See you (present) in Caxias do Sul!

“Why don’t you present at the next BRAZ-TESOL event?”

“Me? I have nothing to talk about.”

“Of course you do. You do this, that, and the other.”

“Oh, but everybody does that.”

“No, not everybody does that… You’re taking your talents for granted.”

“But no one will want to listen to me.”

“Think again.”

It seems I’ve had this conversation countless times. The interesting thing is that I’ve played both roles already.

Using humor to disguise my nerves at my first talk at a BT event - September 2015

Using humor to disguise my nerves during my first talk at a BT event – September 2015

Two years ago in September, in the first BRAZ-TESOL Teacher Development SIG Event, I gave my first ELT talk at an open event. It wasn’t my first talk ever: I had done a short presentation at a teacher’s seminar in my previous workplace and participated in a few academic seminars during my B.A. and masters. However, when Higor Cavalcante invited me to talk at the event the TD-SIG was organizing, at first I turned down what sounded like a scary and a completely different kettle of fish.

And that it was.

But I survived and it was nice to hear that I brought something different to some fellow teachers. I could contribute somehow.

A year and a half later, Higor and I had pretty much the same conversation again, as he invited me – or rather frogmarched me — to deliver my first plenary in an event with 250 attendees. Man, I hadn’t caught my breath from my first serious ELT talk yet!

That also turned out fine and led to other opportunities (I know, I owe Higor a kidney or something), but more importantly, many teachers came to me and said that I had actually helped them. That was, as the commercial would say, priceless.

(For all the books I bought in preparation for that talk there was my credit card, of course.)

Recently, I was talking to some great teachers about the BRAZ-TESOL International Conference in Caxias do Sul in July 2018 (#wine #chocolate #friozim), encouraging them to send a proposal before November 6. That’s when I saw myself having the same conversation, except I started playing the role Higor had with me.

One of the comments struck me. A very experienced teacher told us she sees herself kind of like a mother, and as a teacher developer, she thinks she should step back and let her teachers shine. I let that thought simmer in my head for a while. I’m not a mother, but I’m a teacher and that’s precisely what I want in class: that my students learn more than I teach them and that they are the stars in their own learning.

Then it dawned on me that we are not in a mother-child relationship: we are all teachers, all colleagues. I shook my head, “Why can’t we all shine together? Society already undervalues teachers, both in terms of pay and status. Why can’t we all value ourselves and each other?”

Her smiley eyes seemed to say, “Touché.”

“So you’ll send a proposal?”

“I’ll think about it.”

And that was my small victory of the month. There is no need for us teachers to keep shortchanging ourselves. If we are contributing in class with our students (or out of class designing materials and the like), then we definitely have some experience to share with fellow teachers. Why keep it to ourselves when we can exchange ideas with other Brazilian ELT professionals, who may be working in very similar contexts or in different conditions that could shed light on our own?

So if you are (still) reading this, do consider participating as a speaker in our next international conference. First, English language teachers are usually a supportive bunch — empathizing with someone who is nervous is sort of a job requirement. Secondly, there is a mentoring program for first-time speakers. Also, since Higor is thankfully not in the need of a kidney, I’ll pay his favor forward: should you need any help with the proposal, just drop me a line and we can talk about what you do in your context and what drives you as a teacher. I’m sure we’ll soon zero in on a possible topic for you to talk about, if that’s what’s holding you back.

More about the BRAZ-TESOL International conference here: http://braztesol.org.br/internationalconference/

The call for papers is here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSemjXTU6FDu5SGfBKEHiCsMkbGFWklWf_NhTQqtFTy8OJ2IBg/viewform

Natália Guerreiro

Natália Guerreiro has been a teacher since the year 2000 and currently works in Aviation English assessment and teaching for the Brazilian Air Force. She holds a CELTA, a B.A. in English & Portuguese from UFRJ, and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics (Language Testing & Language Program Evaluation) from the University of Melbourne. She's been elected to the BRAZ-TESOL Advisory Council for the 2017-2018 term.

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