As you will probably agree, inspiration comes from the most unusual places. Just now, I felt so moved by a Netflix documentary about the jazz genius Miles Davis that I had to come here and write about the lessons I believe his career may bring to our professional development as teachers.   “The Musings of Miles”: Don’t “blow” theory. Miles started his career as a trumpeter in his teens and went to Juilliard, one of the world’s most prestigious performance art schools. Despite criticizing it for being “too white”...

First of all, I’d like to send a warm hug to everyone who is reading this post. We have been living under stressful moments due to an emergency lockdown caused by the COVID-19. As you know, and based on your own needs, families require your full attention, exceptionally now. You are no longer “only” teaching a subject or a content, you are giving them as much of your attention as possible. In my opinion, this is what ‘emergency remote teaching’ is all about. Nurturing, not only our students but...

When did you decide to become a teacher? Did it start because life happened or did it start because you planned it? Did you take into consideration all the effort you would have to put into it? Or all the hours you would have to spend trying to make your lesson better for that particular student who claims he/she does not like the language?  As you know, I have recently changed the focus of my work. I taught English at a renowned Institution and I was an academic coordinator...

In 2019 we had the opportunity to work together on different projects. Such projects involved writing for the Richmond blog, going live on different social media websites and delivering an online course for teachers. We’d like to start by commenting on the online course experience. Needless to say how this course enriched us. While organizing the contents we decided to include in the course, we studied a lot more about so many relevant issues that are undoubtedly pertinent to our daily work. In this sense, the need to research...

As 2020 begins, teachers all around the world get ready to receive their students for a new term, and I am no different.. As I write, I am enjoying my last days of the summer break, and yet I am already mentally planning how I can make my school year the best one again. That means deciding which practices I would like to include in my professional routine, and which ones I should adapt or eliminate from my daily lesson planning. Then, at the beginning of January, I decided...

Have you ever heard of the SWOT analysis? It comes from the Administration and Management of a business. This technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led this research project at Stanford University in the 60s, using data from many top companies. His goals failed at the time, but the SWOT analysis had yet a lot to give. I have been reading a lot of management strategy and company and personal administration books, and I came across Eduardo Ferraz (2018), who has more than thirty years of experience with...

Year: 1999. Group: Basic 1. Place: Uberaba, MG – Brasil. Seventeen-year-old Ana Carolina stepped into a classroom for the first time. Young, restless, feeling entitled by her recently acquired C2 diploma and, most importantly: raw. Fluent, for sure. After one year of isolation from all Portuguese speakers in a cultural exchange program before cell phones or the Internet were even available, the mountaneer dialect flowed as if it were her own. Scared, she left the students in class in order to catch a breath and drink some water,...

Monday, 6 p.m., the sun peeking through the blinds in the brick and mortar language school building in Brazil. The teacher enters the room carrying a bag of props, flashcards, and her tape recorder. The recorder being to her as precious as a map to a Geography teacher: “Hi, John Peter! How are you today?” asked the teacher in a high-pitched voice. “I’m fine, thanks. And you?” replied the monotoned student. The automatic, “I’m fine, too,” followed. “So… Let’s begin! Open your books to page 50,” she continued while rewinding and...

My third piece of advice is to cultivate a sense of empathy - to put yourself in other people's shoes - to see the world from their eyes. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world. Barack Obama Empathy is 'the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions'. (Krznaric, 2014) Because of the many online groups we are part of, it's much easier to find ourselves in situations where our empathy is...

[caption id="attachment_8629" align="alignright" width="227"] Teacher development and cleaning products -- the way my mind works![/caption] Teaching a language, especially when you’re a novice, can be really daunting. In fact, the word “daunting” immediately brings to mind a Duck commercial that was constantly on when I studied in Australia. The voice-over would go, “Cleaning your bathroom can seem like a daunting task”, and the small bathroom would grow huge with the woman (why is it always a woman, by the way?) tripping over herself. That nerve-racking image of an evergrowing...

Taking the DELTA has changed me as a teacher in many ways, but I believe that it has most influenced the way I perceive and teach listening. I first came across the term ‘decoding’ when my dear tutor Melissa Lamb from IH London introduced me to John Field’s book ‘Listening in the Language Classroom’. Later on, I came across Richard Cauldwell’s brilliant book ‘A Syllabus for Listening – Decoding’. This is the second post inspired by these brilliant minds which have also shaped me as a teacher and...

Are Good Teachers Born or Made? (https://www.richmondshare.com.br/are-good-teachers-born-or-made/) is probably one of my favourite articles by Marcela Cintra here on the RichmondShare Blog. I sometimes revisit it when looking for some inspiration. When the going gets tough, teachers turn to other teachers for support. In this enlightening article she argues, among other things, that teaching is not for anyone who is simply passionate about the language or enjoys being in the classroom. It is for those willing to go the extra mile and work hard to sharpen their skills. I...

What is your passion when it comes to teaching EFL? Is it one of the four skills [listening, speaking, reading or writing]? One of the four systems [pronunciation, lexis, grammar or discourse]? Teaching YLs or teens? Methodology, perhaps? Teacher training? - Hard to pick one, right? Well, I'll do it anyways! I'll start with Listening - why is it one of my many passions? Because of the challenge it presents teachers with: we cannot enter our learners' ears to check what they are actually understanding. For this reason, I'm starting a...

Have you ever heard of a continuous improvement cycle called the PDCA cycle? I am sure most of you who have already studied a little bit of business management have certainly come across this acronym before. But for those of you who haven’t studied any business theories, PDCA is an acronym that stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act. These are the four stages of this continuous improvement cycle that can be applied in business and in our personal lives as well. But what does this cycle have to do with teaching? Well,...

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....

I’d like to start this post with Maya Angelou’s beautiful statement: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” As a subscriber to MET (Modern English Teacher), I received the October 2018 issue at home this month. Their articles cover a wide range of topics as you can see from its cover: [caption id="attachment_8235" align="alignnone" width="539"] MET magazine October 2018[/caption] One article, in particular, drew my attention: Promoting gratitude among learners by Jeffrey Dawala...

This is a fairly broad topic with a myriad of issues, such as the observer and observee’s attitudes towards having his/her lessons assessed. There is also the matter of how many times a teacher should be observed in a term, and when (before/after tests, two weeks after the first lesson, etc), having in mind the assessment factor. Attitude The attitude changes according to the observation purposes: development, (quick) problem-solving, assessment, etc. When a teacher is being observed for developmental reasons, usually he or she tends to be more open...

When we ask learners what they like most about school, their usual response is ‘Nothing’, ‘My friends’, ‘Going home’, and few of them come up with a teacher or a subject that they actually enjoy. One of the possible reasons why learners are disengaged from their schooling is because they see no real purpose in what they learn there in relation to their future lives or employability prospects. They usually go to school because they have to and they have to pass the ‘Vestibular’ or ‘ENEM’. Another intriguing aspect...

Two weeks ago, at the Independence Day holiday, I had the pleasure of moderating a BrELT Chat with one of the sweetest people you will ever meet at the BrELT on the Road 2018: Veruska Gallo. Our discussion was focused on bringing professional development to the school we work for. DISCLAIMER: this is not a summary of what happened, but an overview of my rushing thoughts during the session. We kicked off the discussion by asking what the CPD initiatives their school offered were. Silence. A disturbing and suffocating silence...

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...

I have recently discussed with another teacher that we should never lose track of the lessons we learn from inspirational teachers. We learn a lot throughout our professional teaching lives, but also from our long-lasting lives as learners. We take courses, study, research, observe. In this post I would like to write about those teachers who inspire learners to act, think, be curious, be brave and so much more. Those are the teachers that I believe make a difference in the world. I remember one of the greatest teachers...

Vinicius Diamantino organized a much needed online panel* about how to deliver killer presentations at ELT and educational events. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate as planned, but what follows is what I had prepared: how to write effective abstracts and summaries that will get you accepted as a speaker in the first place. Do, though, watch the free webinar ( gMX55xT46244F6H ) with Claire Venables and Cecilia Lemos because they make the points much better! They also talk about the delivery of the presentation itself with invaluable tips...

Imagine you are feeling a little feverish. What do you do? Bloodletting, of course! You Google the nearest barbershop and get an Uber there so the barber can slash a vein and cure you by removing foul humours from your body. If you’re lucky, they may even use leeches! This may sound absurd to you, but the role of professions changes over time. The teaching profession wouldn’t be any different. Beginning on a very personal example, I’ve been deeply affected by recent changes in mindset and communication. The abilities...

I will begin this post with a confession: although I have been involved in EFL and digital education projects for quite some time, I am not a heavy user of technology; I don’t really own a myriad of smart devices and, most of the time, I tend to prefer taking notes on a good, old notepad. While not resistant to change, I believe I am fairly skeptical that one device or app, or digital service, will single-handedly change my classroom practice. This skepticism might come from my observation of...

We all want a positive work environment where we feel safe to share our ideas, projects, concerns, and challenges… where we can offer and seek advice aiming at a greater good: helping learners reach their goals and becoming the best possible professional we can become. Right – that’s a lovely goal. How can we make it happen? First and foremost, we have to remind ourselves that our professional development is our own responsibility – nobody else’s. Jordan Catapano’s article on Professional Development and the Teacher Leader can give us great...

Firstly, BRAZ-TESOL is the largest ELT association in Brazil and its “SIGs” attempt to encourage professional development and the exchange of ideas within a specialist area of English Language Teaching. Secondly, I would like to invite you all to the 7th BRAZ-TESOL Teacher Development Seminar which will take place in April (more information below). Marcela Cintra and Sérgio Pantoja, the plenary speakers, will be talking about "Teacher's Continuous Professional Development: a conundrum?" & "The importance of language awareness in teachers' continuing professional development” respectively. My session will be carried out at 3...

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. William Shakespeare "If I could have a second go at life, being back to school, but still knowing everything I know now, I'd make so many things differently." How many of you have already thought, said...

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...

January is already over, and I hope you have managed to soldier on with your resolutions through this first month. In December, I set myself the goal of learning more about language development and shared the first part of an article summary on language awareness (LA) for teachers. In this post, I summarise more content from the article and briefly reflect on some of my personal experience tackling language awareness. A methodological framework for LA activities Based on the set of LA activities mentioned in the first part of this...

We language educators often get asked what else we do apart from teaching English. Now, this takes the biscuits on the grounds that some people are hell-bent on this to mystify whether we take our profession seriously or not. It is generally known that an L2 teacher is supposed to be someone graduated, qualified or trained with required abilities to handle the teaching/learning process in a full variety of ways and environments. Unfortunately, many L2 teachers still face much criticism, discrimination and suffer mockery based on the fact that...

It’s the end of another extraordinary year and many people are making their New Year’s resolutions and hoping to stick to them at least until the end of January. I consider myself one of them, so I have decided to set the wheels in motion before 2017 comes to an end. Then I’ll be able to say I kept my resolutions for about two months – which is not half bad. All joking aside, I have taken upon myself to learn more about a topic I’m very passionate about:...

Published on November 20th, the first part of this post tries to briefly describe the trends of ELT in Brazil from the early 90’s to the late 2000’s. In it, I also included the themes and topics of some of the plenary sessions in international conferences and the names of the speakers who delivered them.  In the second and last part of this article, I try to describe how the 2nd decade of the 2000’s addresses new trends and issues brought about by the demands of a society...

In the English language teaching field, many professionals join the area after becoming sufficiently fluent and confident to face learners. Some of us start a career believing the knowledge we have of the language will guarantee our success in teaching and we may resent feedback given about our use of the language. Although the language proficiency needed to teach depends on the context lessons will be happening (Rossner, 2017), learning more about the language we teach may improve our performance in the classroom. Considering that the learning goals as...

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...

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...

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...

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...

"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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

[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...

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...

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...

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...

A lot is said in the literature about students’ motivation and how important a role it plays in a healthy and effective classroom environment. With the beginning of the academic year in Brazil, I’d like to take this opportunity to look at how we can keep our own motivation levels high throughout the year. After all, motivated teachers are better teachers, right? Rather than going on and on about theories of motivation, I’ll try to stick to practical ideas that come not only from my own personal experience -...

Então, mais um ano se passou. Se você for como eu, vai olhar para as resoluções do ano anterior (aquelas que você escreveu ainda em 2014) e ver que não conseguiu cumprir boa parte delas. A tão sonhada forma física, o curso de desenho artístico e a viagem à Fernando de Noronha em 2015, por exemplo, serão transcritas diretamente para a agenda de 2016, ipsi literis. Infelizmente, ainda não foi desta vez. Mas como diz o poeta (neste caso, eu mesmo): a vida é como um fone de ouvido dentro da...

Sorry, I haven’t posted a blog for a while – I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by.  In this post I want to return to the theme of supposed sex differences between how and what children learn and look at the other side of the coin.  If girls are supposedly better than boys at language (a belief I disputed in my last post) are boys really better than girls at math and science? It’s interesting to note that as young children there don’t appear to...

Inspired by Higor Cavalcante’s webinar for BrELT "Hi, my name is Natalia, and I have a problem with prepositions* in English." “Hi, Natalia.” We all have our sore spots in terms of language proficiency. Hopefully, they change along our language learning history, as we study, practice the language, learn more, find other areas that need improvement, address those, and so on, so forth. However, to better work on our language difficulties, first we need to recognize they are there. It’s high time we came out of the less-than-perfect language closet. (Because hey,...

Is teaching a lonely profession? Teaching, in all its forms, is an activity that requires social interaction, and this chance to interact with people while playing a role in their development is probably among the most common reasons that draw people to our profession. Nonetheless, many teachers with whom I talk to share the impression that they are all alone, making decisions and designing lessons, which makes teaching a (paradoxically) lonely profession. Does it have to be that way? Last month, I had the amazing opportunity of attending two events...

If, like me, you have been in the field of TEFL for what I choose to call a substantial amount of time, you have probably (over)heard teachers, or even work colleagues say, "I've participated in so many seminars and conferences that I really don't see the point of keeping attending them anymore. I've seen it all...

[caption id="attachment_3389" align="alignnone" width="640"] "Kids playing with marbles” by Tup Wanders is licensed under CC BY 2.0[/caption] This month, I want to pick up the theme of the brain and language learning and consider the controversial topic of sex differences.  There has existed a belief for some time that girls are innately better at language than boys.  Gurian (2005 in Eliot, 2009) argues that girls are up to eighteen months ahead of boys by the age of six and this has been put forward as an argument for teaching...

In my daily job in education, I find the most talented and vibrant community of educators. Their very specific skills range from making, sometimes with hardcore engineering skills, to arts, with those amazing strokes of light and hope. Many, though, lack self-confidence. They perceive themselves as just one more in the crowd. Their talent is seen as ordinary, something that has been with them for so long that they don't even notice the distinguishing features of their own character and practice. I've seen many of them go unnoticed...

Gone are the days when teachers were the sole source of knowledge. The Internet has revolutionised society by granting everyone access to the information, meaning that listening to a teacher talking on and on about a topic is not only unnecessary but actually rather boring. It is therefore inevitable that teachers reflect upon their role in the learning process, and one of the aspects that have to be considered is how much time is actually devoted to Teacher Talking Time (TTT) and Student Talking Time (STT). Last year, Dominic...

I think I must have seen this question a million times: “What does it take to be an English language teacher?” “Courage” springs to mind. At least that’s what I needed when I broke the news to my dear father that I wouldn’t be a lawyer like him (“Quem não faz Direito faz errado,” he must have replied). Joke aside, we can interpret that question in several ways. What I would like to explore here is perhaps the easiest of them: the minimum qualifications that will land you a...

Dear all, this is my second post about my journey to becoming an e-moderator. This time, I'm going to tell you about the time I became an online student myself. Some of the courses I had to take at university were only offered online. I had never done anything like that before (as a student) and I thought it was going to be an amazing learning opportunity at that time as I would learn about a specific subject online as well as learn how to use a different virtual learning...

Hello! It’s good to be back after a couple of months (ok, maybe more ;-) ) away from the blog.  For the rest of this year, I’d like to consider the role of neuroscience in language learning and teaching. What is neuroscience and how is it interesting to language teachers? Are you interested in how the brain works?  If you said yes, you concur with the around 80% of teachers from around the world that a major study found are interested in brain science (Pickering and Howard-Jones, 2007).  It’s a fascinating...

Almost 4 years ago, on April 7th 2011, the first BrELT Chat took place. I must have wondered what that #breltchat at the end of tweets meant, but eventually I figured out that my Twitter friends were using that hashtag to talk about language teaching in Brazil. Later I joined a few of those debates and, even though I struggled with the tool or maybe with my internet connection, I just loved the fact that there were people in my country willing to talk about those topics after-hours. About...

Working in recruiting and teacher training, I came to notice that Knowledge and Skills (which we dealt with last month) may get your CV noticed, but what determines your success in your career in the end, are the two As in Donald Freeman’s KASA framework: Attitude and Awareness. A long time ago, during one of those fiery staff meetings before lesson started, the other teachers and I were trying to standardise how we would deal with a recurrent situation when someone suggested we simply used common sense. I promptly...

“Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good gets better and your better best.” It was the middle of an intensive CELTA and I was exhausted. I still had to put finishing touches on the lesson plan, but I just couldn’t take it any more. I had to sleep. So I set the alarm for 4h later (a sleeping luxury, as most CELTees will assure you) and tried to tune out. In my slumber, a voice whispered again, “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good...

Instructions are an important part of every teacher’s life. They can either make or break our lessons, getting students in the best mood imaginable or sending them into a downward spiral of discontentment (has anyone ever heard students react with sighs of “reading again?”). How can we guarantee that the second doesn’t happen?  Imagine a teacher who has an elementary group of adults and wants to help his learners develop listening skills. Now look at the instructions that our imaginary and well-intentioned teacher delivered in one lesson to that...

[caption id="attachment_2490" align="aligncenter" width="421"] Sir, why are you wearing such warm clothes in 35°C weather?[/caption]   It's that resolute time of the year again. And as we are all still following through with the promises we made on New Year's Eve, here's a resolution from me: keep my #WordoftheDay tag on Facebook. Daily. "Surely," a kind soul might ask, "you don't have that many words left to learn?" I wish. I've been studying English for the better part of my life now (over two-thirds already!) and I'm still very much learning and...

We all deserve rest, relaxation and some time off. Educators are working during class time, before and always in late hours, correcting, planning, preparing, researching. So, yes, school recess is certainly a time of a certain relief and a bit of goofing off. However, after reenergizing a bit, meeting friends and family, taking care of our more mundane daily lives, celebrating the end of the year, you might feel ready and eager to learn something new, to connect, network with other like-minded professionals. Numerous free professional development opportunities...

It is that time of the year again. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the type of guy who devotes quite a lot of time to planning his new year’s resolutions and, at the end of the year – now! – has no idea what they were or whether he’s achieved them. I’m not at all proud of that, but there you have it. Life gets in the way, you know. Too many classes, too many students, too many projects. You start writing a book (again!), you...

Checking exercises is so deeply ingrained in our teaching practice that we seldom give it a thought. Asking students to report back after a small-group activity is also common practice ever since the boom of the communicative approach.  But are we making the best use of classroom time or could we just be doing it for the sake of habit? Just last week, I was talking to a teacher I know about a great lesson she had delivered when we caught ourselves discussing just that. It dawned on us...

Is it December already?! I’ve just been reading a new book about beliefs in language teaching and learning and, as with any good book, it’s got me thinking.  As teachers, how often do we stop to think about what our beliefs are about how we teach and how students learn?  In my case, “not very often” is the answer and yet, our beliefs are right there in the activities we choose in class, how we talk to learners and how we respond to learners and their output and contributions. ...

Kitten! by Sergey Ivanov CC BY-SA 2.0 This month's post has nothing to do with kittens, but do we really need an excuse?  This month I'm straying from the topic of teaching slightly to look at what happens when we, as teachers, write about our profession. It's a topic that's quite close to my heart as it's what first got me interested in developing critical thinking skills in teachers. I think it's fair to say that as teachers we have all, at some point or another, read books, blogs, and articles...

Professional Development is an area which I really like talking and writing about. Yes, I’ve written about it before, but for me it’s never too much and I hope it’s not for you too. For years I have been working with other teachers’ PD and mainly I have tried to work hard on my own PD. However, I have noticed that some teachers, mainly the novice ones, are not aware of the importance of PD in their professional lives. I don’t blame them. In a country where teachers struggle...

"Over the years, language teachers have alternated between favoring teaching approaches that focus primarily on language use and those that focus on language forms or analysis. The alternation has been due to a fundamental disagreement concerning whether one learns to communicate in a second language by communicating in that language (such as in an immersion experience) or whether one learns to communicate in a second language by learning the lexicogrammar - the words and grammatical structures - of the target language. In other words, the argument has been...

My passion for reading books began since I was a child. I was encouraged to read mainly by my dad who used to buy collections of books and by my mom who used to be a primary teacher. At school we had that amazing library where I used to go and read those fantastic, beautiful and expensive books my parents couldn’t afford.  No surprise I became a teacher. I grew up reading a lot and when I met my husband I was even more encouraged to read as he’s...

Last month, we looked at personalisation, guided discovery and raising awareness of sub-skills and strategies as ways to promote learner engagement (click here to check it out). Today, I’d like to share some more ideas on this topic, which I consider one of the most important, albeit challenging, in both lesson preparation and delivery. Reacting to content as well as language As teachers, we are so concerned with the learners’ linguistic development that we may easily fall into the trap of devoting exclusive attention to the words students use rather...

Hi Everyone!   Spring begins in September – nature’s renovation season – perfect to start projects and put new ideas forth.   I expect to stir debate in the 1o Fórum de Profissionalização Docente, at Universidade Estadual de Londrina (Sept. 29th-30th), after presenting an innovative approach to teacher development.   Formação continuada refers to formal education, resulting in certificate, master or doctoral degrees. Educação continuada is directed to public school teachers. PUC-SP offers Programa de Formação Continuada para Professores de Inglês (Celani e Collins, 2009[1]); UFMG is responsible for EDUCONLE (Dutra e Mello, 2013[2])...

Hello! In my previous post we looked at the concept of ‘meaningful learning’, the idea of taking what learners already know and using it to help them to learn more.  In this post, I want to start looking at how to do this in the classroom. Using learners’ knowledge of L1. This clearly cuts into a controversial issue in ELT for the past thirty years or so – the use of the mother tongue.  What I’d like to argue is that we can’t/shouldn’t ignore all this knowledge that learners have and...

Hello again! Many years ago I took a class in educational psychology and came across this quote from the cognitive psychologist, David Ausubel: "If I had to reduce all of cognitive psychology to one principle it would be this:  the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.  Ascertain this and teach him accordingly."  (1978:  flyleaf). I was very struck by this and was therefore even more interested to find out what cognitive psychology had to say about ‘meaningful learning’, something that we talk about vaguely in...

/riˈzilyəns/ noun: resilience; plural noun: resiliences 1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. 2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.   Some of you may be wondering why I am talking about resilience in a blog post for English teachers, but for some reason I think most will guess. And even though most (or all) I’m going to “say” here may be common knowledge, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20+ years as a teacher it’s that we need to see something...

I always say that one of the things I like the most about teaching is that I’m always learning. And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one… We teachers learn a lot not only from our students and from fellow teachers but also from what we read, from conferences we attend, and so on. And this all has got to do with teacher development. Bell and Gilbert (apud Evans, 2002) state that “teacher development can be viewed as teachers learning, rather than as others getting teachers to change....

I was supposed to have published this post on May the 01st. As I knew I was going to be in João Pessoa for the 14th BRAZ-TESOL International Conference, I really wanted my post to be about teacher development – mainly about attending conferences. I had even read some articles and blog posts on it in order to find inspiration for my post (“Teacher Development belongs to Teachers” by Willy C. Cardoso, “Attending Conferences” by James Taylor, “7 things about reflecting on conference presentations” by Willy C. Cardoso, “Teachers...

After having taught at several different schools for a long long time, I’ve been teaching private classes for a while now. I’ve decided to do so so that I could have more flexibility and more time to study and work on different projects. Needless to say, teaching private classes has its own features. Sometimes I feel as if I were learning how to teach all over again and that’s been a real challenge. By a stroke of luck, I’ve come across a lot of interesting articles on it these past...

Well, first, apologies to Scott Thornbury for ‘borrowing’ and distorting his title. This is the closest I’ll ever get to his altitude, so forgive my mutant magpie-Icarus act. I present to you the first of the series An A-Z of Dysfunctional ELT – the art of getting things wrong, again and again. Each month, I’ll take a letter and explore some ideas about how we get things wrong.  And by ‘we’, I mean you, and you, and you. Oh, and me.  For example, C might stand for Communication (aw, don’t get...

When we teach language for and through communication, it’s our job to ensure that there is as much student - student interaction as realistically possible. This means that teacher talking time (TTT) should be kept to an absolute minimum, right? Well, right and wrong. There’s more to TTT than meets the eye. Students’ interlanguage will develop not only through interaction (output), but also through reading and listening (input): Listening to coursebook dialogs, TV shows, movies and… the teacher. Yes, our own English is a rich, but sadly underrated source of...