-)

Valentines Activity – Paul McCartney ACTIVITY

Valentines Activity – Paul McCartney KEY