BrELT on the Road in Rio – Part II

I just realized now, as I read my last post, that we had another plenary before lunch. I was going to edit my last entry, which you can find here, but since the wonderful Cecília Lemos spoke in the afternoon, not in the morning, it makes more sense to write about it here.

Cecília’s plenary had an intriguing title and promised to deliver more questions than answers. It was called “Teaching Understandings to Understand Teaching”. She started by saying that our profession has changed a lot in the last decades. Shen then invited us to define fluency. After receiving several definitions, all of which she said to be perfectly acceptable, she moved on to our reality, contrasting what Brazil does with Project Zero at Harvard. We are very much focused on content whereas they favor more the development of competencies, of skills.

 

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Cecília Lemos on Teaching Understandings

 

To illustrate what she meant, she offered two personal examples that resonated with me. The first had to do with her daughter’s grade on an English test. She got an 8! Cecília’s funny remarks implied that she was not pleased with her daughter’s grade, after all, her mother has been an English teacher, coordinator, and teacher educator for quite some time.  When her daughter explained that she had gotten wrong a question that asked her to analyze the function of can in a sentence, she started to understand what had happened. She thought to herself: What exactly do they mean? What kind of question is that? Would I be able to answer it satisfactorily? The second example came from her son. He arrived home one day and, after being asked about his day at school, he replied:

We are learning how to ask questions.

That sounded intriguing to her at first. Her 7,8-year-old son was learning how to ask questions in English. And to do so, he could select what he wanted to ask questions about. With his teacher’s guidance, he wanted to investigate the internet. Based on a problem they had at home, he wanted to understand why his Wifi router didn’t work properly in certain areas. He got quite interested and tested different types of material on the router to see if they would increase the signal. What he learned from that experience prompted him to change the position of the router and it actually made the signal stronger. Cecília said:

He will never forget that experience. Actually, I will never forget that experience.

Cecília Lemos

Her son’s school was working with flipped classroom, PBL, inquiry-based learning. They were building competencies. They were placing their focus on meaning, not form. They were stressing understanding, not content. The opposite of what happened in her daughter’s school.

My takeaway can be summarized in one of her last messages. We should shift our mindsets from planning with By the end of the lesson students will be able to use interrogative sentences to Students will understand how to ask questions. Now, if they will learn or not, that cannot truly be assessed after some time. In her own words:

I studied all those physics formulas, but can I remember them? So, did I learn?

Cecília Lemos

 

Júlio Vieitas amazing talk about teacherpreneurship
Julio Vieitas’ session almost escaped me. We had just come back from lunch and we were on our way upstairs to find the room. I think I was the last person who managed to get in after his minder shut the door. The event that captured that moment happened about 10 seconds later, while I was trying to fit in one of those desks (they were small and I’m big). A woman came rushing inside and somehow convinced the minder to let her in. As she entered, she said:

 

I came all the way from -whatever place she mentioned – just to see this guy!

Unknown attendee

That’s how popular Julio’s talk was. And with reason. Julio’s session’s title was “From teacher to Teacherpreneur: Sustainable strategies to become a successful private English teacher”. And he delivered more than I was in for. As he said himself:

If you offer more for the same price, that price becomes cheaper.

Júlio Vieitas

I couldn’t agree more, Júlio. You offered us an amazing opportunity to rethink how we go about our business. Júlio made his point by showing us that being a teacherpreneur is about sales and quality services. It is result-oriented, not product-oriented. When students are looking for a determined result, a result that we can offer, there’s a mind shift from paying a high cost to making an investment. That means that each course you offer is customized and tailored to meet that specific student’s needs. Think of this process when you have a prospective student:

Needs analysis

Problem study

Problem solutions

Proposal design

Presentation

Negotiation

Business deal

Júlio recommended Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “Start with Why”, which can be found here, and explained the idea of inbound marketing, that basically moves your potential students from the status of strangers to customers and eventually promoters. Every prospect should be a project and delivering a customized proposal can make all the difference. He suggested Canva to personalize your proposal and presentation. He also shed some light on pricing. If you are offering a personalized course, you need to offer a personalized price that takes into account CPD, a reserve fund, vacation, extra annual salary, marketing. He calls it strategic pricing. It is all about offering more value so that you can charge what you deserve based on what you can deliver. Other tips I can summarize with some of his quotes are:

Don’t offer everything at once. Leave some things for later.

Use endorsements from your students.

 

Make your client a fan.

Júlio Vieitas

My account of Júlio incredibly timely talk is just a mere reflection of all he has to offer. Every teacher should have the opportunity to follow Júlio’s work closely and change their mindset about their profession. Júlio, you delivered much more than what we came for and just like the lady who came all the way to see your talk, I’m glad I didn’t spend another minute downstairs. I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to enter the classroom as she did. Check out his website here.

After Júlio’s session another great talk. This time there were two incredible women presenting it: Cecília Nobre and Priscila Bordon. You know when you’re constantly bombarded by opportunities on social media but you’re not certain about which one to go for? Ever happened to you? Or when you look at the selection criteria for a scholarship and you feel like you have no chance? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. I have been trying to apply for scholarships and grants all over the world. I got a little down after not being selected multiple times. Cecília Nobre and Priscila Bordon’s session not only gave me hope, it also sent everyone attending a very important message: it’s not an easy road, but we must try. Both Cecília and Priscila tried and were not successful. They didn’t give up and are now “Living the Dream”, as they named their session, which means they’re both getting ready to set sail for foreign lands. Cecília is getting ready to go to the UK where she’ll study at the University of Warwick. She was awarded the Hornby scholarship. Priscila is going to the UK as well with the Chevening scholarship. Priscila had also won the Fulbright scholarship to spend 9 months teaching Portuguese in the United States. They gave so many tips and talked about so many wonderful opportunities, it’s wiser to take a look at their presentation here and check the tips and scholarships for yourself.

 

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Cecília and Priscila with precious tips on how to live the dream

 

My takeaway can be summarized with this great quote:

It always seems impossible until it’s done

Nelson Mandela

I won’t give up, ladies. Thanks for the extra tons of inspiration.

Valéria França’s closing plenary couldn’t have been more fitting. She discussed the future of ELT. She took us on a journey about how predictions are hard to make, faded to inaccuracy or failure. She showed us a picture of a watch in a book from the 70’s. This watch, besides telling the time, could be used in an emergency on a sinking ship by giving its location. It was spot on if we think of GPS nowadays, however, it had another interesting feature: synchronous vote. The owner of this futuristic wrist watch would be able to vote from a distance just by pressing its button. I’d say that one missed the mark. Still, it is interesting to speculate about the future.

 

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Valéria França on the future of ELT

 

It was quite amusing to note that the Interactive White Board (IWB), which promised to revolutionize how we taught, with endless features that would make our students interact more,  has, in fact, become a simple white board, in the words of no one less than Scott Thornbury. Valéria also mentioned his recent blog post “P is for Predictions” and took some of his remarks to the next step in her session. She mentioned the tension between global and local, Bilingual Education and Content and Language Integrated Language (CLIL), Distance Learning and Face-to-Face learning, automated translations and robots. As matter of fact, the word robots kept coming up during her talk. Robots will definitely be present in the future.

My takeaway is that, as Thornbury mentions in his article, any prediction we attempt may sound ludicrous in the future, but we can certainly base our predictions on trends and get very close to the reality we’ll face in our future. Perhaps even as close as that wrist watch got when it anticipated the invention of GPS and its presence in very small devices such as a cell phone or even a watch.

To make things short ( I don’t think that’s possible now, I’m far beyond short), BrELT on the Road was an incredible experience and an example that hard work, will power, and time devoted to an important cause, the development of teachers of English in Brazil, not only can, but does (and it has) pay off. Being able to share with those amazing professionals who were just names or profile photos to me not that long ago made me realize the power that collaboration and a sense of community can have.

BrELT, I will always be grateful and feel immensely privileged for having taken part in the very first face-to-face edition of this event. I just hope we keep learning and sharing online and that we can organize an annual event to bring all these beautiful people together again and again and again.

Mr. Trunk feels the same.

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