Daring and doing: the first decade

Professional development is a big deal for us here at the Casa. So much so that we hold our very own yearly seminars, which are attended not only by our local TEFL community but also by professionals coming from different cities and states in Brazil. It is an amazing opportunity to strengthen our “PD muscle” and connect with amazing professionals and individuals from all over the globe. The 2014 edition of the CTJ TEFL Seminar was no different, and yet, it had a special flavor of accomplishment to it, since this year we celebrated its 10th anniversary.

The day began with ESL professor Rob Jenkins‘ plenary on a topic which never gets old – motivation. Rob reminded us of the importance of successfully developing an atmosphere that fosters student confidence, and that we should always be deeply aware of the difference between teaching and learning. That teaching has to be regarded as a byproduct of learning, and that it is our role as teachers to be deeply aware that what may seem to be great, solid teaching may not necessarily result in learning, especially if we find ourselves teaching lessons in spite of the learners and their individual learning styles, cognitive abilities, and unique personalities.

Later on, I had the pleasure of engaging a group of ten fellow teachers and professionals in my Seminar presentation “On wearing two hats: Teaching and responding to writing”. I began my talk explaining how the idea for that session had come up. That it had actually sprung up from a training session I had delivered earlier this year, and from the connections and the contributions made by this group of pre-service teachers who were absolutely motivated to learn more about teaching effective writing lessons, as well as providing effective corrective feedback on students’ writings. I also mentioned the fact that I’d begun blogging earlier this year, sharing with them the one feature of blogging that I appreciate the most (other than the fact that I simply love writing), which is the possibility of connecting with others. It was a very productive session, thanks to the amazing contributions made by my colleagues throughout. We got to discuss extremely important concepts when it comes to teaching writing. The first one is how fostering a sense of audience in our students is critical in actually motivating them to write. The second, the awareness that our students are in a quest for finding their voice and that we teachers need to nurture that.

After a lovely lunch (some delicious feijoada) by the Paranoá lake with a dear friend, I had the pleasure of attending an ever so useful session called “Mobile devices in the EFL classroom: What’s App 101”, delivered/facilitated by fellow teachers Daniela Lyra, Leonardo Sampaio and Paola Barbieri Hanna. The session began with some very pertinent discussion on the topic of cell phone use in the classroom, and how we deal with excessive student texting during lessons, for example. We also had the chance of clarifying any doubts we had regarding the use and the functions of What’s App, followed by some discussion on sensible social media use policy in schools. Daniela Lyra took us through the SAMR model, explaining each of its stages with some practical classroom examples. The session progressed into a more hands-on stage, with each of the facilitators working separately with smaller groups, sharing some extremely engaging activities in which students use What’s App in so many effective ways for learning and practicing the language.

It was then time for the last plenary of the Seminar, a virtual plenary delivered by RELOBrazil EFL consultant Heather Benucci. The title of the plenary says it all: “Care and feeding required: Sustaining your personal learning network (PLN)”. Heather shared with us some smart strategies for building and sustaining a strong PLN, as well as the countless possibilities of achieving professional development goals with the support of a solid PLN. One particular aspect she discussed called my attention. The fact that, after a while, and after you have managed to build a good PLN, we need to beware of the echo chamber effect. We need to try and diversify our connections by finding professionals and individuals who may not have similar views as our own, and from whom we may actually learn new things and broaden our perspectives, stepping out of the comfort zone. Another highlight of her plenary was an amazing video by Derek Sivers. It reminded me of how I felt before I began blogging and building my beloved PLN.

So, I leave you with this bit:

Maybe what’s obvious to you is amazing to someone else.

Ponder that for a while.

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