A look back at 2018

Hey, there!

2018 was intense, don’t you think? If you live in Brazil, you know what I mean.
Besides politics, I feel that I’ve never worked so hard as I did in 2018. There were so many things going on that it kept me from dedicating more time to my blog. Considering this, I think this year deserves a retrospective. Although it’s a bit late, I feel that it’s still valuable! 😉

I see retrospectives as a good way to reflect upon everything that had happened in the past year. You may think it only makes sense for the person who is writing it, but I particularly enjoy reading people’s retrospectives to see what they have learned, what they have accomplished, and their expectations for the next 365 days. I think it’s a good way to get inspired and stay motivated to make your own plans for the year that is ahead.

To me, 2018 was a year of “first-times”. The first time I got a “no” for a job position that I was really enthusiastic about. The first time I won a competition (and a very special one!). The first time I went abroad. The first time I presented a talk. The first time I attended a BrELT event. The first time I worked as a minder in a BrazTesol event. The first time I felt I belonged. The first time I got an article published in English. The first time I traveled all by myself (and also the first time that I faced countless problems with an airline!). The first time I went up on stage and sang with a band. The first time I was invited to contribute on a coursebook. The first time I dubbed a character for a pedagogical material (and it was fun!!). The first time I went on a studio to shoot a video. The first time I created a blog related to ELT. Whoa!

2018 showed me that I am brave. 2018 showed me that all the effort and dedication we put on something will eventually pay off. It was a terrifying but very special year indeed. Here are some highlights from events and special moments in 2018:

And here are the articles that I wrote that were published in 2018:

I also contributed to a video organized by CUP: Porque eu escolho ser professor

I feel grateful for all the opportunities that came up in 2018, which led me to new experiences and to meet wonderful people. I know I did my best… and that’s why it really made me happy!

In 2019, I expect to continue working hard and to finish my dissertation (I hope I can include this one in the next retrospective!). And of course, to be able to post here more often 🙂

In 2019… Be kind. Stay positive. Do your best.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Any suggestions on how to stick to them?

Mariana

 

What does a Better Learning Experience mean?

In May 2018 I received a call from Cambridge University Press Brazil announcing that I was the winner of the contest “Move ELT Forward with your Teaching Tip”. It was a mix of feelings: happiness, gratitude, and anxiety, as I knew that from that moment on I would live an awesome experience, although I was not sure about what to expect exactly.

I was invited to attend the Better Learning Experience, a conference that is organized by Cambridge University Press which aims to reunite professionals to bring insights, content, and inspiration, as well as to support teachers, helping them build better results inside and outside of the classroom. In this post, I will tell you a little about the event and how it impacted my views on ELT on a professional and personal level.

The conference took place at Churchill College, in Cambridge, from June 24th to June 27th, and during these three days we could attend talks, poster sessions, and join a forum session. Collaborative practices, emotional learning, digital literacies, life competencies, the development of speaking and reading skills, virtual reality were some of the topics discussed by the speakers.

You can watch some of the talks in this playlist. Check it out:

To start, I believe the name of the event is thought-provoking as it sums up what most teachers want for their students. I know it may sound obvious – we all want to provide an enjoyable learning experience for them, don’t we? Although we know exactly what we want, there isn’t a single path to follow in order to achieve this.

And this is what I like the most about teaching. Like Paul Diver says, “It’s very hard to become bored with teaching. The more you learn about how we learn, the more you become aware of how much more there is to know about teaching. It’s one of those professions that can never truly be mastered”. It means that teaching will always be an unending profession. In my opinion, it is not because the world is constantly changing, but the fact that there are infinite different ways to teach. You can find it frustrating or fun, it depends on how you deal with it. Lucky teachers are those who understand that we will never have all the answers, and still find fun in work by searching for them.

So, what was so special about this conference? Well-known professionals from about 24 countries attended the event! Being able to meet and learn more about their teaching context and experiences made me understand how much we have in common. Even though we were thousands of kilometers distant geographically speaking, we can still connect with our desire to learn and teach a language. In fact, we are more alike than we think. I found extremely interesting to have the opportunity to talk to professionals from different parts of the world and be able to take part in discussions with them. The opportunity to network is unique, and it was definitely one of the highlights of the event.

My experience there was extremely positive and it made a significant impact on my career. It is impossible to leave Cambridge not being inspired by its atmosphere and by all of the people who are fully engaged in learning. I couldn’t agree more with Alessandra Jastes: “Once you step in to a University like Cambridge, everything changes: the local energy is indescribable. Inspiration to learn more naturally emerges.

It was a remarkable opportunity to keep up-to-date with ELT researches, discussions, and resources. As I am a novice teacher and considerably new to the ELT world (I was called the baby of the group in the Teacher Development forum session! haha), this experience helped me reflect on what I have experienced so far as an English teacher and researcher, and make plans to continue developing my career as a professional.


I came home almost one month ago, and I am still processing everything that I have experienced at the conference. These last days made me think about what a better learning experience is, and how we can promote it. If you have read the post until here, I am sorry to disappoint you, but I do not have a powerful line and expert answer for the question that I arose in the title.

We must consider that each learner has a learning experience. Each teacher has a different teaching experience. Each learning happens in a specific place and time. It is an individual process at the same time that it involves different aspects that may be out of someone’s control. And my answer to this question may be totally different from yours, and from what you expect. Would be unfair to give you a bold, highlighted, well-planned answer for such a complex question.

I don’t believe education is a one-way hand. You must be a learner to understand how to provide a better learning experience. And that’s why we had such a great time there – we were in the learner’s shoes. When we are given the chance to exchange roles, we see things from a different perspective and understand that there is always something to learn or improve. And this is something that teachers often forget: to be learners.

We, as teachers, are constantly seeking fast and effective solutions, and we tend to believe that they are always related to technology, or to something unknown ready to be discovered (who doesn’t feel attracted to the word “new” or “tech”? Well, I do!). To me – and this is a very personal opinion – a better learning experience can be achieved in many ways by working side by side with students. It means hearing their voices, their needs, and designing resources to achieve this end (using the so-called technological devices or not). A better learning experience means working together – teachers with teachers, learners with learners, teachers and learners – and dedicating your time and effort to this cause.

If I had to choose three keywords, I would go with collaboration, effort, and creativity. These word choices will probably change over time, and I can’t wait to revisit this post after a while to see what has changed. For now, I would love to hear from you what a better learning experience means!

Mariana

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You can read the article that I wrote for World of Better Learning by clicking here.
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Special thanks (in alphabetical order) to all the CUP team and Brazilian delegates that I have met: Anamaria Lemos, Ana Tatsumi, Bárbara Carvalho, Cristina Chiochetti, Daniela Bonomi, Isabela Villas Boas, João Madureira, Leonardo Gluskoski, Luciana, Luiz Fernando Schinelbain, Manuela Suassuna, Marcelo Barros, Mauro Vieira, Rossella Beer, Vania Furtado, Vinicius Silva, Patrícia McKay! I really appreciate the opportunity and all the support before and during the trip. I must say that it was such an honor to be there, and I truly believe that opportunities like this one can encourage teachers to pursue improvements and to provide better experiences to English learners.

My impressions on Braz-Tesol’s Triângulo Mineiro Chapter (Launch Event)

First, let me tell you something: the first blog post is always awkward. We don’t know exactly who we are talking to, if there is, in fact, someone reading this post, and how things really work here. So, in order to break the ice, let me explain how this idea came up and what I am doing here:

I believe that there’s a moment in our careers when we think that we have something (even if it’s a simple thing) that deserves to be shared, or a genuine desire to show what we have been up to lately. You know, teaching can be lonely sometimes.

I spent the last months thinking whether I should create a blog: the pros and cons, the amount of time it would require to maintain and edit it…. and I faced the most common fear: the exposure. I realized that it doesn’t make any sense to be afraid of being exposed, as we are constantly exposing ourselves in the classroom. It was a silly fear, though. And here I am – I finally plucked up the courage to start a blog. Yay!

A few weeks ago we had the Triângulo Mineiro Chapter Launch Event from BRAZ-TESOL, and I would like to share with you my impressions on the event, and give you an overall of the BRAZ-TESOL community as well (if you are not familiar with it yet).

To start, you should know that BRAZ-TESOL was founded in 1986 and is Brazil’s largest association of teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Unfortunately, after almost 5 years working as an English teacher, I only came across the association last year. And I noticed that many other English teachers have never heard about it before. If it’s your case… this post is for you!

I must say that being part of this community opened my eyes to many things related to ELT. When I say that teaching can be lonely, I mean that depending on the context that you teach, you don’t have many opportunities to discuss your expectations, frustrations, and share lessons and ideas with other fellow teachers –  and that’s the advantage of joining an association like BRAZ-TESOL. Their slogan (the more we are, the stronger we become) makes total sense.

By joining the association, you can attend events, chats, and webinars, which are about interesting topics that you can certainly benefit from. You also have the opportunity to meet inspiring people all over Brazil.

The International Conference, for instance, happens every two years (check it out: http://braztesol.org.br/internationalconference/).

They have the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that, according to the website, “bring together individuals who share an area of common interest within English Language Teaching, such as pronunciation, translation, culture, teacher education, technology for language learning, and who are eager to exchange ideas, foster professional development, organize events and make things happen”.

And then you may be wondering what is a Regional Chapter. The chapters are groups that organize events on a regional basis. So, on May 26th we had the launch event of Triângulo Mineiro Chapter! It took place in Uberaba (UFTM), and it was, in fact, a really important event for us, mineiros. You may remember that we were in the middle of a nationwide strike, so you can imagine how surprising it was to see many teachers attending the event.

What I liked the most was the welcoming atmosphere and the inspiring talks and sessions that we had. The sad part is that you have to make difficult choices in selecting only one of the concurrent talks to attend. It is the kind of event that you leave the place wanting more, and still need some time to process all the information. I must say that the organization was impeccable (thank you, minders and organizers!).

I think that the duration of talks and plenary sessions are great. If you are used to attending academic events like I am, having a 40 or 50 minutes talk is a blast! Although it is a short time, it makes the event more dynamic.

These events bring teachers together and I believe this is something that our profession needs the most. I felt a sense of belonging that I don’t remember having for a long time.

It may sound cliché, but I can say for sure that associating with BRAZ-TESOL was one of the most important decisions that I’ve made in my career so far. So, I highly recommend it for those who are enthusiastic about ELT. You are not going to regret it!

And the next event is going to happen on October 20th in Uberlândia. Save the date!

For more info:
http://braztesol.org.br/
@braztesol
@braztesoltm

What about you? Have you ever attended a BRAZ-TESOL event?

Mariana