Small ways to give up control

14 12 2017

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 that I am able to gauge how effective our initial teacher development program has been and what still needs to be worked on. In this sense, I always look for patterns in these teachers’ performance so we can plan future continuous professional development initiatives.

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Ten tips for sustainable professional development – a balancing act

15 03 2017

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 BRAZ-TESOL.
  • Participate in conferences.
  • Present in conferences.
  • Take face-to-face or online courses ranging from certificate-leading ones such as CELTA, DELTA, MA’s, and the like, to short-term courses in local institutions, online or MOOCs on Coursera, EdEX and other platforms.
  • Review materials for publishers.

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Are you really teaching reading?

22 01 2017

 

reading

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*.

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Thirty years in ELT – some thoughts about then and now

18 12 2016

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

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Should we vent about our students?

5 11 2016

complaining-154204_1280

Not long ago I read a blog post in Edutopia  by Jason Deehan about whether venting about students should be banned. What motivated the author to write the post was the fact that he had come across a comment about a school that discouraged teachers from venting about their students because they felt that it was a matter of respect, of not talking about students behind their back. At first, he was shocked about the idea, for venting is a teacher staple just like drinking too much coffee. But after giving it more thought and doing some research, he found that the downside of venting might outweigh its positive aspects. Venting gives the “venter” a false sense of achievement, and when the “venter” gets better and better at it, it may lead to more anger in similar situations in the future. Jason is not completely against venting, though. He just suggests that venting should be coupled with problem-solving strategies so that we get off the treadmill of simply complaining.

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Five Reasons Why We Should Talk About Writing

18 09 2016

writing 3

In my last post, I wrote about why it seems to me that the topic “teaching writing” is avoided in ELT conferences. Now I’m going to mention why I believe it is a topic that should receive more attention, and I’m going to do so by relating it to some of the hot topics in the last Braz-Tesol conference and others I’ve attended recently.

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Why don’t we talk about writing?

11 08 2016

writing books

The fabulous 15th Braz-TESOL International Conference ended almost a month 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.

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Seven tips for a successful conference presentation

19 06 2016

Presentation

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 in hundreds of talks, workshops, panels, round-tables, etc.  I know we are not short of official presentation guidelines and blog posts providing tips for presenters. However, I hope these suggestions from a knowingly picky person may add to what is already available or remind people of what they already know.

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The native versus non-native teacher dichotomy – Challenging Mental Models

1 05 2016

I saw a post recently on Facebook advertising a position for a native speaking teacher in a Brazilian language program. The post appeared on the page of a closed group for English teachers in Brazil. The reaction to the post was immediate. People wanted to know why the program was only hiring native speakers and questioned this practice. The person in search of this native teacher justified the restriction saying that it was for advanced groups, that the program already had non-native teachers, and that this specific job ad was to fill the slots for native teachers. Soon after, a group participant joined the discussion defending the practice of hiring a native teacher because, after all, given the same experience and qualifications, of course a native teacher is better than a non-native one. Needless to say, a long discussion ensued, with many people reacting against the job ad. I requested that the Facebook group administrators adopt the practice of many teacher associations, such as TESOL, which will not post ads for jobs that are exclusive to native teachers. And so they did.

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Punishing with grades – are you ready to rethink your grading system?

16 04 2016

grades

I have recently read two posts about grading that touch upon a topic that has long been boggling my mind – the use of grades as punishment and the overall fairness of grading systems. I would like to invite you to check out Monte Syrie’s explanation of why he doesn’t give zeros anymore, or grades below 50% for that matter, and why. Likewise, Andrew Miller explains how grades can harm student learning and how he has refrained from giving zeroes, taking points off for late work, grading practice exercises or homework, and allowing grading to become more important than teaching. Both authors contend that when we give students a zero or take points off for late work, their grade ends up not reflecting how much they have truly learned. An outsider who looks at a student’s grade might be misled into thinking that the student hasn’t mastered the content, when in fact what might have happened is simply that the student got a zero that was averaged out with the other grades, resulting in an unrealistically low average.

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