This last Saturday I attended the BRAZ-TESOL Goiânia/Brasília Joint Event. It was held at the school I work for, CCBEU-GO, in the lovely Jd. América neighborhood in Goiânia. It was a warm morning (as pretty much all the mornings here) and one could hardly see a single cloud in the sky. The event was wonderful and brought together many great ELT speakers and professionals with provoking talks and workshops based on this edition’s theme: Looking Back to Move Forward. Even though I’m just one person and really wished to attend multiple sessions at the same time, here’s what I can share with you.
Arrival and Opening
Registration started at 9 am. It was organized at CCBEU’s main hall in two different areas: the reception, and by the entrance of our library and MakerSpace. When I arrived at 9:20 am, there were a lot of people trying to find their way around the tables that were set up by the publishers to showcase their materials. Cambridge, Oxford, MacMillan, Pearson, Richmond were there along with my beloved National Geographic Learning, represented by my buddy, Érico Lobo. It was great to see so many teachers, especially the ones I hadn’t met in such a long time and, naturally, to network with amazing professionals.
After registering and drinking whatever amount of coffee we could get our hands on (mainly the folks who came on a charter bus from Brasília and had to wake up at 4, 4:30 am), we moved our way downstairs to the auditorium, bumped into old friends and colleagues and got acquainted with a few too. I met the funny Lorenza who asked if I could help her come down the stairs. You see, she’s 5 foot 8 (according to her own account) and was wearing high heels. I saw and talked to Paulo Granato who happens to be a very nice person and sat beside my buddy, Antônio Moraes, who was going to present two sessions. Edmilson Chagas, Márcia Lima, and Isabela Villas Boas opened the event. Isabela talked about Goiás’ and Brasília’s BRAZ-TESOL chapters history together, how they were once united and then grew too much which caused them to get a divorce (she did use the term “expanded”, though). I kept looking around to find familiar faces and realized it was a full house.
Valéria França’s Plenary
The incredible and experient Valéria França delighted us with her journey into her academic, professional, and personal self (or should I use “selves”?). I was quite surprised to realize she once wanted to be a dentist. It was only when she was in her late teens that she realized she should become a teacher because one of her own teachers said she had a way with children and organizing activities. The highlight of her talk to me was when she read a poem in an English book that described perfectly what classes were like many decades ago. Students had to copy the words from the board and learn how to spell them. Words completely unrelated to their realities such as SEPULCHRE and they didn’t even have to learn their meanings.
She went on and mentioned one of Jeremy Harmer’s The Practice of English Language Teaching essential skills to deliver a successful lesson: finding the right spot on the cassette. Her talk moved from class observation reflections to how teaching changed in the 80’s when Vygotsky’s theory came along and finally to her personal self represented by a very cute picture of her as a baby touching the feet of a statue of a child at some park in Finland, coincidentally, a country that has been making history in education. So has Valéria França, and I was privileged to watch her present for the second time.
My session about Ancient Greek Philosophy
In the midst of all that clapping when Valéria finished her great talk, I started running to make it in time for my session. Of course, I had tested and prepared everything before! But still… One can never be too careful. And to make matters worse, I had taped envelopes with texts under some desks and was afraid the glue wasn’t going to hold that long. Unfortunately, I was right, but I dare say none of my attendees noticed :).
I had a full classroom and couldn’t have been any happier. Isabela Villas Boas, Edmilson Chagas, and Juliana Maria were there! What an honor! Many other participants I had the pleasure to meet and enjoy their company were also present. My session began with a journey in the history of education and how Socrates knew what he was doing more than two millennia ago. If you’re interested in the topic, you can read the discussion in full in my previous blog post here. The best part was taking some photos with Mr. Trunk and showing the video I had put together with some pictures I got from wonderful teachers around the world and their answers to:
What’s Education For?
Lunch Break and Afternoon Sessions
Antônio and I were craving for a burger. We went to Goiânia Shopping Center where, in a unique situation or cosmic singularity (like a perfect storm), there were hundreds of high school students and English teachers eating in the same place. It took us a while to get our orders and find a place to sit. The universe, still playing with me, put me right beside one of my first students in Goiânia, Naly. She had just returned from a one-year exchange experience in Australia and shouted (in Portuguese) shocked:
“This guy used to be my teacher!”
I quickly changed the language to English (that’s what I do when I meet my students :)) and her friend thought it was really weird that we were talking in English in the food court. She really embraced the Aussie culture and talking to her reminded me of my dear friend Claire Venables.
We came back, looked for more coffee (there wasn’t any :() and talked to some more people. We found coffee, drank a cup and stopped shivering a little and went on to our elected sessions.
I decided to watch Lorenza’s (Lolla) session on how to make one-to-one classes more dynamic. It was definitely an informative session. Lolla’s funny remarks and charisma made that one hour even more productive. She showed us the kits she uses with her private students with markers, games, post-its and much more, the importance of changing seats even in 1:1 classes, and how she drills sentences and vocabulary by looking in the eye of her students and looking away to make them more confident. Her most precious tip was to negotiate with students and allow them time to do the activities, not being afraid of a little “comfortable” silence in the class. You can follow Lolla on Instagram @winner_idiomas to get her precious tips.
My last session was with Helena Galvão and Paola Hanna on brain-friendly activities to promote learning. Did anyone mention “brain”? Well, you probably know that’s what gets me up in the morning (to be honest, I don’t think anyone would get up if it weren’t for the brain). The two presenters asked us to write the parts of our brains in a transparency and the processes controlled by each part. I was able to locate the parts and learned a lot about some processes. Then they shared with us how they let their students make their own games, slips of paper and dictation activities instead of preparing everything for them. Being actively engaged in the learning process and a part of its construction is probably the best tool we can use to help our learners learn more effectively. At the end, they shared some games and asked us what we can do with them in class. If you love neuroscience like I do, here are some of my blog posts about this topic.
FUN FACT: Lolla recorded a short video on her Instagram shocked because I took a stuffed elephant out of my bag. She didn’t know who Mr. Trunk was :(. Now she does 🙂
Vinnie Nobre’s Plenary
Vinnie Nobre has been an inspiration to me for at least 8 years. I’ll never forget watching one of his talks when I worked at Cultura Inglesa Santo Amaro. I had high expectations when he was announced as one of the plenary speakers in Goiânia. And he didn’t let me down, or any of us, to be honest.
Vinnie delivered a thought-provoking presentation inviting us to analyze how much innovation there actually is in ELT, and education. He carefully selected quotes from business gurus and innovation tycoons and compared their definitions to what the British Council had elected as the 10 innovations that had changed our profession. Every slide was a punch to our guts, because a slap to our faces would have meant looking away for a few seconds, which, quite frankly, no one was doing. I mean that in a good way, naturally. Vinnie showed us that what many schools, managers, directors, and teachers regard as innovation in the classroom (and out of it) are merely enhanced forms of doing the same that has been done in more than a century. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us, Vinnie. Vinnie has a YouTube channel and has recently founded an educational startup named Troika.
Antônio, Mr. Trunk and I took a selfie with him!
And that’s it. Another amazing event with wonderful professionals, inspirational sessions, and some beer. No, not during the event, silly. (although that does sound like a good idea) There was a Happy Hour after we wrapped up. A great line-up of drinkers and ELT professionals.