A few days ago, the Rio de Janeiro Secretary of Education criticized the actress Tais Araujo for her TED Talk in which she shares some of the challenges she will soon encounter as a mother of black children. The Secretary described it as ‘racial stupidity’. Needless to say, I was shocked to hear that. It made me think a lot about my privileges and the industry we work at. I’ve been working in ELT for 15 years, the last 4 working independently. For 11 years, I was part of...

How did you get into English Language teaching, and why do you still do it? I come from a family of musicians and English first caught my interest when I came across Pink Floyd and The Ramones with their lyrics and fast singing. My English teacher at Secondary School (Neusa Lombardi) spotted this ‘talent for English’ and rewarded me with a scholarship to her school. Once there, I developed a liking for teaching, which lead me to read Languages at University. As a teacher, I felt the need to develop...

What an unforgettable day! November 11th, 2017. The launch of the BRAZ-TESOL Espírito Santo Chapter took place on November 11th, 2017. The amphitheater was packed with joyful and engaged people eager to share and learn, to give and take. There were even some birds flying and chattering from time to time inside the amphitheater. This was their unique way of saying they wanted to flock together. I opened the event by mentioning a TED Talk video named Empowering Yourself to Create your Best Performance by Karen Furneaux. She uses...

PART 1: from the early 90’s to the early 2010’s What you are about to read is by no means to be regarded as an accurate description of ELT practices in Brazil throughout the last 3 decades. Rather, what I attempt to describe below is simply my very own perception of how ELT has throughout the all these years positively added on, rethought, deconstructed and reconstructed itself to stay in tune with global changes and, more importantly, with the local societal changes that more than ever have been the...

I’m finally done with my research project. And with my writing, too. While it was an exhausting enterprise, it was also incredibly self-fulfilling. Most people tend to think that research is about collecting data and statistics. A lot of people look at research as if it was conducted by a team of experienced academic researchers committed to finding naked, plain truth. It’s not. Or rather, it shouldn’t be. In his article entitled “The Uselessness of Certainty,” Physicist Carlo Rovelli claims that “the very foundation of science is to...

For the past few years, I've been drawn into the world of cognitive sciences and what learning is, what it entails, and how the brain works. To my mind, all teachers should have sound knowledge on the way the brain functions as it is the brain the ultimate place we work on. How could you possibly know that the things you've chosen to do in class work or not, and how can you assess the situation and perchance change tactics and your approach if you cannot fathom the...

At the start of my career as a freelance teacher, the hardest part of the whole thing was agreeing a price. First of all, I had no idea how much I should be charging. And once I had an idea, how on earth could I persuade somebody to actually agree to give me that amount of money? Because you’re worth it If you look online at any discussion forum for freelance teachers, one conversation that keeps cropping up again and again is how much to charge. There is no simple...

Deciding to write about my journey with English has taken me on a trip down memory lane, and some other teachers said they had the same impression when they read part 1. This is extremely motivating since I think this kind of reflection helps us realize how far we have come and it might prompt us to make more progress. On that note, passing the first exam back in the day proved to be a catalyst for change in the sense that it enabled me to see that I...

A question that is posed time and time again is whether teachers should take a BA in languages, known here in Brazil as Letras, or take the CELTA. I wish there was a simple answer to this question, but truth is: it’s complicated. Some would say that taking a Letras course is the way to be or become a teacher. After all, you wouldn’t expect a doctor to take a four-month course and then hold a license, or for someone to take an intensive, one-month course and then be...

Sabe aquele momento em que fica claro que você saiu da escola pra se tornar professor autônomo mas a escola não saiu de você? Não? Então vem comigo aqui. Com o fim do ano se aproximando vão diminuindo as perguntas que recebo a respeito de captação de alunos e vão aumentando aqueles querendo saber sobre cláusulas contratuais e formas de se sustentar no período dezembro/janeiro, onde vários alunos costumam “desaparecer” e só voltar depois do carnaval. Antes de mais nada, sugiro demais assistir esta playlist gratuita sobre Cláusulas Contratuais e este...

There's no need to remind you that technology is pervasive in our lives. It's everywhere. However, my main paradox is that I see my kids going to school and having very little use of it as a tool for development, personal growth and inquiry. It is a huge paradox because for the past decade I've been working with educators and educational leaders to meaningfully incorporate edtech in their practices. Yet, in my own home reality is far from ideal. What I feel is that my kids are more...

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending an event at the Braz-Tesol BH Chapter, “The 5 Cs in the 21st Century”. Flawlessly organized by Bia Hedegaard and her amazing team, this was the first event I went to after being involved in the organization of “BrELT on The Road”. One of the plenaries featured the Assessment Diva, Natália Guerreiro. She talked about what’s holding us back in terms of teacher development, and it resonated a lot with experiences I have had lately. Among other things, Natália mentioned how attending...

I have been an English teacher for almost 23 years. I also worked as a pedagogical coordinator at language schools for many years. After all this time, these experiences have helped me understand what students needed to get the most out of speaking activities and how teachers could help them take part in speaking activities successfully. When I started working as a teacher, I was fifteen and could not tell if the way I was teaching was actually helping my students achieve their goals and mine, as well. Some...

Exploratory Practice: "It is an indefinitely sustainable way for classroom language teachers and learners, while getting on with their learning and teaching, to develop their own understandings of life in the language classroom. It is essentially a way for teachers and learners to work together to understand aspects of their classroom practice that puzzle them, through the use of normal pedagogic procedures (standard monitoring, teaching and learning activities) as investigative tools." https://www.letras.puc-rio.br/unidades&nucleos/epcentre/index.htm It was the first day of class after a two-week winter break and I wanted to do something other...

If so, how has it helped you to know your learners better? And furthermore, how has it benefitted your learners’ experience? Going back to the two perspectives explored on my last post (richmondshare.com.br/its-time-to-start-over/), here are some of the choices I have made so far: Leaving our comfort zone I have been working mainly with peer observation. It has proven to be a powerful tool not only to foster both cohesiveness and trust among teachers, but also to shed a light on aspects of our teaching that we cannot perceive on...

I have already written about ‘motivating adult students’ inside the classroom. However, I would like to go back to that. Before, I focused on more meaningful lessons and working on areas to which students would relate better due to their professional or study choices. Nevertheless, I would like to discuss further how to engage or motivate students behind the scenes. That is when students are not inside the classroom and/or participating in a lesson. In this post, I will be mentioning actions that can and should be taken "behind...

I had a haircut the other day and got to talking to the hairdresser, an energertic 31-year-old professional who I’ve been going to for a few years now. [Don’t worry, I haven’t gone mad(der) and won’t be rambling on about beauty on a teacher-oriented blog. The relevance of the chat will become evident soon, I promise.] **** Me: My friend’s mother, who’s a hairdresser too, is thinking of moving from Rio. What’s the market like here*? Is it small, saturated? What do you think? *(N.B.: Here is a city that is...

How did passing a proficiency exam help me improve my teaching? Once you have passed the exam, where do you go from there? I plan to address these questions while I share my experience of preparing for the Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE) exam and what happened after passing. Far from being a guide for exam candidates, this series of posts will be a more personal account of the trials and tribulations of a teacher trying to become a better model for his students. I hope some teachers can relate...

The new world we live in pushes us to unavoidable changes. The dynamism it brings to society forces us to rethink our concepts and how we position ourselves in light of the ever growing challenges we have to face. In this scenario, the school and, more specifically, the teacher is being redefined. But what should be the role of this new teacher? Knowledge is not a priviledge of a few anymore. The access to information is universal. You don't need to have an encyclopedia, or thousands of books, to...

Below is a follow-up to one my post entitled Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Part I",  which went online precisely on March 3, 2016. In it, I attempted to describe how terrified I was by the prospect of having to teach a group of kids exiting childhood and stepping into the much dreaded adolescence, at least in the eyes of a large number of teachers, parents, coordinators and educators of all sorts who are somewhat in charge of not letting things get out of hand. The account I am...

It’s clear to us by now that the role of the teacher has been changing dramatically. Gone are the days when the teacher was the source of all knowledge! In an age where students are bombarded with and have free access to information, the image of the teacher as a knowledge-transmitter seems outdated and out of place. However, does that mean that professionals are now exempt from pursuing development of their own knowledge? That hardly seems to be the case! Then, what should teachers be looking to develop,...

It is August, and most language teachers are likely to be here: back to the beginning of a brand new semester. For those of us who are teaching new groups (and why not old ones too), it is the perfect moment to reflect from two different perspectives: Leaving our comfort zone Every semester is a golden opportunity to become better at what we do. For this reason, I usually think of the areas I would like to work on and investigate more about in order to improve as a teacher....

One of my favourite areas to research and study is feedback and the impact that the contribution of others have in teacher development. In this text I will focus on three different features feedback may take depending on tone, intention or professional relationship of those involved: affection, assertiveness and aggression. In general terms, Bill Gates helped us spread the idea that teachers need 'real feedback' to support them in growing and doing their jobs better, as opposed to having a vague comment on their work that will not contribute constructively, possibly causing...

Much is discussed about students with special needs and how to deal with them. Very little is said about teachers who have some kind of special need. I am going to tell you all a quick story. My story. During most my school life, I was not a bad student, but I was not good either. I was, well, average.  I was excellent once, in elementary school to be precise. I have fond recollections of having after-school classes with undergrad students in the afternoon, twice or three times a...

It’s been a while since I last blogged, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reflecting on my teaching practice. On the contrary, I’ve almost died from overthinking. This is what I’ve been doing lately: I’ve been thinking about missed opportunities, failures, achievements, goals and dreams. I’ve called on my memories to reflect on what kind of teacher I used to be and what kind of teacher I am now and what I have learned during these years rather than only think about the things that I’ve missed....

"A man's mind stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions." This quote, attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, illustrates what happens with the learning mind: it will not be the same it had been before the new opportunities to grow. The new ideas may also refer to developing knowledge and/ or skills that are not necessarily directly connected to our area of expertise. As teachers, we aim at helping our learners to broaden their horizons, embrace diversity, experience the world. What better way to change the world than to start by experimenting with our own learning? Teaching a foreign language gives...

We have been discussing the importance of mindset and beliefs in education. The impact of the teachers' confidence that their learners can achieve higher, as well as their thoughts about their own teaching to influence learning outcomes. Focusing on teacher development, here are some tips of what teachers can do and how leaders - trainers or managers - can contribute to the teachers' growth mindset towards productive professional development that may benefit not only learners, but groups of teachers as well as the schools they work. From my point of view, even...

In this day and age getting a job, let alone a position which suits you best, has become a scarce commodity. More and more professionals are seeking jobs that meet their needs. However, not many are actually prepared to meet the market needs. This is a harsh reality and it has obviously hit our ELT world. I have sort of picked up the musical side of my family, my Dad was (still is in my heart a great accordion player) and music to me is what comes through your...

Desde até quando consigo me lembrar ouvi pessoas repetindo que para ganhar dinheiro é preciso trabalhar muito. Não só trabalhar muito, mas dar duro também. Todos os domingos vejo amigos se lamentando de que o fim de semana já está acabando DE NOVO(!) e que já terão que ir ao trabalho na segunda-feira mais uma vez. Já ouviu falar na “Síndrome do Fantástico”? E todas as segundas-feiras também escuto frases como “vamos pra guerra!”, “vamos ralar!” ou “lerê-lerê” (horrorosa alusão à época da escravidão). Esse modo de encarar a vida e...

In my experience as a CELTA tutor, many candidates arrive on the first day having read and researched about what to do in the course (if you don't know what the CELTA is, by the way, you can find more about it by watching this webinar or by checking out Cambridge's official website). There are plenty of blogs and videos out there telling you about what books to buy, what CCQs are, how to teach receptive and productive skills and all sorts of other things. This is all very helpful of...

In my last post, I wrote about professional attitudes when working in collaboration with other ELT professionals - either helping or asking for help in order to develop. Now we are going to focus on the willingness to change and develop as a professional. Leung (2009) states that engaging in reflection to assess our own teaching is key in what the author calls independent professionalism. It is not necessarily an individualist view of development, but rather the kind of development we may seek regardless of demands from regulatory bodies or...

It might ‘cost you dear’! That is what we generally hear when people talk about investing time and money in learning a foreign language. By the same token, professional teachers are usually judged by how qualified they are in the teaching community and investing time and money on CPD seminars seems pretty much the way to go. On 18th March, I had the opportunity to meet up with brilliantly committed teaching professionals at Braz-Tesol Belo Horizonte Chapter on Teacher’s Development. BTW, well done you on your organisation. I delivered...

Hoje eu só tenho a agradecer e encorajar. Estou escrevendo este texto no meu notebook no banco de trás do carro de uma carona que consegui por um aplicativo online para ir até Belo Horizonte participar do evento organizado pela Braz-Tesol BH Chapter em união com o Teacher Development Special Interest Group da Braz-Tesol. O evento aconteceu ontem, sábado 18/03 e foi de um valor incalculável. Os professores que ofecerem as talks dos eventos o fazem voluntariamente, não sendo remunerados por isso. Também por isso estou na carona do carro ao...

I went for a meeting last week with a woman who was interested in having English lessons. She said she needed to improve her English as the company she worked for had just signed a lucrative contract with an American firm. In all respects, she was an uninhibited and confident person who held a high flying position within the company. She was used to dealing with people on a daily basis and speaking in public forums was part and parcel of her job. However, she said that when it...

How many of us have heard learners expressing the wish ‘I want to be fluent in English’? But then, what does it mean to be fluent? As the title suggests, I truly believe in walking through life with our ears wide open, and there is one belief that has permeated my teaching over the years: the importance of triggering learners’ curiosity towards language and its genuine use in various contexts. As a learner myself, I have always wondered how to become fluent in another language. Naturally, when I started teaching, I...

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In other pictures, I mean, in other words, a picture might provide us with a thousand words which might eventually give free reign to your imagination. I am not saying that is all bad, however, for some this may be too little and, say, too comforting. I have come up with a theory that since a picture may lend itself to a thousand words, then it is fair to say that a thousand words may lend themselves...

We want to be called teachers. Although the word educator fits perfectly, I still prefer teacher.  It is the title that is written before my name in my college diploma.  When I graduated from college, it became my identity.  It defines what I do and who I am. Teachers receive an education that is different from other professionals in the field of education. In the Portuguese language, teacher is a title, too, and I intend to keep it. For a long time, though, I tried to make my students...

Há 3 anos participo da equipe de produção de eventos de Coaching na cidade de Uberlândia/MG e durante o mesmo período criei alguns eventos presenciais e vários virtuais de formação continuada para professores de idiomas, durante os quais pude observar que, por algum motivo, os professores tendem a não participar de eventos presenciais ou às vezes até mesmo de acessar um link gratuito para assistir à certas palavras num horário marcado. Se você tem o hábito de participar de eventos de formação continuada para profissionais de ELT com certeza...

Two things have happened recently that served as inspiration for this post. One of them is the (erroneous) belief that one can only learn a language if his/her teacher is a native speaker. Who would figure this is still a debate in 2017. The other is the #accentpride that aims at fighting the prejudice that only a native-speaker accent (which one?) is the correct way to speak English. With those two things in mind, I have decided to share the story of how I learned to speak English and how I...

I have recently prepared and given a session about feedback and it seems that there isn't a formula to follow. However, as Ken Blanchard said: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”. In my opinion, it is extremely difficult to have actual learning without having feedback. Therefore, what is the aim of feedback? After doing a lot of research, I came up with an answer: it is to bring about self-awareness and improvement. (Gower, R. Phillips, D. & Walters, S. 2005). Thus, what techniques can be used? Do you think it depends...

We have all been there: first day at work, first day in a new job, first day with new coursebook, new group, many 'new' situations throughout our careers. There will always be a first in our path and from my experience, the most successful moments have been those when I had the support from peers or leaders that believed I could go through the initial phase and fly higher and that offered help. Inspired by those fantastic professionals that crossed my path, I decided to write this first post on...

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...

“A teacher who loves learning earns the right and the ability to help others learn.” ― Ruth Beechick, An Easy Start in Arithmetic, Grades K-3 In my last post, I talked about writing. The reason why I wrote about it is because I write, and writing is my journey into the core of the English language. The more I write, the more I learn about collocations, spelling, and how words are combined to form sentences. I also learn how words can impact one’s understanding and how they can persuade, motivate, inspire, and...

As I said in my previous post on lesson observation, I don’t see lesson observation as police work, i.e. observers should never simply walk into teachers’ classes unannounced to observe them. Therefore, the way I see it, observation should always be done in three stages: pre-observation meeting (when observer and observed discuss the group, the plan, the class etc.), observation (in which observer sits in on the whole class, not just part of it), and post-observation meeting (when observer and observed discuss the class in question). This month, I’d...

In December last year, there was a particularly popular chat on Facebook hosted by the wonderful people at Brazil ELT (BRELT) on being a private teacher.  The end of the academic year is always a time for change, and so lots of teachers might be thinking about striking out on their own. It’s almost exactly 8 years since I decided to give up teaching for schools and concentrate only on myself.  I had always had the odd private student to add to my meagre income, but going it alone...

Many of us start in the career by incidentally deciding to 'temporarily' teach the language we know while we choose what to do about our professional lives. Many of us choose the career, embrace the challenges, seek for different opportunities. The reasons that brought us to teaching or the one that made us stay are followed by the ones that make us grow and become better and better - the choices we make and the motivation we grow throughout our career. Improving as a professional is not necessarily linked...

Dear Diary, I haven’t written much on here for the last few months.  The two main reasons for this are a lack of time and  inspiration. The lack of time is never going to change, and I suspect this is the same for most people no matter what job they do, how big or small their family is or what hobbies they have.  There just aren’t enough ours in the day to everything we would like to. The lack of inspiration, though, is something that we can work at.  Inspiration can...

I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about this, but I’ve reached that age when I’ve turned into a kind of Agony Aunt to my younger colleagues and friends. The 20-somethings come to me with their career choices and, boy, do they ask difficult questions! Their fork in the road often goes along the lines of, “Should I do a CAE or a CELTA?”, “Should I go to college or work on my language?”, or “What do teachers need more (urgently): language or methodology?” You’ve probably seen these questions before,...

One phenomenon I have noticed over the past two years is the noticeable rise in the number of 'elderly' people wanting to have English lessons (by 'elderly' I am using the US Census bureau's definition of anyone over the age of 65). A combination of factors have probably led to this increase in interest. These factors are related to health, digital technology and the rapidly changing job market. Firstly, and most obviously, people are living longer. People also now have higher expectations of a longer life. Secondly, as life expectancy rises...

We all start teaching for different reasons and we keep teaching for even more diverse reasons sometimes. Besides, each of us will encounter a unique variety of professionals that will inspire us to be greater and others that may help us question our career choices. There seems to be no yellow brick road to follow, but perhaps a plethora of yellow brick roads to choose from, with no right or wrong answer, except that you need to enjoy the journey and aim at your own version of 'Oz'. The...

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...

I was asked recently what I did for a living. I replied that I was a freelance teacher and teacher trainer, working for an assortment of organizations, companies and individuals.  However, what I am part of is the 'gig economy'. A 'gigger', if you like. But what is it, and how will it affect English language teaching in the future? Gig work originally referred to jazz club musicians in the 1920s, who would ply their trade working in different clubs, more often than not without any form of social...

It seems to me that my posts here have, unintentionally, turned into a pronunciation series. I've been keeping my eyes /aɪz/ and ears /ɪərz/ open to things to write about. Last week, I worked with the pronunciation of different suffixes in different places. Because of that, I thought this would be an appropriate topic and I've chosen three that I think are particularly mispronounced. -ful Adjectives that take the suffix -ful are sometimes pronounced by Brazilians the same way the word 'full' is pronounced: /fʊl/. However, the vowel sound here should be...

[caption id="attachment_5024" align="alignleft" width="640"] https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurgenappelo/5201275209[/caption] It´s been a while that educational communities talk about digital literacies. This has been a topic of my interest for a decade now. Still, what we see is a group of educators who follow exactly the curve of innovation in which we have the early adopters way ahead, investing in the development of their digital skills, but most who are still lagging behind. Reasons are many. Some feel overwhelmed, others don´t have any idea what is out there, most lack time to even plan...

Why do my students participate in my classes? This is the question I asked myself when I first met this group of twenty s teenagers age 15-16 years old. From day one, they took part in the activities and spoke English most of the time. I was puzzled. How come? We meet at the end of the afternoon twice a week.  I’ve been teaching at my language school for ten years now and I’ve had some very nice groups and students I’ll never forget. This group is one of...

After receiving some positive feedback on my previous post about pronunciation, I started thinking about other pronunciation areas that I thought were problematic. These are mistakes your students will certainly make, but that you may be making yourself too. The two sounds I have chosen have a couple of similarities to the /s/ and /z/ I mentioned last time. First of all, these are common mistakes made by Brazilian speakers of English. The final /m/ is a bilabial consonant, which means your lips touch to stop the air coming...

Have you noticed how many ELT surveys there have been out there as of late? Teachers seem to be firing off questionnaires to other teachers all the time now, about the most varied topics, from tasks used in class to teacher profile, from student motivation to whatnot. That is probably a consequence of the advent of apps such as Google Forms and Survey Monkey, which ease the burden of creating and handing out questionnaires and will even generate graphs automatically for you. And that's great. I make a point of publicizing questionnaire links...

Today I was very inspired by a group of professionals attending my presentation during the 3rd BT TDSIG one-day seminar and I decided to post my contribution to the blog only after having talked to many of the committed teachers about development. Hall & Simeral (2010), in one of my favourite quotes about teaching, highlight that educators, much to the public surprise may be the ones that resent learning the most. That is a conundrum. If by providing our learners with a model and showing them how to do...

A fellow teacher told me about a well-known language institute that started selling a new, faster course. He asked me how I thought he could compete with them. I told them he shouldn’t, they are not his competition. What many teachers do not understand is that when they decide to work as freelance language teachers, they should be offering something different. Perhaps as an independent teacher you do not have access to many resources that schools do. What you have, however, is yourself and believe me, that is your greatest...

  “Language doesn’t only represent or refer to social reality (…) it constructs social reality" Claire Kramsch, in "From Practice to Theory and Back Again."                                                                                            Now  I look around and I realize how things have changed. I find myself speaking Portuguese in a teachers' room with...

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we can develop as professionals by being involved in the teaching community. Not surprisingly, the most important lessons I’ve had on teaching came from people, not books, but it wasn’t an easy process and I’d like to share some of lessons I’ve learnt from learning with others. Be humble Anyone can teach you something, no matter how experienced, qualified or renowned you are. The moment you adopt a know-it-all attitude is the moment you stop learning, and teaching is ultimately a learning...

For a very long time, I thought my pronunciation was very good. Teachers and colleagues had told me so, and because of that I rarely ever gave it much attention. I was more worried about learning vocabulary or grammar. Naturally, my pronunciation was (and still is) far from perfect, but it took me time to realise that. There is an Aristotle quote that I think rings true for teachers. He said that "the more you know, the more you know you don't know." Little by little I started to...

I have recently been asked whether I believed technology could replace the teachers in the future. This text is an attempt to summarise my reply and my thoughts on the matter. Teaching (in general) is an activity that dates back a long while ago. Books haven't replaced us, neither will technology. At least not unless we stop growing and keeping ourselves essential. Technology has changed the world, the way people connect, the way people learn...

Hi Everyone! Let’s start talking about errors. Teachers usually see students’ errors as negative - as something to do away with. Not seeing them as a hint to the way learners make sense of the foreign language limits the teachers’ possibility of helping students and their own opportunity to learn from errors to overcome them. Students learning a foreign language go through five stages. First, they struggle to say what they mean. They put their ideas into sentences that almost always contain mistakes because they have their first language as their...

  Today’s post is going to be a bit different. One of my greatest frustrations in life is that I don’t get to work with children anymore. That’s why I’m going to tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a teacher called Mary. She had a very good job at one of the most prestigious schools in town, but something was missing. Yes, money was missing and Mary found another school to work for. Who said working at one school was enough to make ends meet? Mary polished...

Durante a cerimônia de encerramento dos Jogos Olímpicos do Rio de Janeiro, transmitida ao vivo para o mundo inteiro, o Brasil deu mais uma prova de que o nosso povo é capaz de realizar grandes feitos. O espetáculo estava uma lindeza só e tudo transcorria maravilhosamente bem: apresentações impecáveis dos nossos melhores artistas, espetáculos de luz e som, coreografias de encantar a vista...

I am now on a plane on my way to Natal-RN, where I’ll participate tomorrow in BRAZ-TESOL Rio Grande do Norte’s symposium, and I took this time to write this… ‘comeback post’, after a pretty long hiatus. Many months ago, I wrote a post on lesson observation here, and have owed the blog readers a follow-up post on peer observation ever since. Well… sorry. This post will not be about peer observation, but next month’s will, I promise. What I want to talk to you about this month, if...

The past is never where you think you left it.” ---- Katherine Anne Porter Having lived a year in the US, I was convinced that I had become an American. I spoke American English, my clothes were mostly American, and I did not like black beans anymore. I could not help pronouncing the word Coke without a strong American English accent I had slowly developed, and which I was proud of. I knew the American Presidents by heart and I had visited more American states than I had ever done...

Olá a todos! Recentemente, trouxe à baila em uma das minhas aulas na universidade no curso de graduação em Letras, o seguinte assunto: existe vida após a faculdade? Aparentemente, algumas pessoas estão muito preocupadas em terminar o curso, ir para a formatura, comemorar na festa e já arrumar um (ou mais) emprego(s) dando aula. Algum problema nisso? Lógico que não. Afinal de contas, as pessoas precisam de dinheiro para coisas básicas, como comprar comida, pagar a luz, água etc. Enfim, percebo que muitos alunos ficam ansiosos pelo fim de...

If you are reading this, you are a teacher that seeks professional development. This text is an example of free, professional development; so are websites like this one, twitter and Facebook groups such as BrELT. There is also another type of professional development we all know well: the industry of language and teaching certifications. Going back to the title of this text, I will say that I don't know. I unapologetically admit that I cannot answer the question I asked. What I can and will try to start here...

How are your plans for professional development going for this year?  Do you remember what you promised yourself you would do at the beginning of the year to keep improving as a teacher?  Were you going to observe classes?  Go to a conference?  Lead workshops?  I hope you have been able to keep some of your promises to yourself, if you even made them in the first place. (Un)fortunately, I have been teaching English for over 20 years now.  This means that it can be difficult to find new...

In July I had the chance to attend the 15th Braz-Tesol international conference. As I chose which workshops and talks to attend, I realized how much my profile had changed since I first started attending these kinds of events. My first international conference was in 2008 when I had the chance to go to the ABCI (Associação Brasileira de Culturas Inglesas) international conference in São Paulo. At that time I had been teaching for 4 years, but had never done any teacher training courses. I clearly remember I was looking...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a developing teacher must be in want of feedback. Well, that is what leads many teacher educators to plan feedback sessions, invest on provoking reflection and action. It is also what moves many teachers to ask for feedback, willing to grow. I strongly believe constructive feedback has helped me become more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. Also, all feedback moments I have had so far and the research I have been carrying out have been helping me improve both they way I receive and...

  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...

It goes without saying that we live in a world which is bombarded by information. I am not saying that is all bad, however, for some this may be too much, too soon and too frightening. This fast-moving evolution of information technology has brought about a new sort of ‘society’ which seeks for a full range of perspectives and interests. That is exactly when RLE (Real Learning Environment) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) collide. Unfortunately, the so-called ‘cloud’ does not seem to be 9 for everyone, especially if...

[caption id="attachment_4644" align="aligncenter" width="433"] Soldier vs Scout (illustrations shown by Galef, 2016)[/caption] Soldiers stand their ground with all they've got. The enemies and their subversive ideas must not be allowed in. Death to the infidels! Grrrrr! Scouts are also important in a war, but they play quite a different role: they have to survey the land, learn what it is like, its obstacles and possibilities, taking reality in as it is. That’s how Julia Galef described two mindsets earlier this year in her TEDx talk in Pennsylvania. She says it’s...

It’s been quite a long period of silence. In my last post I wrote about changes. One of those changes has to do with the fact that in my current job I have visited schools all over Brazil. I have been to rich and poor schools and I have met wonderful teachers with similar dreams and needs everywhere. Most of these professionals show hunger for change, but they seem to be unaware of alternative proposals regarding their work. It is clear that, in many instances, the teacher can be...

  Preparing for the 15th BTIC? Getting ready to make the most of it with Isabela Villas Boas's tips on presentations and the programme and Elaine Hodgson's ideas on networking? Conferences are usually a great opportunity to reassure us all, ELT professionals, that we are a strong professional team, seeking for development, growth and better quality in our teaching. It is a wonderful learning experience, with lots being shared and discussed. For me, it is a moment for a healthy productive discussion about our perspectives and the future of ELT....

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...

The year was 2011. I was moving to my new apartment. My first apartment ever, the first time on my own without roommates. The first place to ever call mine, and I wanted to furnish the place all at once. I had about 12 groups and countless private students. I was living in Laranjeiras and working in Laranjeiras and Barra da Tijuca. If you are not familiar with the geography of Rio de Janeiro, Google will give you a pretty good idea of what my life was like. I...

The other day I came across a box of notes written by my students at the end of term. During a while I used to systematically ask for feedback from my students and I had a lesson ready for that for all the levels and age groups that I taught, from young learners to adults. The very last activity was the feedback note, which my students wrote both in Portuguese and in English, whichever language they felt more comfortable with. They were free not to sign their notes...

In July, I'll have been teaching English for exactly 13 years. One maxim among language teachers is that sometimes you can get to this point by having one year of experience repeated 13 times. I like to think of myself as someone who has taken this time to become a better teacher and a better speaker of English. As a bilingual teacher, I think it's important to invest time (and often money) in my own development. This post is dedicated to my teacher development guidelines. 1. Sit for exams or...

You have probably heard of the PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) tests. They are standardised tests of reading, science and mathematics, which are designed to allow comparisons of  educational attainment around the world. Well, it appears that the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the organisation which runs the tests, is likely to introduce another set of tests in 2018, which will measure what the OECD calls 'global competence'. The OECD defines 'global competence' as: "the capacity to analyse global and intercultural issues critically and from multiple...

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...

In ELT we often say we joined the field to help others and we take pride in seeing our students achieve higher, being successful using English. Some of us stay true to this 'dream profession' full of challenge and growth for both learners and teachers. Others give up, others just do it for fun. It is, of course, desirable that we all cherish what we do and have pleasure while doing it. However, learning comes first. If we are having fun with the better half of the group...

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite TV series was Felicity. This show was about a young girl discovering college and herself. Though I was not in college at the time, I could relate to the main character on many levels. Perhaps that is the recipe for good shows: drama, laughter, questionable hairstyle choices and someone on a quest to find themselves. Growth is painful. Change is hard and there are days you wish it would just stop. Wouldn’t it be great to be sure? To feel...

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...

Last month I was very fortunate to be able to attend the 50th IATEFL International Conference in Birmingham, the UK. As most it usually happens when it comes to conferences, it was possible to “catch” a few issues / topics that stood out in the conference – because of plenaries, sessions or just the talk between sessions and at the social events at the end of the each day. This year, at least for me, there were two big issues that stood out: gender / sexual bias and the...

"Novices become acquainted with activities not only from their own and others' attempts to define what transpires in an activity, but also from how those participating in the activity respond to them." Elinor Ochs, in "Becoming a Speaker of A Culture." (2002) I have just read Elinor Ochs’ article entitled ‘Becoming a Speaker of a Culture,’ a contribution to the book ‘Language Acquisition and Language Socialization --- Ecological Perspectives,’ edited by Claire Kramsh (Continuum, 2002).  In her chapter, Elinor Ochs offers some very interesting insight into Second Language Acquisition theory. Elinor Ochs is an...

It seems such an obvious concept and such an easy thing to do, but then, you set up a task, or ask for an action, and it does not come up as imagined. Sometimes, students just understand or get partial information on what they are supposed to do and so, undesired behaviour comes to play. For me this is a constant struggle and I see lots of teachers in the same situation. Instructions are not something to be overlooked, in fact, giving the right sort of instruction is crucial to...

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about giving and receiving feedback. One of the reasons for that was a conversation with my friend Priscila Mateini on receiving negative feedback and dealing with failure. In addition, because of the nature of my job as a Celta tutor, I'm constantly giving feedback to teachers. Some of what I'm going to write about focuses on feedback after lesson observations, but a lot of it can be applied to other areas of teaching as well. A trainer once told me that one of...

I believe that settling for less than extraordinary is not for English language teachers. We will definitely have ordinary days and teach lessons that are not necessarily extraordinary; this is necessary for us to notice the special moments in our careers. However, by embracing teaching as a profession, questioning what we do routinely or even automatically and choosing to improve, challenge our practices and/ or constantly seek for development, we will be focusing on excellence. The groups we teach are diverse, resources available are varied and in constant...

          Or "When Pre-Teens First Meet the Dreaded Older Male Teacher" Based on a true story. When I thought about writing this post, thinking back to the time when I first started teaching was unavoidable. I was quite young, in my early 20's, when I was asked to teach some groups of children whose ages ranged from 8 to 12 years old. What an experience that was! I had enough energy to keep up with their franctic pace and made sure my lessons were filled with a...

Beginning of a new term in a year always brings a question mark… Will there be a need of new professionals joining the staff of a school or not? Who and how to hire them? Even though we plan well ahead the steps, it is always a surprise when we finally start the term. A good school normally gets CVs from prospect teachers interested in doing its work force. What would be the features we normally focus at when analysing a candidate? I would say that there are item which...

A teacher who is worried about his or her language development has many avenues to pursue, pronunciation being only one of them. On that matter, though, here is a tip: don’t snub pronunciation dictionaries! I know what you are thinking, “Why on earth would people need pronunciation dictionaries if regular dictionaries (even those online!) have the audio and/or the phonetic transcription?” First, let me say why the audio is not good enough: our ears deceive us sometimes. I had been studying English for 15 years and teaching it for 8...

Last month we looked at getting to know who your students are and the main purpose of having information about them is to focus on their needs when planning lessons, to adjust their expectations to the course goals. If you work in schools or language institutes, courses you teach usually have a core syllabus that all teachers must respect to guarantee overall course outcomes and institutional quality and standards. That does not necessarily mean all lessons will be the same and all teachers will do exactly the same in the classroom....

Hi Everyone! In this first posting of 2016, I want address group work. Ellis (2005) refers to Jacobs (1998), who compares the characteristics of group work with those of teacher-centered instruction.   Ten potential advantages of group activities in language instruction Advantages   Comment 1. The quantity of learner speech can increase In teacher-fronted classrooms, teachers typically speak 80% of the time; in group work more students talk for more of the time. 2. The variety of speech acts can increase In teacher-fronted classrooms, students are cast in a responsive role, but in group work they perform different...

Last weekend I took part in an online professional development event organized by EFL Talks, called 10 in 10 for YOU. The idea was to have questions asked by teachers answered in 10 minutes (each), using 10 slides (videos of all the 40 talks will be made available in the website if you want to check them out.) I was thrilled that the organizers invited me to answer one of the questions. And my question was just that: “Do teachers need better feedback?” It’s difficult to answer such question, because...