We hear about CPD, the acronym for Continuous Professional Development, all the time. Although CPD is not only about taking courses, they are certainly a prototypical concept and the number of courses aimed at teachers has been increasing steadily, or at least this is the impression I have. When it comes to courses, one of the most common questions we hear is “Is this or that course worth it?” or “Should I do this course or not?” The answers, however, are definitely not as simple as the questions....

“Dear teacher, I’d like to say I have never forgotten your lessons and I’m grateful you have inspired me to follow this path.” This is part of a message I received last month. It is from a student I had over 20 years ago and who is now a successful teacher of English. I still remember her in my lessons, her brilliant compositions and perfect handwriting. She was a quiet student who I have never forgotten and reading her message made my eyes well up. Many of us have received these...

Back in 2011 I was invited to write the general introduction to a series of books for PNLD (Programa Nacional do Livro Didático), a Brazilian government programme that, as most of you may know, distributes books for public schools. It was a detailed introduction, which had to thoroughly explain the concept behind the book and how the authors beliefs about foreign language learning were represented in the series. At that time, I was not aware that writing this introduction would change my views about language learning forever. In 2014...

Scene 1: Big conference in Brazil. The speaker, a Brazilian, goes onto the stage to begin her plenary session. While she speaks, you notice she makes some mistakes, pronunciation mistakes, grammar mistakes, but the content of her presentation is relevant and she manages to get her message across. At the end of her talk, you hear teachers, the vast majority of them Brazilians, commenting on the mistakes and criticising the presenter. Scene 2: Same big conference. The presenter on the stage is not a native speaker of English, and...

Criticism hurts. Hence, it can be stressful, tense and sometimes traumatic. Still, it is such a natural part of life, including professional life, that knowing how to make the best out of it is an important skill for us to keep emotionally healthy. Below I list a few aspects to consider and that can prove useful in our field. Criticism or feedback? We are faced with criticism on a regular basis and no matter where it comes from, we have to learn if it is meant to be...

It is said that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth. Apparently, this concept was conceived by the Nazi master of propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Considering that Nazism was supported by so many, and for so long[1]- despite the horror of World War II - he was probably right. In ELT, saying that something is a lie is probably a bit excessive, but we do have our mantras and things that are repeated over and over again until they become unquestionable. That is, unless a subversive mind begins...

Most teachers of English, I believe, will have heard of the intermediate plateau, when students who reach intermediate level feel that are somewhat stuck in the learning process and not making any progress. Likewise, many of us will have experienced a career plateau at some point in our professional life. Can this feeling be avoided? Does it have to be avoided? Should overcoming career plateau be one of our goals? From time to me I feel I need to do something new, to try something I had never done...

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the lack of balance in the past BRAZ-TESOL conferences as far as gender was concerned. Just to refresh our memories, the results were the following[1]: As I stated at the time, it was (and is) not a matter of pointing fingers and finding culprits, but of trying to understand why the number of female speakers is so low in BRAZ-TESOL conferences which, I believe most of you would agree, is the most relevant conference for ELT professionals in Brazil. It was...

If you have spent some time online in the past months, particularly on Facebook, you may have come across a number of posts followed by hundreds of comments, basically related to gender equality, or lack of it, in ELT events. Gender equality in general is an issue that has been discussed for a long time, hence Women’s International Day (celebrated on March 8th) and Women’s Equality Day (celebrated on August 26th). Although the demand for gender equality is not new, in most professional areas the balance is far...

If you follow discussion threads on social media, you have probably noticed that from time to time teachers - either new to the profession or people who, like me, have been on the road for many years - have concerns about our professional life. It is not uncommon to read questions related to the real importance of having a certificate, of doing this or that course or sometimes questioning if being an EFL teacher is really (or maybe still) worth it. This kind of comment led me to...

A couple of months ago, talking to a dear friend and co-worker about future jobs prospects, I asked her one of those ‘why don’t you’ questions. Her reply was ‘I don’t have much time for promoting myself.’ Well, I know that is true when you have deadlines pressing on you. Then, on a different occasion, I asked somebody whose work is greatly admired and respected, in another ‘why don’t you’ style conversation and her reply was fairly similar: ‘I’m not good at promoting myself.’ Self-promoting has probably always...

The word feminism is not new, though the understanding of the concept seems to have changed. We shifted from the image of women burning bras in the 60’s to the powerful image of the most recent Women’s March in the United States and in other countries demanding equal rights. I emphasise the word equal and quote the Brazilian philosopher Mario Sergio Cortella in a video snippet that went viral some time ago. In this snippet[1] he briefly and eloquently explains why feminism is not the opposite of machismo....

A couple of months ago a friend of mine reported on his page on Facebook a situation that had happened to his son at school. It was a Portuguese lesson and the focus was defining and non-defining relative clauses. To cut a long story short, my friend’s son defended that that the sentence My father who treats clients well is bankrupt was as correct as My father, who treats clients well, is bankrupt as, in the boy’s words, it was perfectly possible to have two fathers. After all,...

Among the many terms related to finding work opportunities one hears nowadays, networking must be at the top of the list. Being able to network efficiently is considered a key strategy for both personal and professional success. Although the definition of professional networking will vary slightly, and the idea of personal and professional success will vary enormously, it is very unlikely that a person who is unable to establish connections will be able to find fruitful and stimulating opportunities. With the 15th BRAZ-TESOL International Conference approaching, a few suggestions...

Just like in March, I’ll begin by reproducing a photo that was in newspapers and social media last month and that proved extremely controversial, raising heated discussions on the Internet. Well, I believe you have probably seen it and possibly read lots of arguments, both defending and criticising all sorts of aspects in the photo. Basically, there were two lines: one that saw the babysitter as a victim of social inequality and the other defending their employers who alleged it was her choice to work for them, that...

This week I came across the photo below on different friends’ timelines:   Under the photo you read: ‘The perfect place for a cell phone while classes take place!’ Reactions to the photo varied. Some of these friends thought this was a good idea. Some, on the other hand, criticised it. Two of these comments caught my eye. In one, you read ‘What a sad scene’ and in another, responding to this comment, you had ‘They haven’t understood it yet.’ I was intrigued by the word ‘they’. I believe the person who...

I can’t remember when I heard “teachers are resistant to change” for the first time, but having been in this profession for over 25 years, I can assure you it was a long time ago. Moreover, It’s very likely that when I heard it for the first time, I either didn’t pay much attention to it or I might have thought it was true. I took parts in meetings and training sessions and whenever a teacher, or a group of teachers, presented arguments against a certain decision, procedure...

Myths and stereotypes are inherent to a number of professions: the ignorant model, the cunning lawyer, the rude military officer, the sexy nurse, just to name a few. Intertwined with prejudice and/or limited, erroneous views, these myths and stereotypes very often cause discomfort and raise discussion. Teaching is no exception to that. Which stereotypes are usually associated with teachers? Very recently, a statement by the current Minister of Education has come back to the centre of debate. In 2011, during a strike in which teachers demanded a raise, and...

As a parent and a teacher, one of the things I constantly hear is ‘schools do not prepare students for real life’. This statement, based on my experience, can mean a number of different things, but in general terms it can mean ‘schools do not teach students how to deal with problems/challenges in their professional, social and personal lives’. In other words, schools spend a lot of time on what is called academic knowledge that, at the end of the day, might be just useless for students. Although...

As the end of the year approaches, several students, teachers, school managers and parents may be coming to the conclusion that what was done and learnt throughout the year, or the term, was not enough. In other words, some students will fail their courses. And so, what happens next? How to deal with failure? For obvious reasons, I’ll just deal with ELT here, but the “arguments” may well apply to other school subjects. First of all, I believe that depending on which hat you are wearing, you might see...

Just a minute, let me think![1]   The first decision I had to make regarding this post was if I wanted to write in Portuguese or in English. That was because it is based on a three-question survey I conducted with my last year high school students (3o ano do Ensino Médio) where I work and where the lessons are taught in Portuguese. I decided to write it in English in the end as this was one the suggestions made by part of the students: having lessons in English.   In this...

If you were present at the last BRAZ-TESOL National Convention in João Pessoa, you may, just like me, keep going down memory lane and think about the highlights of the conference. For me, one of these highlights, was when the brilliant plenary speaker J. J. Wilson said “Great teachers have to be treasured, not measured.” To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember what exactly he was referring to, but I do remember the audience reaction really well. There was a furore and teachers cheered and applauded him. This...

In my experience as an English teacher, I have observed other teachers’ lessons and been observed countless times. It is probably safe to say that the majority of teachers are much more concerned about what to do than about how to do it. However, the ‘hows' can be as important as the ‘whats' and ‘whys', and we teachers very often fail to realize that clear, concise instructions can mean the difference between a successful lesson or activity or an absolute flop. My own impression is that giving instructions is...

I must have mentioned before on this blog that I teach adolescents in their last year of High School. Needless to say, this is a period of great anxiety as most of them intend to go to university and now have to choose a career. It is the time when most of them realise that their days of “automatic pilot” - in which they simply progress from one grade to another - are over and that making a decision based on the question What do I want to...

By the time this post is published, I will have spent two days in the lovely city of João Pessoa where, as most of you know, the 14th BRAZ-TESOL International Conference is being held. This will be my 7th BRAZ-TESOL Conference. While I was packing I began asking myself: What motivated me to go? Why do I want to leave my kids behind? (If you have done the same you will know the feeling…) Why do I feel like spending the holiday attending talks and workshops instead of...

Very soon, I will celebrate my 25th teaching anniversary. This got me thinking about the beginning of my career, what was different then, what is still rather similar and especially how differently (or similarly) I used to teach. How have all these years influenced and shaped the way I teach today? To answer these questions I can rely on my memory and perceptions, as well as those of my students and of those who observed me. It’d be great, and probably enlightening, if I could compare the past...

Last week I happened to read a post in a well-known Brazilian newspaper blog explaining that several students who have been granted scholarships in the program Science without Borders are at risk of an early and compulsory return to Brazil. The reason? They have not achieved the minimum proficiency in English to be able to attend the course they intended to. If you read the post (see link below), you’ll see that the journalist who wrote it oversimplified the problem by saying that Brazilian students cannot communicate in...

“Learn English 50% faster with native teachers.” That TV ad got me thinking if that was still really appealing to learners in Brazil. In other words, do people actually believe in that? A quick search on Google helped clarify things for me. There are several ads like that. Not only do they claim students will  “Learn faster” (there was even an ad which said “Learn 4 times faster”!), but they suggest it has been “proven” that it is only possible to learn “real” English with a native teacher!...