Braz-Tesol SIG Symposium – Day 2

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Natália Guerreiro inspired me (and Mr. Trunk, obviously) during her incredibly well-delivered plenary on CPD

The second day of Braz-Tesol SIG Symposium was phenomenal. It started with the interesting plenary of Marcelo Barros about school management. Marcelo is in the Leadership and Management (LAM) SIG and he talked about our economic system, how it affects the market, the fact that China is what resembles the most what we have, except for one major detail: China accepts only Native English-Speaking Teachers (NESTs). He also laid out the 4 pillars of management:

-Learning to know

-Learning to do

-Learning to live together

-Learning to be

Next, I attended my dear friend Claire Venables’ amazing session on Reflection, Empowerment, and Action. In her session, we were forced (good sense here) to look back and think of the best professional decision we made in the past six months so that we could identify how we’re moving forward toward our goal. She made us write down (this was the brain dump bit) some of the experiences and achievements we would like to have by the end of this year. Her great presentation enlightened me and gave me the clarity I need to focus on my mission. Her mission is to CREATE, CONTRIBUTE, CONNECT and I’m amazed at how much she has accomplished already. It was only because of this session that I was able to write down my mission for the first time: SHARE, INSPIRE, CHANGE. Thank you so much, Claire! Your tip on how to mind mind traps and mindsets has set me on a course of accomplishing even more great things.

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My next experience was simply fantastic! I had the privilege of watching Natália Guerreiro’s first plenary. She’s with the Teacher Development (TD) SIG. The funny thing is that I’ve always wanted to meet Natália in person and that when she saw me the day before, she shouted: “That’s André Hedlund!” I had a blast! Then we met during the coffee break and when I asked her how she was doing, she replied: “I got the flu and I’m nervous because of my presentation”. Well, Natália, if I had known how awesome your presentation would be, I would’ve told you not to be nervous at all. I confess it’s been a while since I’ve attended such a fun, well-thought, well-delivered, thought-provoking session. The only experience I can use to compare is when I left the movie theater after watching La La Land with my wife (I hope Natália doesn’t hate La La Land, LOL). I felt lighter and inspired. She talked about Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and I’m pretty sure I can say this on behalf of all the attendees: YOU ROCKED, Natália! She talked about the feelings teachers have toward CPD, especially fear of exposure, and how CPD can be found in the smallest things, such as Class Observation. She mentioned Hattie and Freire and the paradox of being in education and not wanting to learn or keep learning, the distance teachers think there is between theory and practice, Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset and more. My greatest insight was realizing the difference between TRAINING and DEVELOPMENT. Development is personal and, naturally, comes from a personal decision. Her geek side categorized everything she talked about in a very fun, and The Big Bang Theory-fan, way:

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I also enjoyed reading Henry Ford’s quote:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

After many laughs (I actually had tears in my eyes when she talked about the carrots, “entendedores entenderão”) and an incredible response from the audience, she wrapped up with Dr. Twerski’s lobster anecdote about discomfort and progress:

Thank you, Natália! Never stop presenting!
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Following Natália’s great plenary, I attended another mindblowing session by Alberto Costa. He showed us how to go beyond the 21st-Century Skills four Cs and, with a very intelligent analogy with marbles, he made us realize that we’ve been Communicating, Creating, Collaborating and Critically Thinking for a long time, not just in the new millennium. He moved his way through the three industrial/technological revolutions and showed us the incredible 4.0 revolution with cloud computing, big data, augmented reality, among others. He also mentioned how important it was for teachers to become digital literates (check Cambridge’s The Digital Teacher website here) and he recommended a great article by The Economist you can find here.  Another wonderful suggestion was the pioneering book Multiliteracies by Cope & Kalantzis. I can’t wait to start reading it. He showed us the three foundational skills: creativity, problem-solving, and empathy. My takeaway can be summarized in his quote:

“Teachers will be more like project managers than teachers.”

I felt really honored to be mentioned because of my Braz-Tesol Newsletter article and lovely project with my Iraqi friend Afrah.

Thank you, Alberto! Too bad we didn’t get to eat the kebabs we ordered in the evening. But the pizza was amazing!

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Then I went to Karin Galvão’s amazing Let’s Get Critical about Critical Thinking session. She was upfront and told us right away that she is annoying and that when she was in high school the principal called her parents because she “asked too many questions”. LOL. I loved the way she made us think critically by asking questions. The highlights for me were the fact that we had to come up with our own answers and question assumptions, and also discuss questions such as: “Is a paper dictionary better than an electronic one?” or “Is it fair that a CEO earns 20 times more than an employee?”. She really made us think about being critical thinkers and how to deal with critical thinkers. I, for one, fit all the items on her list about critical thinkers! I suppose she was right when she showed us Lichtenberg’s quote:

“Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinion at all.”

Thinking critically is not easy but it is certainly a must!

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The last plenary was given by the incredible Cecília Nobre, to whom I owe so much since she was the one who inspired me to start blogging. She is part of the Voices SIG, a group of wonderful women who discuss gender issues and empower women’s voices in the ELT community. That was the topic of her talk: gender issues in the classroom and how to tackle them. I would like to acknowledge Cecília’s courage to talk about such an essential topic before 250+ people. It took a lot of guts to be standing there and raise the questions she did. She started by showing us a bit of her life as a child and the fact that she was bullied and did not feel comfortable in the pictures she brought to us. Then she shared with us the results of a survey she did on social media about the issue and, to my surprise, the number one reason why teachers are reluctant to address those issues in the classroom is that they feel students don’t have much to talk about when questioned about them. We discussed with peers and came to the realization that the underlying problem is how uncomfortable they feel when discussing such things. She gave us tips and showed as the humorous video the amazing Ellen Degeneres made, which you can find here. Nonetheless, and that’s definitely the takeaway I want to share with you, gender issues are not to be treated lightly and most certainly need to be addressed in the classroom.

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Thank you, Cecília! Your talk inspired me and other attendees to keep on fighting for equal rights and to bring our students together to fight the cause.

You probably envy me, right now, don’t you? Yes, what can I say! It was one of the best events I attended and every single session made me a better professional, eager to make a change through my practice. My suggestion: attend one of these conferences wherever you are and share with the ELT community because it is true that:

The more we are, the stronger we become!

If you want to share your experience here, feel free.

PS: I felt incredibly special and fullfilled when many of the great professionals I admire came to me to say they have subscribed to my blog or simply accessed it. You guys make me want to do more! Thank you!

Braz-Tesol SIG Symposium – Together we are stronger

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With my eyes wide open to absorb everything in this wonderful event in São Paulo

Two days of learning and connecting with fantastic people. That’s what the Special Interest Group (SIG) Symposium is all about. At the beautiful Instituto Singularidades venue, in the vibrant neighborhood Pinheiros, this event has brought together great names of the ELT world to share their knowledge within each of the 10 Braz-Tesol SIGs. So, this entry is my modest attempt to capture this precious moment by sharing some of the takeaways from the sessions I attended.

The opening plenary was given by Rita Ladeia and Selma Moura in the bilingualism SIG. They talked about the curriculum in bilingual education and a quote that stuck with me was:

Curriculum is not just what’s  written in the book, but everything that happens in the class

They also mentioned that there are 75 sovereign territories where English is an official language and that we, English teachers, are teaching an instrument of power. I learned the terms Metalinguistic Awareness (a child’s incredible capability of mixing two or more languages to communicate), and Garcia’s Translanguaging (the influence L1 and L2 have on each other, increasing literacy in both). When they talked about cognition and how the linguistic codes are not isolated in different areas in our brains, I remembered all of the studies I’ve been reading about neuroscience.

They wrapped up with policies for bilingual schools and the sentence:

Considering language a TOOL, not a GOAL

Next, I went to Sylvia de Moraes’ session on how children benefit from early learning. Her talk involved a lot of concepts of neuroscience and some studies showing that early exposure increases mental development, reasoning and memorization skills, self-esteem, as well as mathematical and logical skills. She mentioned that 10-12 years of age is a period known as critical age, as it becomes more difficult for children to learn after that window once they are entering puberty. The most interesting fact to me was to see a brain scan of a child and another of an adult learner. The child’s brain showed a larger and intertwined area when stimulated to speak two different languages. The adult’s brain had more defined and separated areas.

The second session of the morning for me was Paulo Torres’ take on bilingual education. He answered a lot of questions I had about the subject and even tapped into the field I love so much: neuroscience! He talked about the importance Donna Fields (EduCluster Finland) places on emotion how it is key to learning effectively. The best part was when he showed us a new list of essential 21st-century skills with not 4, but 13 items! Want to know more about it? Click here.

After lunch, we attended the inspiring plenary given by Ana Maria Menezes in the EduTech SIG. She showed us how to use technology to foster collaboration and encourage students to take chances in writing. I was moved by the samples she brought of her students’ letters and how they were able to work together using a concept map-making app called Popplet  in such an innovative way. The feedback she got from her students highlighted words such as empowerment, opportunity, collaboration. Not only were they able to accomplish more, but they were also introduced to a new tool that is now being used in seminars by the very same students. She ended the session with the great quote:

I can be more of a teacher by being less of teacher

The next session was Jacques Freitas’ and it was about international programs. Jacques represents Education First (EF) and he talked about opportunities for educators. He stressed the fact that Brazil is not doing well in the English department, having less than 1.8% of its population speaking English at an intermediate or high-intermediate level. He also explained how they assess students going on international programs. My takeaway was that having any international experience and being proactive are the two aspects that matter the most. You can find more information about EF here.

Then, the most expected moment arrived for me. I finally met the wonderful Mirela Ramacciotti whose work on the brand new Mind, Brain & Education (MBE) science promises to revolutionize education. Mirela delivered a fun and mindblowing talk on how neuroscience, psychology, and education have been brought together to form what is known as neuroeducation. She debunked some neuromyths and left participants longing for more. It was a special session because it was also the launch of the new MBE SIG in which I take part. We met the team and started sharing ideas. Brace yourselves! Great things are coming! If you want to check out some of the entries I have about this topic, click here, here, and here.IMG_20170708_181120_283

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Last but not least, the incredibly funny and inspiring John Corbett delivered the last plenary of the day about the Intercultural Language Education (ILE) SIG. He talked about cultural differences in the classroom and the topics we were (are?) often told to avoid: politics, religion, and sex. His brilliant session showed how things can be completely different from one country to another and, to illustrate, he showed the political campaign of Covas and Maluf in the 90’s. It was enlightening! It emphasized the fact that we can definitely use materials in L1 to develop critical thinking in L2. The way he interpreted the billboards was quite impressive because he used the photos, the colors, the appearance, and, of course, the text to analyze the message they meant to send. Truly inspiring!

And, obviously, look who came with me below. My travel buddy is always around!
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To sum up I will only say that being here in this event with these wonderful speakers who took the time to study, prepare and present the results of their efforts is a unique opportunity that has opened my eyes and given me more motivation to keep pursuing my mission of sharing, inspiring and changing the context of education in this country. I truly believe that TOGETHER we are STRONGER.

If you are attending the symposium, you are welcome to share your takeaways here!