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?

Learning from Teaching & Sharing and the Secret Garden – What I got from #RSCON3


Last weekend I took part in the 3rd edition of the Reform Symposium Worldwide e-Conference. (you can learn more about it, watch the recordings from sessions and see archives from the past editions if you click in the image above. In short, the conference is made by educators, with educators and for educators around the world. It’s an intense weekend filled with great sessions on an array of topics, all related to education and how it is changing, what we’re doing to follow the change, how and what we can do to be even better at what we do. It was an incredible experience. And in this post I’ll try to put into words what I learned from it, from the 3 parts I played in it.

# As a participant - I learned so much, it’s difficult to pinpoint. I heard and reflected about the changes technology has brought into the teaching practice in many aspects (speed of spreading, reach and availability of information; the dangers of exposing yourself online (and how to protect ourselves and our students, how we have to reflect before putting things online); creating online “spaces” where teachers can collaborate and share activities; I discussed assessment, about new tools, adjusting to the new reality…

This was maybe one of the topics that stuck to my mind. The fact that teachers have to face the changes the world and education have been going through. We have to change, because the students today are not the students from 10, 15 years ago. They’re not even the same as the students from 5 years ago. Learning has even more ways (and places) for taking place. So can we expect to keep teaching as we did before?

I don’t think so, and in that sense the #RSCON3 (that’s the hashtag we used for tweeting the conference) is an innovative opportunity for teachers who are already involved in online learning/teaching/Professional development to discuss the benefits and difficulties of it. But even more importantly, it is a chance for the teachers who are still taking their first steps – or have heard about it but are still a bit afraid of or uncomfortable with it to learn more about it, find ways of getting into it – and see it’s not the bogeyman. I saw many other participants who were attending their first online conference discover what can be done, find out about fantastic resources available for free online.

I could not talk about #RSCON without mentioning the thing that leaves the strongest mark in me, and I will quote Akevy Greenblatt (@Akevy613) on his post about #RSCON to say it:

“I challenge someone to find a profession with more passionate people than educators. I am truly blessed and privileged to be an educator.”

It is impressive to see how much caring, sharing and committment there. And it’s all very evident during the whole conference.

Which brings me to an image I have about my own experience in joining the world of Twitter, Educator Blogosphere, Online tools… Up until about a year ago I used Facebook mostly for chit-chatting, keeping in touch with friends & family living far… I had joined Twitter a little before, but saw little use in it, and had no interest in it to tell you the truth…. I had never read a blog written by an educator… I knew a few websites that offered lesson plans and activities. Then after Braz-Tesol 2010 I was convinced by Jeremy Harmer to join Twitter, and he told me a few educators I should start following. And my life changed. And this is where the image comes… what I found (and am still finding, every day) is such an amazing immeasurable amount of resources, meaningful discussion, interesting ideas and reflections, online conferences, webinars, like-minded people and opportunities for learning and sharing, that all I can compare it with is a Secret Garden.

When you are introduced to the web 2.0 for teachers by someone who can show you the way, that person is actually given you the key and showing you the gate to a secret garden. Something I had no idea existed and it’s unbelievable, beautiful. Conferences such as #RSCON have as a goal to give the key and show this gate to as many educators around the world as possible.

Take the keys and enter… all you need is wanting to.

 # As a Presenter - It was my first time presenting at an online conference, my second online presentation (I have done a webinar before), first time using Elluminate as a presenter/moderator. Many of my feelings regarding presenting online are also Brad Patterson’s as he discussed it in his post about #RSCON, another great post you may want to read.

It’s strange presenting to an audience you can’t see or listen to (except when they get the microphone to ask questions in the end of the presentation). You have no idea of their emotions, their expressions… in a way it’s like presenting blind. Yes, there’s all the interaction going on in the chat box, but that too represents a bit of a challenge to me as a presenter. I never knew whether to look in the box, too afraid to love my line of thought, of drifting away from my presentation.

In a way it’s also fantastic, because I literally had people from all over the world in my session. And the chat box allows for such great interaction between participants, on the spot questions, sharing of links and resources…

Being a presenter also showed me how incredibly helpful it is to have a moderator to assist you. In my case it was extra special, because I had someone from my PLN, my friend Sabrina de Vita as my moderator. the moderator keeps an eye for questions, puts up links you mention, helps participants who are having problems – usually involving the technology… I thank Sabrina for making my presentation as smooth as it could be.

All in all, presenting at #RSCON only made me enjoy presenting online even more and looking forward to doing it again :-)

 # As an Organizer - I was lucky to be invited to become one of the organizers of  this edition of the Reform Symposium. And that was a huge learning experience in itself. To be part of a group made of such inspiring, hard-working, talented people such as Shelly Terrell, Ian Chia, Mark Barnes(who also helped moderate my session :-)), Christopher Rogers, Lisa Dabbs, Melissa Tran, Clive Elsmore, Jerry Blumengarten, Kelly Tenkley and Chiew Pang is a privilege.

I learned a lot from each of them, I saw how hard everyone worked to make the conference happen (months of preparation and planning, sleepless nights, hours and hours of work) and they do it because the believe in the power of sharing, in the importance of it. They do it for their passion for education. I am honored to be part of such a team. And I had no idea it took so much work to organize an online conference. I am sure I will be able to help much more on the next #RSCON, because I have learned so much.

So, these are my reflections about the Reform Symposium. And the message I want to end this post with is only one:

DON’T MISS THE NEXT #RSCON!!!!

Challenges, PLN and Where They Have Taken Me

Image by Diarmuid Fogarty - found on #eltpics on Flickr - Close ups set

 

A lot of teachers don’t know what a PLN is… Many know what the letters stand for (Personal Learning Network – or Passionate Learning Network as Shelly Terrell says) but don’t see how it works, how they can learn, benefit from it. Inspired by Tyson Seburn’s challenge to the PLN to give a spin-off to the #FollowFriday tweets on twitter (If you’re an educator and haven’t joined twitter yet you may want to read this: “Why Twitter is a Teacher’s Best Tool“) I decided to share my story, how being on twitter, having a PLN and challenges my PLN propose have made me reassess my practices and change some of them, how they have helped me develop professionally and learn.

One of the first blogs I started reading once I discovered the world of Educator Blogs was Jason Renshaw’s (English Raven). If you haven’t read his posts I strongly suggest it. Jason is an Australian educator with fabulous ideas, incredibly sharing and always questioning things, rethinking practices, a never-ending quest for teaching more effectively. And it was also Jason and his blog who have introduced me to many things: tools, books, articles, blogs… and dogme. Yes, I know dogme has been around for a while, but I recently discovered I was completely out of the loop of what was happening on teaching and the ELT world.

See, Jason has a thing for challenges. And I have one for taking them up. I have to admit I find it hard to refuse a challenge. Challenges for me do exactly what they are supposed to: challenge me to do things differently, think out of the box, take risks, venture in new paths. They bring a breath of fresh air, motivate me. And the very first challenge I took was from Jason. An invitation to teachers to teach a different class and try teaching upside down and inside out. In a few words, the challenge was to go into class without a plan, teach it using your intuition and student emergent learning and then, after the class was over, sit down and write the plan. I took the dive. If you want to know how my class went, you can read it on my guest post on Ceri Jones’ blog (I didn’t have a blog at the time, this blog was actually in a way the result of my taking this first challenging and sharing my experience on Ceri’s blog) – The Day Nothing Became Everything.

By the way, the post in which Jason proposed this challenge was my first #FFSpinoff.

What have I learned from that challenge? I learned I don’t need a lesson plan. I learned having the class based on student emergent learning can be a fantastic experience. I learned doing things differently can be fun and effective. I learned going to class without a plan in no way means I am going unprepared (thanks to Jim Schrivner’s reply comment to my account on Jason’s blog). It made me buy Teaching Unplugged and learn more about Dogme. Yes, I’ll be arrogant here and say I think it made me a better teacher. More confident for sure. Definitely more aware of using students’ immediate needs and interests in the class.

Other challenges came along (you can see some of them if you choose the tag challenges on this blog) and I learned from each and every one of them. Some were not related to classes and teaching, like Adam Simpson’s Ten People I Follow on Twitter and Why – it made me aware of some great people I didn’t know on twitter who I started following. Every one of the challenges I took has taught me something, about teaching, about people… So I’ll keep taking them.

Besides the challenges, my PLN has proven to me the amazing power of sharing. Sharing ideas, practices, activities, tools, websites, articles. It has introduced me to amazing educators, like-minded people – some of which have become dear friends. My PLN has been supportive in ways I could never imagine. So I make a point of trying to convince as many skeptics on the power of a PLN to join twitter and form one.

What about you? What have YOU learned from your PLN?

Getting to know a PLN star… an interview with Shelly Terrell

For those of you who don’t know, Brad Patterson (@brad5patterson) suggested a challenge to the PLN. If you haven’t heard of it yet, the premise is simple.  Ask a member of your PLN  5 standard questions, which you’ll see below, and from there, get to know them in ways that you might not otherwise have the chance to on twitter or other social media. As soon as he proposed I called “shotgun” on Shelly :-) Hope you enjoy it!

That's how you usually see Shelly - with her radiant, warm smile :-) and tweeting of course!

Shelly is one of the first people any educator who joins twitter should start following. She’s a passionate educator (and calls her PLN the Passionate Learning Network), keynote presenter, mobile learning enthusiast (There’s an app for anything!), web conferences organizer, webinar presenter, social media goddess and… the best friend one could have. She’s the most supporting person and a true dynamo. I don’t know where she finds energy to do everything she does, but I’m glad she does. I was fortunate enough to meet Shelly face to face last January in Yorkshire when we both took part in Berni Wall’s (@rliberni) fantastic Professional Development Week Workshop – it was friendship at first sight! We shared a room and would stay up til 6am talking… She’s been a true friend ever since, being there for me whever I needed and it was an immense pleasure to be able to interview her for this challenge!

The 5 Standard Questions:

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

Playful, caring, supportive

(Why am I not surprised… 3 adjectives that definitely fit Shell like a glove)
What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Lots of German beer, Coke 0, soy burgers, lactose free milk & in my cabinet chickpeas and blackbeans because this is pretty much what I eat everyday.
(As a coke o addict myself, I can vouch for her answer here… Simon Greenall (@simongreenall) could barely keep up with our drinking habit when he was our host in Oxford!

If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
I would be a beach bum with a seriously cute surfing pug, Rosco. Seriously, though, I would be running my nonprofit organization I started years ago that I had to give up. Artists, musicians, poets, and writers came together to teach homeless children, gang members, and troubled youth how to express themselves through art, writing, and/or music. We would raise money by throwing these incredible shows in this huge warehouse that had been renovated to serve as art studios. Then we would get together weekly to talk about how we would improve the community through creativity and art. These were some of the best moments of my life. Ethos achieved the SAMMinistries 2001 Volunteer Group of the Year Award for the creation of a music and arts program for homeless children.
Thanks to this challenge I learned about this part of Shell’s life… which only validates her commitment to education and the transforming power of it. I hope she can pick up her organization from where she left it and continue to spreading love, education and transformation soon… And as for Rosco, he’s the only dog who’s glared at me (when I lectured him about farting while his mom was holding him)… pretty amazing ;-)
What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?
The most difficult thing about the teaching profession is the politics that get in the way of supporting good teachers. My most difficult class was in Germany. I co-taught at an English camp for German speaking children. The class consisted of 20 children between the ages of six- to seven-years-old who spoke and understood very little English. On the first day, I received a less than warm welcome. The children ran around the classroom flying paper airplanes. They climbed the walls literally because there were bars on the wall to hang the floor mats! They ignored me, since I knew as much German as they knew English. The worst part of the week was that one little boy was treated as an outcast and the children were quite cruel to him. We experienced many behavior problems.
As an educator I can certainly relate to that… politicians know nothing about teaching and education, and only get in the way…
What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?
I am currently reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami.
The last movie I saw was with you for our Skype date. Remember we saw Just Go With It with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston?
I buy several copies of a book, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, so that I can give it to my friends. I have even read this book to an exboyfriend who hated reading. LOL! I have watched The Wedding Singer, Heathers, and Dirty Dancing way too many times. That’s really the reason I don’t sleep because I am too busy trying to make up the time I spent watching these movies. I actually spent an entire summer with friends watching Heathers once a day for the entire summer! Talk about die hard fans.
Yes… I remember! For our readers, a brief explanation…Shelly and I have movie Skype dates, where we start watching the same movie at the same time, and we skype while we do it, so we comment on the scenes and laugh a lot…. It’s a lot of fun! We had some bad movie choices, but the last one was a perfect chick-flick – just what we needed that night! As for Dirty Dancing… well, Ania Musielak also mentioned it on her interview to James Taylor, and I have to admit it seems its influence transcends cultural borders. I know most of the lines on that movie by heart and have the special edition DVD. Because “nobody puts baby in the corner!”
The Extra Questions:
From all the places you have visited, which did you like the most? Which is the most beautiful?
I have traveled to 16 countries and 100s of cities. I am the worst at choosing; therefore, I’ll name top 5 which are the beaches of Mexico, Barcelona, Alghero, and Austria. I really loved Brighton Beach too but it may be because I got to make memories with so many friends.

Lunch at the Brighton beach... Marisa Constantinides, Shelly, me and James Taylor... after fish 'n ' chips, of course!


If you worked in a circus, which would be your number?
The trapeze girl for sure although I’m deathly afraid of heights.
Whisky Tango Foxtrot???? Afraid of height trapeze girl??? that’s be something to see…

 What do you indulge in when you’re having a hard time?
Give me a beach. I’m pretty obsessive about being at a beach.
Yeah… any time you looked around in Brighton and couldn’t find Shelly, you just had to go down to the beach to find her… the force the beach and the ocean have over Shelly is unexplainable. (not: I don’t know whether I should mention this here, but Brazil has some amazing beaches… just saying ;-))
What’s your hidden talent? Something you do really well that no one from the PLN knows?

I invented a kiss. It’s a Fish Bubble kiss. Actually my 2 younger sisters and I invented this kiss we give on the back of people’s’ hands.
Ok… I am currently with a sign up sheet for people who want to find out about that kiss on the next tweetup… If you feel like getting  a Fish Bubble kiss, please send your name to me and I’ll send details on how to get it ;-)
After the questions, I thought it’s be nice to do a “ping-pong” with Shelly, where I’d give her prompts and she’d have to say the first thing that came to mind… We did this through Wetoku, so here’s the video:





Hope you join Brad’s challenge!!!! Choose a PLN member and let us know more about him/her!

For other posts on the Challenge read:

Don’t CC Ceci, send her a To  – by Brad Patterson

ELT Blog Challenge: An Interview with Anna Musielak – by James Taylor

My #TEFL365 Start – Things and People that Inspire Me

On an earlier post, Tyson Seburn (@seburnt) called us for a challenge to identify/reflect on teachers  and education related people/images/anything basically that inspired us , a development he came up with from the #365 project. I found the project fascinating, but since I was on vacation (as I still am BTW) it took me a while to get started. And since I have some ground to cover to catch up, I decided I could make a post with the first 19 things/people on my list to start on the project… I’m sure this first list will be very different from my next additions to the project, which will probably be more ongoing, spur of the moment sources of inspiration. So here they are (many of them are on twitter, so I’ll add their handles as well):

 

#1 – Shelly Terrell (@shellterrell)– Shelly is amazing. This woman is a fantastic teacher. Does amazing things on her classes and with her students and finds time to tweet the best resources and blogs, as well as create more resources and lecture. Good thing she’s an insomniac! I had the awesome opportunity to meet her in person recently and I can say for a fact that she is exactly what she seems to be on twitter: the sweetest, most driven, most committed to education person I have EVER met. She was an easy pick for the project.

 

 # 2 – My kids – Watching my kids learn and grow has been a great experience. And I believe it’s enhanced because I am a teacher, so I take even greater pleasure in watching their development. Every little victory they have is a victory for me.

 

 #3 – Thays Ladosky (@tdosky) – I have the enormous pleasure of working with Thays in my school. She’s one of those gifted teachers, natural-born ones. She has a heart the size of Brazil, cares for (and knows) each and every student she has, worries about teachers’ self-esteem and gives one of the best talks I’ve ever been to on motivation (I’ve watched it 3 times and it makes me cry every single time). She’s an unbelievable mother, wife, professional and especially friend as well. You can ALWAYS count on Thays – for anything!

 

#4 –

The ocean - Muro Alto, PE - Brazil

The sea. Living in a coastal city, having been raised on the beach (my home for the first 25 years of my life was built on the beach sand), I always catch myself looking at the sea, and it always inspires me, be it for my work and my lessons, be it for my life.

 

# 5 – Eduardo Bomfim – He was my teacher in the Graphic Design course in the university and the best teacher I’ve ever had. He’s the one who’s challenged me to think out of the box, to question pre-established concepts. He was my aesthetics teacher, and made us study Plato, Plotino and other philosophers… I wonder what’s happened to him.

 

#6 – Cynthia Maranhão – She’s my mother. She was an English teacher when younger and was a great influence on me, regarding making clear that the learner is responsible for his/her own learning, that there’s always something to be learned. Not to mention she takes my oldest and helps her with her homework (make her work for it!!!) twice a week ;-)

 

#7 – Books – I love books. As many other teachers I know, books are always my favorite gist to receive – and usually give as well. I always find inspiration in books I’ve read, or I’ve hear about (and added to my wishlist!)

 

 

These are a few of my favorite things...

 

 

#8 – David Crystal – Ok, so, big name in ELT. But deserving. I have had the pleasure of watching one of his plenaries (in the last Braz-Tesol) and was mesmerized by him. He has an absurd amount of knowledge and an amazing rhetoric. Truly inspiring.

 

#9 – Jason Renshaw (@englishraven) – Jason is an English teacher from Australia, extremely gifted and an invaluable source of ideas, activities, challenges and has the most incredible and inspiring blog I’ve ever come across. He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with (I hope I can say that Jason!) after I joined twitter and the blogosphere and has been a great supporter and source of learning and self-development for me.

 

 

#10 – Mônica Carvalho – Mônica is my/the academic coordinator at the school I teach at. She’s very supportive of the teachers, has great insights and is always finding ways to incentive and motivate the teachers who works there. Despite any preconceptions or ideas people might have of coordinators, she’s really there for us. Her door is always open to the teachers – and she really does listen. She’s been an important piece in my professional development.

 

 

#11 – Music – I am always listening to music. And I have specific playlists for specific tasks, varying from harder rock, to classical and not neglecting Brazilian Popular music (MPB) and classical – Chopin is a favorite. Each different rhythm energizes me for each different task while working – whether it’s correcting students’ work (MPB), writing (harder rock) or reading (classical). I have created so many lessons from inspiration that struck me while listening to music!

 

#12 – Jeremy Harmer (@harmerj) – Another well-known name in the ELT world, Jeremy is a reference in the field. Anyone who’s read his books or been to one of his talks/plenaries/workshops knows of his great knowledge and amazing charisma when presenting. More than that, Jeremy is an active member of the virtual world, both on twitter and on his blog – which has had some great discussions lately. When you see him speak – be it about teaching, poetry or music you can see how passionate he is about each of those things. And passion is always inspiring.

 

#13 – Freedom Writers – A must-watch movie for any teacher. The story of a passionate teacher who loved and found a way to reach and teach “difficult” students. Here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT0L1U-Rdj4

 

#14 – Roberta Ferraz (@betaferraz) – Roberta is a teacher where I teach as well, and therefore a colleague. But more than that, she inspires me because she has an endless well of greatly creative ideas to use in class and never-ending support. She’s very sharp and on to what’s going on in the ELT world. Not to mention a fantastic friend.

 

#15 – The Blogosphere – Reading what other teachers around the world are thinking about, are doing in their classes, are thinking always give me inspiration for lessons, activities, taking action or posts! This challenge is evidence of it!

 

 #16 – David Dodgson (@davedodgson) – Dave is a British teacher who lives and teaches young learners in Turkey. I had the pleasure of meeting (and collaborating) with him through the virtual world and he’s inspired me in many ways, such as the ideas he has and uses in class, his views on teaching, his blog musings and especially regarding the use of technology in my activities, lessons and life in general. He has actually rescued me and taught me about some tools a couple of tools. One of the best blog posts I did last year was the live conversation Dave and I had on one of the Dogme Challenges – it was fun doing it and sharing our voices and views on the subject. He is also the first guest on my blog this year.

 

#17 – Giving the Proficiency Certificate to a former student. Watching how I was (in an inny tiny way) part of that accomplishment gives me a full blast of inspiration (and motivation, of course), not to mention pride!

 

She's only 14 and one of the best students I've had ever!

 

 

#18 – Recently we had an immeasurable tragedy in Rio de Janeiro with mudslides that senselessly took the lives of many people. (as you can see in http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/0117/1224287679682.html )And the way people around Brazil have united to help the people who survived it is just amazing. And truly inspires me to be a better person and maybe bring some solidarity and community feeling into my classroom.

 

#19 – Courtney Campbell – Courtney and I became friends when she was working at the school, I teach at. She was born in Flint, Michigan; worked in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and has overcome an amazing amount of negativity and obstacles – mostly people- in her life. But she never gave up and is currently doing her doctorate with a great scholarship at Vanderbuilt. She’s one of my role models. And I’m very proud to be her friend.

 

 

So these are my first 19 inspirations for 2011. What are yours I wonder??

A Teacher’s Reflection on Teacher’s Day (in Brazil)

 

 

Today (October 15th) is Teacher’s Day in Brazil. And in our school’s special celebration moment for the teachers we had a reflection on the importance a teacher can have in a student’s life. The impact we have sometimes. What the students take from us when they leave us. Part of my motivation for writing this also came from a recent post in Karenne Sylvester’s blog: Running Towards TEFL. She talks about how TEFL teachers are many times perceived by others, and the comments discuss that too. Here in Brazil, education is not a respected profession (with maybe the exception of Univesity professors). SO I decided to write a post and pay homage to meaningful teachers I’ve had.

When I think back I remember many wonderful, inspiring teachers. From school, from English classes, from sports I practiced. But there were two that left a deeper mark on me, a lasting influence. The first was my Portuguese/Literature teacher during high school – Myrtha Magalhães. The second was at the university, when I studied Graphic Design, Gustavo Bomfim – he taught us aesthetics. They both had something in common. They both challenged their students. They challenged us to think outside the box, to not conform to what was expected from us. They never accepted ready-made answers. They pushed us to question the status quo - and to take it only if it felt right to us, if we believed it to be right after we thoroughly examined it. They tried to make us thinkers, not just repeating what was give to us. And they made us do all of that with respect. Respect for others, for the others’ opinions. No absolute truths.

 

And I like to believe I do that. More importantly, I believe I bring that into my teaching – both when preparing lessons and teaching my students. I like to incentive my students to have their own opinions, to question what they see or hear, to look further. To accept different opinions. I try to teach tolearance. That is probably the most significant lesson I learned from them, what I took from them.

So thank you to all my teachers. And especially those two. To sir (and ma’am), with love.

I’d love to know what you learned from one of your teachers and brought into your teaching…