Who was prepared for a pandemic that would close schools for up to two months or even more? No one, for sure. We were all caught by surprise in a situation that we would never have predicted even in January or February of 2020. However, when we look at it more closely, maybe some educational institutions were better equipped than others – not for this pandemic, specifically, but for unpredictable situations in general, or, perhaps, for dealing with something that is intrinsically messy and complex: education in this...

“An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day, according to new data released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime” (BBC News, November 25, 2019). It is not surprising that we need a campaign such as the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence   one, running from November 25 through December 10. But what does this have to do with gender bias in the classroom? Well, gender violence stems from men’s belief that women are inferior and...

It’s not the first time that I decide to write about conference presentations. A few years ago, I wrote some tips for conference presenters, based on my 20+ years of experience attending academic events. This time around, I’ll relate how I believe talks should be structured to how classes should be planned and delivered. It is simpler than a novice presenter may think.   Have a clear objective and make it explicit Just as you should have a clear objective for your classes and should also make this objective clear...

Apart from my social and family life, which I totally cherish, I’ve dedicated the last thirty years of my life to professional and intellectual development. I have the highest degree that one can formally obtain – a doctorate degree. I have published blog posts, book chapters and articles. I have written two books - maybe not as many as I would have liked to but enough to make me proud, due to my busy professional life. I have presented in countless professional events, volunteered in teaching associations, etc.,...

In these times of fierce competition in the education market, if you work for an ELT institute or a school, it is not enough to be a great teacher and focus only on teaching a good class. In order to be a valued and valuable professional, there are many things you can do inside and outside the classroom to guarantee the perpetuity of your institution and, consequently, of your job. But what are these behaviors? What can you, teacher, do to help the institution you work for thrive?   Show...

In his book Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares about Education, Peter Senge (2012) talks about mental models and how we need to examine them in order to change. What keeps us from changing, many times, is that we do not think about why we think the way we do; we don’t examine our view of the world. An aspect that really needs reexamining and change is our mental models on assessment. Why do most people think the way they...

It was two years ago today that I wrote a post for this same blog entitled Why don’t we talk about writing? The 15th BRAZ-TESOL International Conference had just ended and I discussed why there were so few talks on the subject of writing and why not many people chose to attend them, mine included. I was disappointed with the small turnout in my talk with my colleague Silvia Caldas, and also with the very little focus on this subject in conferences in general, and I conjectured why this...

    June 11 was a very sad day for everyone at Casa Thomas Jefferson. It was the day our dear friend and colleague Claudio Azevedo passed away. He had been working with us for almost 32 years. In fact, we started together back in 1986, at the same branch. We worked hard together but had a lot of fun as well, when the Friday evening groups were full and we taught until 10 p.m. Of course, we always went out afterwards to celebrate the beginning of the weekend.  We...

A couple of months ago, I had to make a very difficult decision. I was honored to be invited to be one of the plenary speakers at the BRAZ-TESOL Curitiba event, a special one celebrating their 20th anniversary. Of course, my first reaction was to say, “YES, YES, YES!”. But then I started thinking: I was already going to be one Saturday away from home for the BRAZ-TESOL Brasília - Goiânia joint event, then I was going to be away for two weekends on vacation, and, right after that,...

A very controversial issue that I always come across in discussions related to English-language-teaching is whether pre-teaching is recommendable. Most discussions I’ve seen revolve around the pre-teaching of vocabulary before a reading or listening. On the one hand, pre-teaching of key vocabulary allows students to tackle the task more easily and reduces their anxiety. On the other hand, it is not a very natural activity, as in the real world we are not pre-taught the vocabulary in texts that we read or listen to We need to learn...

In my institution, we have a solid teacher evaluation system that has been in place for over twenty years, of course with adaptations along the way to face our ever-changing times. In this evaluation system, we try to balance the need for measurement and for development (Marzano, 2012). We also take into consideration teachers’ knowledge, awareness, skills, and attitude, according to Freeman’s (1989) KASA framework. Teachers are evaluated based on their performance in the classroom, with observations as data, as well as based on their role in the...

My whole formal educational background is academic, from my B.A. in Journalism, to my master's in Teaching English as a Second Language and my doctorate in Education. Everything I have published so far is academic, about learning and teaching. Most of my presentations in conferences are about academic topics, ranging from second language writing, assessment, and teacher development. Only recently have I started presenting on topics related to leadership and management. Thus, I can safely say that I am an academic in a leadership role. It's not that I...

One of the best features of my job is that I get to observe teachers in their second semester in the language institute where I work.  In their first semester, they go through a mentoring process and are then observed by two other academic specialists. These observations usually go very well. The teachers are very professional in their attitude toward the whole process; they submit their lesson plans in advance and participate actively and reflectively in our pre and post-observation meetings. I find it a very rewarding experience in...

If you are reading this post, you are likely to be a connected educator committed to life-long learning. As such, you are probably someone who, just like me, works many hours a day in your demanding English-teaching, coordinating, or managing job and, in your free time, engages in all or some of these activities: Read professional materials, such as books, articles, and blogs. Interact online with other professionals. Write academic materials such as books, articles, and blog posts. Serve in a professional association such as TESOL, IATEFL, and...

In an integrated-skills curriculum, reading and writing can be easily neglected if curriculum developers and teachers do not make a conscious effort to focus on them explicitly and to teach them as skills on their own right, rather than mere reinforcement of grammar and vocabulary or a springboard for speaking. I have already discussed the teaching of writing in two of my posts this year, so this time I will address the teaching of reading, with a focus on intensive reading*. As a program superintendent and teacher developer, I...

My passion for English began when I was a child and lived in the U.S. for three years while my parents went to graduate school. Upon coming back to Brazil, I was enrolled in a traditional language institute in Brasilia, Casa Thomas Jefferson (CTJ). There I went from the intermediate to the advanced level and then took several ESP courses until I was old enough to take the Teacher Training Course. It’s not that I wanted to be a teacher. I just wanted to keep up with my...

Not long ago I read a blog post in Edutopia  by Jason Deehan about whether venting about students should be banned. What motivated the author to write the post was the fact that he had come across a comment about a school that discouraged teachers from venting about their students because they felt that it was a matter of respect, of not talking about students behind their back. At first, he was shocked about the idea, for venting is a teacher staple just like drinking too much coffee....

    In my last post, I wrote about why it seems to me that the topic "teaching writing" is avoided in ELT conferences. Now I'm going to mention why I believe it is a topic that should receive more attention, and I'm going to do so by relating it to some of the hot topics in the last Braz-Tesol conference and others I've attended recently.   Critical thinking   Bloom's revised taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) has been repeatedly mentioned in the past few years, and it was no different in the Braz-Tesol conference....

  The fabulous 15th Braz-TESOL International Conference ended a couple of weeks ago and I am still processing all the information I acquired in the many presentations I attended during the event. The program was varied both in terms of topics and presenters, and everything I chose to watch was meaningful in one way or another. I myself gave a talk, together with my colleague and CTJ course supervisor Silvia Caldas, on how we adopt and adapt the process-genre approach to writing in our context. We had a wonderful group...

Already thinking about the upcoming Braz-TESOL conference, last month I wrote some tips for successful conference presentations, and my dear colleague and friend Elaine Hodgson wrote about networking at conferences as a key strategy for success. This time around, I would like to focus on tips for successful conference participation, with a view to helping our interlocutors get the best out of all the talks, workshops, plenaries and panels they attend. Going to conferences can be overwhelming. We go from one room to the next, frantically seeking presentations that match...

As the 15th Braz-TESOL International Conference approaches, I’m sure my colleagues have begun or are about to begin working on their presentations. My goal here then is to help them out by providing some tips on how to prepare and deliver an effective talk or workshop, from the standpoint of someone with almost 30 years of experience in ELT and who has attended almost, if not more than, 100 in-house,  local, national and international conferences. I am not writing as an experienced presenter, but rather, as a participant...

I saw a post recently on Facebook advertising a position for a native speaking teacher in a Brazilian language program. The post appeared on the page of a closed group for English teachers in Brazil. The reaction to the post was immediate. People wanted to know why the program was only hiring native speakers and questioned this practice. The person in search of this native teacher justified the restriction saying that it was for advanced groups, that the program already had non-native teachers, and that this specific job...

  I have recently read two posts about grading that touch upon a topic that has long been boggling my mind – the use of grades as punishment and the overall fairness of grading systems. I would like to invite you to check out Monte Syrie’s explanation of why he doesn’t give zeros anymore, or grades below 50% for that matter, and why. Likewise, Andrew Miller explains how grades can harm student learning and how he has refrained from giving zeroes, taking points off for late work, grading practice...

Those of us who teach adults in groups know all too well anxious adult learners are and how easily they can give up and seek other language learning experiences. When the reasons for giving up are not personal, they are sometimes attributed to the methodology adopted or the heterogeneity of the group. A recent personal experience has gotten me thinking about adults’ anxiety and what motivates them to embark on a learning experience and, most importantly, stick to it. I like working out and going to the gym, and...

  One of the many things I like about working at an educational institution, be it as a teacher or a s an administrator, is that our work has very clear and well-defined cycles. We finish a semester or year and begin a new one. I don’t think this is true for most professionals. They may finish projects or meet deadlines, but they are not bound to the “year” as we are. In the Southern hemisphere, where our school year really ends at the end of the year, I believe...

Last week, Education First released its English Proficiency Index for the year of 2015. This index was launched in 2011 and since then, EF has released reports about the English proficiency of different countries around the world.  The 2015 report is based on tests taken by around 910 thousand adults from 70 countries in 2014 (Education First, 2015). Besides ranking the countries around the world, the report also ranks the different states in Brazil. EF’s index was widely publicized in the news, since it showed that Brazil ranks 41st...

At the school I work for, we have a large teenage population. If you've taught this age level, you know the challenges they pose to us every day, but you also cherish the lively interactions with them once you've established rapport. It is true that in order to establish such rapport, we have to be acquainted with the topics they like to talk about, the songs they listen to, the TV shows they don't miss, the stars they worship, where they like to hang out, what they like...

Despite my 15 years of experience with portfolio assessment, its power never ceases to amaze me. I’ve recently conducted a course for public school English teachers in the Federal District and, once again, used portfolio assessment. I have a feeling that some educators might not adopt portfolio assessment because they think it is too complicated; others might think it is not “serious” or “valid” and “reliable” enough, and that anything goes. I’m going to demonstrate how portfolio assessment is simple, valid, and reliable as a classroom assessment tool. More importantly,...

Last month I posted half of my public school student-teachers’ reflections on what they used to think when they began their careers as teachers. Now it’s time to know what the other half wrote on this topic. You will see how their beliefs on topics such as methodology, use of textbooks, native-like pronunciation, and students’ and teachers’ roles have changed as they have gained more knowledge, experience, and, most importantly, understanding about teaching.   I used to think the teacher needed to be the focus in the process of...

Have you ever thought about what you used to think about teaching when you started and how this has changed as the years went by? This was the topic of my very first class with a group of experienced public school teachers. After reading a blog post by Shelley Wright entitled I used to think…, my student teachers were asked to reflect upon their own assumptions and the surprises they’ve had along their careers. This month and next, I’m going to share their thoughts with you, and we...

I am teaching a course for public school English teachers in Brasilia and one of the topics addressed is assessment. The aim of this part of the course is to improve teachers' assessment literacy, allowing them to provide informed feedback on the assessment system used in their institution and develop assessment systems and tools that are in keeping with the most current assessment practices. While going over the ELT assessment literature and discussing topics such as reliability, validity, washback, practicality, formative versus summative assessment, formal versus informal assessment, and...

My last post dealt with a tendency I have been noticing in my classroom observations regarding lead-ins being either used to pre-teach language that should actually be discovered by students or turned into loose conversation activities with no clear pedagogical purpose beyond “just talk”. I also commented that this long time spent on the lead-in resulted in teachers’ having to rush through their lessons, preventing them from dedicating more time to the actual communicative production as a result of the lesson of the day. This month, I’d like to...

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to observe around ten teachers each semester. These observations provide me with the chance to assess how effective our mentoring system and teacher induction sessions have been, as I typically observe teachers in their second semester at the institution. Methodologically speaking, most of the classes I observe are generally effective and there are only a few minor aspects to consider. However, if there’s one aspect that is recurrent in my observations and that some novice teachers have difficulty grasping, it’s the...

In my last post, I referred to Carol Dweck’s book Mindset – How you can Fulfill Your Potential to invite teachers to focus on a growth mindset in 2015 and stay away from ideas and practices that only help perpetuate a fixed mindset. My focus last month, thus, was on teachers themselves and how their mindset affects their professional growth. This month I’m going to focus on how students’ growth can be helped or hindered by teachers’ mindset, also drawing from ideas in Dweck’s inspiring book. There’s a certain...

It’s the beginning of the school year in the Southern Hemisphere and many teachers are starting their teaching career or re-starting in a new school or language institute. My experience as a leader in a large ELT institute that hires around thirty new teachers every semester has shown that there are certain attitudes, dispositions and behaviors that can help a teacher guarantee a smooth beginning in a new institution. Here are a few tips that might be useful:   Image courtesy of samarttiw  @ freedigitalphtos.net 1)      Know your institution’s approach to...

As we are beginning a new year and many of us are enjoying our well-deserved summer vacations in the southern hemisphere, in my post today I'm going to relate my vacation experience with what I'm currently reading and propose a new year challenge. On our summer vacations, my husband and I have always favored calmer places; spending our summers in a large city packed with tourists has never been our idea of the ideal vacation. When we see a huge crowd, we usually turn the other way. However, this time...

My last post addressed the main excuses given for not doing peer revision of writing in the EFL classroom, especially in contexts such as Brazil, where peer revision is unheard of in most L1 writing classrooms. Having hopefully convinced you that it is worth at least trying peer revision in your classroom, I will now focus on some helpful tips for effective peer revision activities. 1)      Start small One of the biggest mistakes teachers can make is to be too ambitious and want to have students revise their peers’ writing like...

My dear colleague Luiz Otávio Barros wrote a recent post providing ten tips to help teachers give feedback on writing. The ten tips are all very useful and are certainly in-keeping with contemporary ESL/EFL writing pedagogy. Just like Luiz Otávio, I  also consider White and Arndt’s 1991 book Process Writing a seminal work on how to teach process writing in the ESL/EFL classroom. Other books that have contributed to enhancing my knowledge on second language writing are Campbell’s 1998 book , Teaching Second-language Writing: Interaction with Text, the University...

Last year I saw a call for chapter proposals for a British Council book on innovations in the continuing professional development of English language teachers. Every day I receive briefings and newsletters from the associations I’m a member of and from publications, websites, and communities I follow. Many times I come across such calls for proposals, but most of them are not within my areas of expertise or related to my teaching context. Besides, I usually think, “This is not for me. I’m not a scholar or a...