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Thoughts and Reflections on ELT in Brazil
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How and why I started teaching: A short story

How and why I started teaching: A short story | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

I'd just returned from a gap year in the US and I'd have to wait for another 6 months to start college so I decided to take up a teaching job at a language institute near my home in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There, I was given a book and a 1-day training session to teach adult students. My father drove me to the school for my first class and I clearly recall his words: "Tell your students what you're going to do in your class; give them an outline of the activities and the expected outcome." My father was an experienced sales manager and he knew all about motivation and leadership. I always knew I wanted to become a teacher; my favorite childhood toy was a chalkboard and my imaginary students, so taking up a teaching position was only natural. 4 1/2 years later I got a B.A. in linguistics from college and I've been teaching English as a foreign language since then.

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Priscila Mateini's comment, July 26, 2013 5:24 PM
so touching and a beautiful story Teresa!!
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Teresa Carvalho

Teresa Carvalho | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
I have been a teacher for over 25 years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My passions include teaching, tennis, art, spending time with my family, and traveling. I have taught people from all walks of lif...
Teresa Carvalho's insight:

Here's my reply to a fellow teacher who commented on my blog post: Why I still believe in Learning Styles despite what researchers say.

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Wishing You All a Great, Brand-New Year

Love comes in many shapes and sizes be it motherly love, brotherly love, love between a man and a woman, or love for what we do. The time has come for us to reflect on the little and great things that have kept us moving on and why it is that against all odds we still hope. This is about the changes that love produces in us and how they impact us, the world, and those around us. When we look upon the world, all we see is nothing but love, for only a mighty, powerful force could have molded such perfection and such beauty as nature and man. Don't ever doubt that love will always prevail whether you believe that love is an evolutionary trait for the survival of our species, a primary force generated by the big bang, or a force that comes from God. We can't weigh love, we can't touch it, and yet, its force builds up majestic gardens, unshaken hope, and comfort which we treasure and keep with all our might.

 

2014-2015 is also about change for many of us. It is about our will to hold on opposed to the need to let go. It's about life getting in the way and fueling an everlasting cycle which we all must go through no matter how arduous it may be. To some of us, it is about heaving a sigh of relief and never turning back even if it means having to break down doors to find shelter.

 

To some of us, however, it's that quiet, poignant moment when we turn around to take one last look at those beloved things that we are leaving behind. It's all about wanting to turn back time to relive precious moments filled with laughter and joy, and ultimately, it's all about wanting to hold on to the good things that once were there for us. Painful though it may be, there is always love "inviting us to come closer, wanting to show us more. And even if you lose yourself and don't know what to do, the memory of love will see you through" and perhaps there's a promising future waiting for you. 
Just "go and open the door. 
Maybe outside there's
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.
Maybe a dog's rummaging.
Maybe you'll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture,
Go and open the door,
If there's a fog
It will clear.
Go and open the door.
Even if there's only
the darkness ticking,
even if there's only
the hollow wind,
even if
nothing is there,
go and open the door.
At least 
there'll be
a draught."
(Miroslav Holub)

 

Last but not least, I'd like to leave you with this song, which speaks of the many sides of love throughout our lives. I wish us all a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year filled with hope and promise. May 2015 bring us prosperity, health, and above all, much love.

 

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From Teacher back to Learner | Richmond Share

From Teacher back to Learner | Richmond Share | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
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In this post I talk about some of the strategies I used to learn English and how important it is to share our stories with our students.

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Teresa Carvalho | Richmond Share

Teresa Carvalho | Richmond Share | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

My latest Richmondshare blog post inspired by James Taylor's Equity campaign. In my blog post I recall my early career experiences in Brazil. More stories will follow.

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Welcome to my IATEFL talk

Welcome to my IATEFL talk | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
What does it mean to be a role model for teenage students? Teenagers are leaving childhood behind and they're beginning to see themselves as individuals with their own tastes, preferences, weakness...
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How do you focus on your students' learning?

How do you focus on your students' learning? | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

Lately, it's become mainstream to state that we should focus on students' learning. By saying that we account for the obvious expected outcome of a teaching / learning environment - students' learn... Do you agree or disagree? What are your views?

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Books that inspire my teaching

Books that inspire my teaching | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
My dear friend and iTDi colleague, Ratnavathy Ragunathan, asked me to share a list of "must-read" books about ELT or teaching in general: books that have inspired me as a teacher. Well, she inspire...
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Can I learn English in 18 months? - Luiz Otávio's Think ELT Page

Can I learn English in 18 months? - Luiz Otávio's Think ELT Page | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
I need to learn English fast. How long does it take to learn English? The answer is far more complicated than meets the eye.

 

Luiz Otavio Barros` blog post is an eye-opener for students and teachers alike. And here`s my contribution to the discussion thread. (You should read the entire thread for some very good comments.

 

I’ve been teaching for 25 years now and every bit of what you say is absolutely true. I can almost hear my students saying those things. There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to learning a foreign language, which is the false assumption that English is just a school subject that many adults failed to learn in school. There are other myths Brazilian learners should get rid of if they really want to set realistic goals:

 

1) English is easier than Portuguese because the verb system is simpler. (fact: It sounds and looks easier because it’s ‘embedded’ in our culture through movies, music, and ads. Some words and sounds are familiar because they’re present in everyday life). Students get frustrated when they need to handle the workload and realize that English verbs are not that simple;

 

2) “Why do homework if I practice in class?” (fact: It takes practice, practice, and more practice to learn a language and get used to its system; we’re not in an English-speaking country where we can practice with people outside the classroom);

 

3) I can learn English in 18 months. (fact: What language institutes sell is fast-paced learning, satisfaction, comfort, and success — all wrapped in a gift box whereas what students actually pay for is homework, effort, commitment, and loads of frustration before they can finally take their beautifully packaged product home and ‘show it off’ to their peers, bosses, and friends.

 

4) Finally, blame it on our economy: Despite all the benefits Brazilian employees get (minimum wages, paid vacations, food vouchers, etc.), we work long hours, put up with bad transportation, and live in crowded cities, where housing and tax are exorbitantly high. Low-income and middle-class Brazilians are forced to constantly struggle to keep our jobs and that means making choices to make ends meet.

 

And yes, limited L1 literacy does affect one’s progress. I’ve seen this more often than not. However, despite all that, I’ve seen many learners beat the odds and become fluent speakers of English in a short space of time thanks to their perseverance and commitment. English is a lifelong commitment and as a teacher I feel that I still need to practice and study hard to be able to help my students. I try to set a good example every time I tell them that I still study hard and strive to improve my English. One thing teachers can do is help students challenge these beliefs and prepare them to become lifelong learners.

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They Think They Know Everything: 6 Strategies to Get Advanced ESL/EFL Students to Practice with You

They Think They Know Everything: 6 Strategies to Get Advanced ESL/EFL Students to Practice with You | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
Advanced students have practiced English for years probably, and, as a result, they often view themselves as experts. Also, they have enough language in their toolkit that they circumvent En
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The Simple Things I Do To Promote Brain-Based Learning In My Classroom

The Simple Things I Do To Promote Brain-Based Learning In My Classroom | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
You don't have to be a neuroscientist to promote brain-based learning in your classroom. In fact, it's really quite simple.
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A praga da leitura obrigatória

A praga da leitura obrigatória | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
Na escola, nos jornais ou na internet, não faltam pessoas para dizer o que devemos ler. Quer convencer alguém a abandonar um hábito prazeroso? Basta transformá-lo em obrigação. Nos esportes, é comum ver amadores talentosos abandonando seus sonhos ao deparar com a rotina árdua necessária para competir profissionalmente.
Via Sandra Valéria Barbosa, Luciana Viter
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An ELT Notebook: Using the L1 in the EFL Classroom

An ELT Notebook: Using the L1 in the EFL Classroom | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

Via Roselink
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From Mentoring to Nurturing — How to turn mentoring into an inspiring experience for teachers | Richmond Share

From Mentoring to Nurturing — How to turn mentoring into an inspiring experience for teachers | Richmond Share | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

Here are some tips for creating a positive learning environment for us teachers and mentors.

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Learning to Learn | Richmond Share

Learning to Learn | Richmond Share | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

Here's my say on Learning Styles and why I believe they exist.

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Teresa Carvalho | Richmond Share

Teresa Carvalho | Richmond Share | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
Teresa Carvalho's insight:

A collection of my Richmondshare blog posts.

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We need to talk about English | Richmond Share

We need to talk about English | Richmond Share | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
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Inenglish digital 08

May 2014 edition of the ELT magazine written (mainly) by English language teachers working in Lusophone countries
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IATEFL

IATEFL | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

I'm proud to be presenting at the IATEFL this year.  I'll be discussing what it takes to build  rapport with teenage students in my talk titled "From Being a Teacher to Being a Role Model." Conferences like this bring together like-minded ELT professionals from all over the world and allow us to exchange experiences, ideas, and practices.

 

I think every teacher should attend at least one conference in their lives to learn from others  and showcase their work. It's never too late to think about it. Check out the information available on the IATEFL homepage and take a quick look at this year's program. WARNING: This brochure may tempt you to register for the conference.

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What’s wrong with delayed feedback? | Richmond Share

What’s wrong with delayed feedback? | Richmond Share | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
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Jamie Keddie - Visual literacy in ELT | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC

Jamie Keddie - Visual literacy in ELT | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
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Luciana´s ocean: Princes all of them

Luciana´s ocean: Princes all of them | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it

Today my scoopit post is about mistakes. And here`s a magistral poem about mistakes by famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Luciana`s blog features a rare, free translation of the original poem if you can`t read Portuguese. 

 

As teachers we deal with mistakes on a daily basis, mainly the ones our students make. In the teachers` room students` errors and flaws are often the subject matter of conversations among teachers. Whenever a teacher overhears this kind of discussion they promptly come up with solutions and advice for the problem. 

 

First and foremost, I'd like to thank my colleague Nick Michelioudakis,  an active blogger and educator from Greece. Here`s Nick`s blog post, which inspired me to write this post myself.

 

http://www.hltmag.co.uk/oct13/sart01.htm

 

 I am now thinking about my own mistakes as a teacher, and as Nick said himself, not silly mistakes like forgetting to bring the handouts, but those big mistakes that can ruin an entire class --- or a whole semester. I`m thinking about mistakes that not many teachers would admit to making. I agree with Nick. No one likes to talk about their own flaws, their slips, and their stupidity. We don`t want to lose face/ we don`t want to make a fool of ourselves, and to think that this sometimes happens scares us and makes us question whether we`re cut for the job. 

 

In her book `Classroom Dynamics,` Jill Hadfield discusses the problems she`s encountered along her career as a teacher and she admits that sometimes teachers fail to cope with challenging groups.  She goes on to say that she  has caught herself in that situation quite a few times. Reading that felt like a heavy burden had been lifted off my shoulders. We can`t always save the day. Jill Hadfield is my hero precisely because she`s not a hero. She`s a teacher and teacher trainer who probably does her best just like you and me.

 

I`ve been on the road too long to remember the countless mistakes I`ve made along the way. However, one thing I know for sure. Many of the mistakes I made --- and I still keep making them, are for fear of losing face in front of my students, my students` parents, my directors of studies, my colleagues, ourselves. It is sometimes our very own beliefs that prevent us from embracing the very changes that could  push us forward. Ground rules are not meant to be bent or broken, but when it comes to people, sometimes it`s necessary to subvert them to ensure a learning atmosphere and lower students` anxiety. Here are some  ground rules I have relaxed this semester.

 

a) Not chewing gum in class --- To tell the truth students are not allowed to chew gum in class. During nearly seven years I raged a war against this habit among my teenage students. Every suspect was inspected and observed. If they were found guilty, the offender was asked to spit it out in front of their classmates, who mocked the poor sould relentlessly as they walked towards the bin. Ten seconds easily turned into two endless minutes.

 

A heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders when I realized this was not even my own rule. It was an institutional rule that made no sense. Teenage students are often anxious and restless especially after a busy school period. Although it may cause tooth decay, it`s said to boost mental power and reduce stress and tension. These are exactly the things we need in our classroom! If my institution disapproves of that then they`d better forbid students from bring ing them into the school. I can`t confiscate or search their belongings, so there isn`t much I can do when a student sneaks out candy or gum out of their bakcpack. Besides, it doesn`t prevent them from speaking a foreign language and unless we`re doing a very speciic pronunciation task, I allow them to chew gum.

 

b) Not using their cell phones in class--- My students are middle and upper-middle class children, so they do have smartphones with internet access. I have already wasted much of my time fighting this. Surveillance times are over. I have already called up parents, held students after class, and scolded them in front of their peers. I have gotten mad at them for disobeying me and challenging my authority. Last semester I lost my temper more often than not when I spotted students repeatedly texting in my class. I interrupted my class to lecture them  about how miserable I felt every time they pressed a key on whatsupp keyboard. I threatened to send them out of class if they were caught doing it again only to find out that some of them were using their cellphones with that very intent. And I saw the look in my students` eyes. I sensed their contempt towards my attitude. And this infuriated me more. Today, cell phones are great allies for me and as long as they don`t disrupt my class, students can use them between tasks. They work just like chewing gum. I have already embraced this change, but there`s still room for improvement,  so here`s my goal for next semester. 

 

For fear of losing face in front of my students, I ended up losing face. 

 

Relaxing these two ground rules has prevented me from being thrown off balance and has improved my rapport with my students. They`re silly rules compared with the enormous challenges we face in the classroom.

 

My biggest mistake is that I don`t always listen to my students. I need to listen to my students more. I don`t listen to them. I pledge to listen to my students every semester. because it`s my biggest flaw.  If I listened to my  students more I would avoid making such mistakes. But then I wouldn`t help making other mistakes, would I?

 

Last but not least, I`d like to leave you with a quote by Virginia Woolf.

 

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”

 

I bid you a good day.

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» IATEFL talk: Language-focused teacher development Centre for English Learning and Teaching

» IATEFL talk: Language-focused teacher development Centre for English Learning and Teaching | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
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Your Brain on Books: 10 Things That Happen to Our Minds When We Read

Your Brain on Books: 10 Things That Happen to Our Minds When We Read | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
“ Click above to view full image! Any book lover can tell you: diving into a great novel is an immersive experience that can make your brain come alive with imagery and emotions and even turn on your senses.”
Via Anu Ojaranta, Karen Bonanno, Patricia LeClair, KB...Konnected, R.Conrath, Ed.D., Maria Lopez Alvarado, MBA, Dean J. Fusto, Tom Perran, Luciana Viter
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Why We're More Creative When We’re Tired, And 9 Other Surprising Things About How Brains Work

Why We're More Creative When We’re Tired, And 9 Other Surprising Things About How Brains Work | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
“ You may be hardwired as an introvert or an extrovert. But don't worry there are ways to change how our brains work.”
Via Ana Cristina Pratas, FEED THE TEACHER
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English Teaching in Brazil: My story -Part 1

English Teaching in Brazil: My story -Part 1 | ELT Challenges | Scoop.it
I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to get started. First of all, writing is indeed a time consuming activity and needless to say I have very little of this precious asset. But anyway, what's it like to teach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil? The picture above shows my school back in the 80s when I was a teenager. I was already fluent in English by the time I was 16 and yet little did I know that I would be a teacher in my adulthood. Most kids my age would rather go to their ballet classes than to an English class. Although we already had plenty of English language schools to choose from, they were far too expensive for most people to afford. However, my dad had high expectations for us, so he enrolled us in an English language school when I was 9 and my sister was barely 11 years old. Since then, English has been part of my everyday life. When I started teaching very few people could afford to travel abroad. So the classroom became one of the few places where learners could practice English. Foreign magazines and newspapers were ridiculously expensive and hard to find. American TV shows and movies were dubbed. There was no internet, so many people took an interest in American and British music. I met a lot of teachers who had learned English throught the Beatles and the Carpenters. Most classes I taught were in-company courses. Business English courses. The good thing was that companies still sponsored their staff's foreign language classes. And the materials as well. The economic situation in Brazil was awful. We had to charge our students in dollars because the inflation ate up our money every night. We never knew for sure how much something was going to cost on the next day. We were afraid of keeping our money in the bank so we bought dollars and literally kept them under our mattresses just in case. And the funny thing was that we simply got used to it. My students would pay in dollars. Cash. Eventually the government came up with a plan and implemented a'unit' system. We had weird symbols on price tags: sixteen units, seventy-five units. All we had to do was check how much a unit was worth on that day. All businesses kept a table of the daily exchange rates for the units. Well, that at least gave us some hope. For a while. I didn't know how to teach but my students liked my classes and they really meant it. I guess I was more fun then. I was young at heart and had no idea of what I was doing but we did laugh a lot. We had a coursebook of course. I wasn't supposed to write anything on the board until my students knew the meaning and the sound of the expressions. We role-played silly dialogues and did a lot of chorus repetition. No tapes. No video lessons. Individual lessons were supposed to be conversation lessons. And there were no materials available for us teachers. Our meager resources worked miracles though. I used Newsweek magazine articles and dictionaries to teach. They bored me to death but they were the only source of real English I could afford. No, the school didn't provide us with the materials. Sometimes I was given a textbook to teach one-to-one classes. I was twenty and I thoughtI knew all about English grammar. Most of my colleagues were native speakers. They showed up for their in-company classes in flip-flops and bermudas. They had long hair and beads. Some Brazilian teachers lied about their nationalities because the students thought it was cool to have an American or British teacher. I never did that. I never had to lie about my background. And still, my students trusted me.
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