Showing posts with label tesol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tesol. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Positive Psychology applied to EFL



Here I am again to talk about Positive Psychology and its application to our classrooms.  In 2006, a little before I began my Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Brasília, I heard that I should think twice before assuming such a decision because a Doctorate was a long term commitment and that it involved a lot of suffering.  Also, some people would come to me with stories of doctorate students losing hair, putting on many kilos, or even falling into a state of depression. Nevertheless, I was determined to be a candidate and if accepted, to carry on with my goal.
It turned out to be that I was accepted and very soon, I began to feel guilty for not suffering at all. Actually, I cherished every single moment of my being at University, doing research, having contact and discussions with knowledgeable people, and learning, learning a lot. So if you ask me what my story has to do with Positive Psychology, I will tell you that it is the very essence of this area of Psychology. Learning cannot and should never ever be related to suffering. Learning is discovering, expanding, flourishing. Then let´s see how Positive Psychology may be applied to EFL teaching and learning. Below, I will suggest three exercises I have already carried out with success, and I invite you to try with your own classes.
Gratitude
Research shows that gratitude can be trained and increased. Interventions may result in a positive state of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy. So I got my teen students into a circle to discuss the idea of Thanksgiving. Not everyone actually knew how and when it had begun and what individuals did in such a celebration. After showing them a video from YouTube, I asked each one to write a short paragraph about a person who has had a positive impact on their lives and who they were thankful to. When they had finished, I asked volunteers to telephone the person they had written about and to read the exact words on the paper. That´s when the magic occurred. There was a lot of emotion and tears involved. One of the girls preferred to write about a peer who was present in class.  As she read her beautiful and revealing statement, the whole class was involved in a unique and memorable exercise.

What went well ? Living positive education.
General well-being—how much positive emotion, how much meaning in life our students have is fundamental for the generation of success. Learning to value must start early and can be practiced in any educational environment. Students should have opportunities to speak about themselves and to open their souls and hearts to others. It provides synergy among class members a sense of togetherness, engagement and happiness. Finally, teachers should bear in mind that academic success is not only a function of academic knowledge or cognitive processing. Success is a function of the connections to self, others, and the world that shapes our brain.

The magic ball-making compliments
Students should be standing in a circle. Then, the teacher should start and throw the ball at a student and make a genuine compliment at him/her. The students would carry on with the activity until everyone has had the chance to throw the ball and hear impressions and compliments. The activity involves emotional strength, when students recognize the relationships, and applaud personal accomplishment.


So dear teacher, remember that teaching in joyful and supportive ways is the best means to learning. Thus, I am here to invite you to try differently and practice the conditions that nurture strengths that enable students to self-regulate. I invite you to assure students can find their own meaning in learning and distinguish between achievement and accomplishment. Build your students capacity to flourish

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Positive Psychology


Last year I first heard of Positive Psychology during a course I attended at UnB, and believe me, it was love at first sight. Just like its founder, Prof Martin Seligman, I found my motto and what was missing in Psychology. But let me begin from the beginning and explain what Positive Psychology is and is not.

For over 50 years, Psychology has had a pathology- based view on human functioning, which has proved to be really valid. A wide range of mental illnesses have been described and categorized. Psychologists can now not only identify, but treat and even cure one or another mental problem.  And psychologists and other experts have been able to produce a compendium of disorders, now the DSM- V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). But it is about time to shift interests and to get away from repairing damage or healing only, to developing positive qualities. What about the positive aspects of human experience? What is right in human beings that promote well being?

Positive Psychology is a relatively new field of Psychology that examines how people can become happier and more fulfilled. It is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals to thrive. Human beings want to lead a meaningful life and enhance their experiences of love, work and play. Positive features that make life worth living, such as hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsibility, and perseverance have been ignored or explained as transformations of more authentic negative impulses. Then positive psychology has been trying to understand and build factors that allow individuals and communities to flourish.
However, it should not be understood as the science of happiness. Nor should it be mistaken with self-help philosophies. It is based on a cumulative body of scientific research. 

Also, positive psychology is not only about thinking positively. To think so is really naive. Part of the misinterpretation comes from the book titles on happiness. According to Dr. Seligman, “a complete science and a complete practice of psychology should include an understanding of suffering and happiness, as well as their interaction, and validated interventions that both relieve suffering and increase happiness— two separable endeavors (Seligman et al., 2005).”  

Then how can we apply it to EFL? It is well known that a positive school climate predicts both the teacher and student satisfaction. If the teacher invests in positive psychology, he/she will have students in class who have a positive outlook, try hard, and help others, present fewer negative behaviors and greater motivation. So positive psychology teaches social and emotional learning skills that change how much -- and how well -- students learn by changing how they feel. In my next post, I will be describing a few exercises that teachers could do in the classrooms.

Patrícia Villa da Costa Ferreira-PhD


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

mLearning - Using iPads with Kids - Apps and Activities


Though it is clear nowadays that learning can be engaging and dynamic with the use of technology in the classroom, some teachers still resist using iPads with kids. Many of them still believe students might break the iPads, or feel afraid of losing control over the class.

DARE.
Take a small step by finding a simple, but fun activity. Establish some classroom management rules before handing in the iPads, and make sure you have a clear set of expectations in mind. Don´t be too demanding on yourself. Noise and movement are good. Enjoy monitoring your students as they create and practice English.

Here are some apps to get you in the groove. Enjoy the ride with your digital classes with kids. They will surprise you!



Monday, February 23, 2015

Tips for a Successful Semester Part 2

One of the best things about teaching is that we get to have a fresh start every semester with new groups of students. We can learn from mistakes made in the past with other groups and correct them, and we can incorporate advice from colleagues into our teaching. We have the chance to adapt new trends and ideas to our context and we have novel learning opportunities with the new people we meet in our classrooms.

Isabela Villas Boas

In order to guarantee a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling semester, some simple tips and rules can come in handy. In this sense, we asked CTJ teachers to write short tips for a successful semester. We hope you find them useful and that you have a wonderful experience with your new groups!


Haline Neiva

Let's try to say positive things to our students; give positive feedback; share positive ideas; create a positive environment; be polite to students, parents, and colleagues. This atitude will surely make the semester lighter and easier.

Daniela Lyra



An inspiring post by Katy Cox http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com.br/2015/02/reading-your-students.html - and her checklist to 'read' our learners reminded me of a document a dear colleague gave me many, many years ago. The document consists of a listo f pbservable aspects, and it could be a gret tool for teachers willing to concentrate on the learners and how they respond and behave in class. I will have it printed out and use it as a starting point for my reflecting back on my classes. 


Carolina Godoy

Be yourself - students are not looking for a carbon copy of other teachers, regardless of how much these teachers are appreciated. Network and collaborate. Try to exchange ideas with other teachers and look for solutions to the problems that may arise duting the semester together. As the saying goes, "two heads are better than one". And last but not least, have fun and learn to laugh at yourself. Being optimistic is a choice we can all make. 




Juliana Ulharuzo

Here are a few tips that have worked for me, personally. I don't bake for a reason. Still, maybe some of you will benefit from them.

- Being friendly and firm are not mutually exclusive events. 
- When planning a class remember to cater for your students. Cater for what they like, but prioritize what they need.
- We usually have a lot of exercises to correct (graded exercises, compositions, etc). Try to correct them as soon as students hand them in whenever possible. If you manage do this during your 'breaks' you will end up having more time for yourself on the weekend. 
- Depending on your group profile, sending one or more graded exercises to be finished home may cause you a lot of stress. You know that class when nobody is absent, you have managed to cover the topics being assessed and your graded exercise is already printed out? It does not happen by accident. Plan it, and when the time is right give them time to do the graded exercise in class. 
- Maybe you are an experienced teacher (or not). Regardless, if it is your first semester at the Casa or your first semester teaching a certain level/book, do not hesitate to find out who else in your branch or outpost is teaching the same level. Rely on this person to ask questions and share ideas, materials with. You both will benefit from it.


Patrícia Villa


Remember: connection is the key to a good class atmosphere and, as a result, a nice and smooth semester. Look your students in the eyes and establish genuine relationship.


Wellington Duarte


Make sure you establish very good rapport with your students. Have in mind that theyare the ones you are going to be with once or twice a week for the next 5 months!


Marcos Augusto


Make sure you don't overwhelm your students with dates and procedures right on the first day. Assess your group's profile first, so that you can choose the best course of action.
Juliana Benedetti

Foster students' autonomy. There are many ways to enhance learners' self-determination, and you can use 5 minutes of your class to teach them simple techniques. Ask simple questions and set them as goals.
- How can you improve your language learning?
- How do you manage your time?
- Do you know how to upgrade your memory?


Cláudia Farias

Two basic and yet very important words: motivation and respect. If you are at ease and cheerful at what you´re doing, students will notice that and respond back positively. Respect has to do with being attentive and really interested in what your students are saying, thus making a connection with them. Who doesn´t want to be in a light, exciting and safe environment?


Victor Hugo Alves





My tip is that whatever happens, do not give up on your Sts. We inspire, we represent strengh and we make a difference in their lives. Let's do out best and I wish you all an amazing semester!




Inez Woortmann

What else can I add? Guess all the tips above have to do with 3 really important teacher characteristics that we strive to develop (in our own individual and very personal ways), and which contribute to a much more positive and effective teaching and learning environment: RESPECT - a non-judgmental regard for others; EMPATHY- being able to see things from the other's perspective, and AUTHENTICITY- being ourselves, without hiding behind masks, roles or job titles.









Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tips for a Successful Semester Part 1

One of the best things about teaching is that we get to have a fresh start every semester with new groups of students. We can learn from mistakes made in the past with other groups and correct them, and we can incorporate advice from colleagues into our teaching. We have the chance to adapt new trends and ideas to our context and we have novel learning opportunities with the new people we meet in our classrooms.


Isabela Villas Boas

In order to guarantee a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling semester, some simple tips and rules can come in handy. In this sense, we asked CTJ teachers to write short tips for a successful semester. We hope you find them useful and that you have a wonderful experience with your new groups!





José Antônio

If you happen to have a large group of teens, create a seating chart. Always write names of students on the board before the class begins, varying the chart arrangement to build a learning community. Inform them you will change the chart every two weeks. This helps you memorize students' names and see what combinations are problematic or productive. Have a wonderful semester.



Fransérgio Macedo


It's really worth taking a look at the students' progress in the previous books. This will make it possible for you to identify students that are likely to need your help more than the others in the group. You will also be able to assess in which areas he/she could improve more. This will work for all ages.



Derrick Mulder

Don't head straight for the teacher's room every break. Occasionally take the time to show interest in your students outside class time. Use what you learn about them in subsequent classes to grab their attention. Really pay attention to what they're saying and respond with thoughtfulness. Have fun with your students no matter what.




Eneida Coaracy

Try to ask negative questions more often! For example, after giving directions, ask “Is there anyone who doesn’t understand?” instead of asking “Are there any questions?” Why? Because the second type of question unintentionally targets more responsible students, who are more motivated and more likely to speak. Asking if anyone doesn’t know what to do, you are asking every student to consider your question. It’s a self-checking device that makes students productively uncomfortable.



Rita Avila

Take the first day to develop expectations. Students need to know what is expected of them. Although we don't want to set unrealistic goals that will belittle and frustrate students, we do want a cooperative and functional group, one that strives to do their best. I like to let them outline expectations and rules in small groups first. Then in plenary we put all our contributions together for a poster.



Carla Arena

Making a first great impression is the first step for a glorious semester. Icebreakers that surprise and engage can be an effective starting point for that matter. Check our post at http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com.br/2013/02/icbreakers.html. Take time to learn more about your students, to know their preferences and interests. By doing that, they will feel you really care and you can use what your learn from them during the semester when you give examples, for example.



Magda Mendes
Try to bring nice, beautiful material into class whenever possible. This material can be a video clip, a song, a picture or anything else, but it has to be something beautiful. For example, once I showed my Teens 4 group a video clip with a very talented and "different" violin player, Lindsey Sterling (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g9poWKKpbU). Two classes later, one of my students came to me and said he liked the video a lot and that he decided to resume playing the violin, as he had stopped playing it some time before. So, I guess we really never realize how a small thing can touch our students, but I think everyone is touched by beauty. Needless to say that something like this builds a connection between you and your students.


Pedro Tapajós

Don't fall behind with your bureaucracy. At the Casa, the rhythm is intense and non-stop. If you leave that memo or signing up for later, you'll inevitably forget it (or you'll get swamped in activities). Be diligent and get those papers in.



Evania Netto

If you are a new teacher at the Casa, you will probably have questions about how things work. Don´t be afraid of asking questions. People here are really helpful and are always willing to explain how something works. Also, it can be an opportunity to make new friends. :) 



Ana Carenina

Every now and then, try and bring a song to work with your groups. Remember to choose a song with the target vocab / grammar / topic that you've been working with in class. It ends up pleasing all ages! Simple and nice.



Check part 2 tips

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Reading your Students




“Reading” is a skill you will find yourself cultivating in your students from day one in the classroom until the end of the semester. They use reading to find the right classroom, to register the date and their teacher’s name, to find the Resource Center or the Coordinator’s Office. Reading ability will determine the ease (or difficulty) with which the students interpret written instructions to an exercise or participate in a scripted dialog in a textbook.

Reading may one day lead your students into enlightening research, the expansion of comfortable dimensions of knowledge, the tingle of literary adventure or romance.

But….are you “reading” your students?

Many teachers begin a semester with intense concern for the lesson plan, the materials they will use, the technologies they will employ in the process. Have they reliably led the class from point A to point D, with demonstrably positive results (evident in the students’ overall performance)?

In following the trajectory of a prescribed teaching path, the instructors become so intent on the intermediate and end goals that they may overlook the signs that indicate how the students - on a less obvious level - are absorbing or reacting to the class in question.

Are you (the teacher) attentive to the following “reading” signals: 

  • Willing and consistent eye contact 
  •  Alert and energetic posture (vs slouching and lounging)
  •  Precision in repetition (vs relatively soundless mouthing, avoidance) 
  •  Interested, forthcoming collaboration with fellow students
  •  Alacrity in response to task initiation and follow-through (vs sluggish foot-dragging that results in frustrated task completion) 
  •  Tone of voice (confident vs timid) and nature of attitude (positive projection vs reticent or somewhat surly rejection) 
  •  Choice of seating (outside the teacher’s peripheral vision or within easy visual “reach”) 
Reading accurately and with sensitivity; it can make a difference in task success, and an even bigger difference in classroom and lesson management.

Katy Cox

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

iPads in the English Classroom: Notability




After using IPads to produce short videos with my students, I became more excited and curious about the power of IPads in the language classroom.  If my students had got all excited about using a simple native app, the camera, what impact could other fascinating apps have on their learning? Therefore, I started attending IPad workshops to become more familiarized with other apps and to learn about other teachers’ experiences with them.  That was how I came across “Notability”, a fun user-friendly app that allows you to write texts through typing or by using “a pen”, to take  pictures and to record texts.  Playing with Notability was really fun, but how could I integrate it into a lesson? As I started a lesson on clothes, I could visualize an effective way to incorporate the use of technology through Notability into my lesson plan. To wrap up the lesson, the students developed a simple project on what their partners were wearing.  Each pair talked about what they were wearing and took each other’s pictures. Then, I showed them how to use notability by producing the model below. 





This is my student. He's Hemmanoel. He's wearing black shoes, jeans, a black belt and a beautiful striped shirt. He's so elegant!


They enjoyed “being  a model”, taking pictures and recording their texts. After they finished the task, they  presented it to the class.  In short, students were excited about working on the iPads and felt proud of their digital production.  Notability allowed them to practice the target structure in a fun and motivating way.




Roberta is wearing a pink
sweater, jeans and beige and
black shoes. She’s beautiful!





This is Eduardo. He's my English course friend. He's wearing gray and
blue sneakers, white socks, blue jeans, a brown belt, a purple shirt,
glasses and a watch.




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Classroom Issues: The Power of "NO"


Felipe is Young – nine years of age in Junior 2 – but not new to the school. With three semesters of experience, he’s already a Casa Thomas Jefferson veteran. He’s uncordially known to guards and hall monitors; given the number of his visits, he could accurately describe the arrangement of objects in the Coordinator’s office. She’s a beast. Probably has bad breath. His teacher ( like the others ) is a nit-wit. “OK, guys, let’s….” play some silly game where we all compete with each other like mad and get virtually nothing. But he’s not a groupie. He’s a (short) heroic rebel. His friend Pedro can’t take his eyes off him. Watches his every move, even at the lunch counter. Rewards (slavishly) by repercussive imitation. Is faint with fear (of association) and admiration. “So…let’s go, guys!” Fresh and false. But – like Superman stopping a train – Felipe takes the lightening in his hands. Crosses his arms on his chubby little chest. And says “NO!”

There’s an attempt at persuasion. Great; it augments the audience potential. Felipe has already been separated from Pedro, who is inwardly applauding; look at his almost envious eyes. The arms are tighter across Felipe’s body, the mouth a facial fist of defiance. “No!” The rest of the students are speculatively waiting….How will this momentary power-play pan out? With another visit to the Dragon’s Den? Or with miraculous (unlikely) capitulation?

This is when the Power of No hangs in the balance. The teacher can bargain, in a way beg, try to integrate, make promises – and with every strategy pulled out of the deck of tactical cards, the frontal approach can be met with an impenetrable shield. The ungiving power of “no”. The teacher can expediently remove the offender. But the message is that she has had to pull rank and use the power invested in her by the rules of the system. To rid herself of a nine-year-old child, she has to call for irresistible reinforcements: the Coordinator and her henchmen. Ha!   A battle may have been won, by some means, but possibly only to be fought again at another moment.

A diversion might be tried instead. How about “Oh…you don’t want to do that? No problem. You stay here – this is where you want to be, right? And we will all move over there and play this game in a slightly different way.”  The focus is re-directed -  away from the nay-sayer. For force to be used in a way that strengthens the group (not the teacher, not the offender), it has to be divided among the students. When the students are enjoyably engaged – with Felipe in a kind of time-out situation – the dynamic will change. With no “teacher vs student” issue at stake, Felipe will be disempowered passively, frustrating the attempt to turn up the tension. Don’t worry about Pedro. With no rebellion to support, he will probably opt for relative invisibility with a noncommittal  colleague.  


“No” is powerful when it causes divisiveness, a taking of sides, a hardening of the spirit. Turning a grumbling giant into a mewling midget requires finding a tactical instrument that will simultaneously puncture the rebel’s carapace of negativity and inject the fellow students with a purpose that pleasurably ignores conflict. 

“No” doesn’t need to fill up the room;  instead, it can become a very flat balloon.

Katy Cox

Friday, May 23, 2014

Simple Prep iPad Activity: TELLAGAMI - Giving Life to Students´ Avatar and their Language Production


Tellagami is one of those multi-purpose free apps that will give an extra boost to your classroom activity, with lots of student production in English.

Here´s an overview of the app:



In the classroom, use Tellagami to:

  • let the avatar tell a story about a specific place (you can change the background there)
  • review a concept. Students have to summarize what they´ve just learned
  • do a follow-up activity in which students tell their own views on the topic
  • drill basic structures in a young learners´ class ( I like; I don´t like; I have; I don´t have)
  • practice physical descriptions when students are creating their avatar; then, they record about their best friend´s physical appearance
  • work on clothing by changing the avatar´s outfits; the avatar can record why he chose that specific outfit
Students can record their own voices, or even use the text to speech feature (they write the text and choose the accent of their avatar. Warning: this feature only works when there´s Internet connection).

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: there´s an editing feature on YOUTUBE that you can put your students´ Tellagami videos altogether in one single Youtube video. Here´s an example from a training session we had about high performance class. First, we used this poster as a discussion springboard.


Then, the groups created their avatars and recorded their main ideas about highly performaning classes. Finally, I edited them, using Youtube editor, after having uploaded all the gamis.




Ready to begin? We´d love t know what you´ve been doing in class with Tellagami. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Finding Motivation by Motivating Students

What do you do when your students fail their tests? Do you blame them or yourself? I used to blame myself, but I’ve learnt that the best alternative, at least for me, was to stop assigning blame and start thinking outside the box.

It’s natural to think that there are predetermined roles in the classroom and that simply by enrolling or being in the classroom, everyone will know what to do. That is exactly how I thought things were: I would go to a specific classroom in a specific time and so would students; I would teach and they would learn. It was only when I was confronted with terrible grades — only 3 out of 10 students had passing grades on their first written test — that I realized I was wasting a great opportunity.

My first reaction was to think I was a terrible teacher. After all, I am an absolute beginner, having only less than two years of experience. I spoke to several senior teachers and asked for advice. The first one I received was to check what exactly the students’ mistakes had been. Had they all made the same mistakes? If yes, I needed to check the way I had been teaching them. If not, I should check the students’  academic records to see if they had had difficulties in the previous levels. After some research, I realized two things: all students, even the ones who had good grades, made the same kinds of mistakes; and none of them had had a history of below average grades.


It’s important to note that students in the lower intermediate level get a really bad reputation. They are said to be the “weakest links”; students who didn’t do well on their replacement tests. I kept hearing that those bad grades were just what I should have expected. I felt extremely uncomfortable to just accept that these students were weak and that there was nothing I could do. In my mind, If I had been a better teacher, they would have done better. Besides, I had looked into their academic records and I could not find the proof that they were just bad students.

Another thing I was told by senior teachers was that there is a large gap between the Teens course and the Lower Intermediate course. In the latter, tests demand a lot more from students’ cognitive abilities. In fact, the one difficulty all students had was with listening and reading comprehension. It wasn’t something I had taught them; I had been too focused on teaching grammar and vocabulary.


My first step, after gathering advice I had received from several senior teachers, was to deliver the news to the students about their low performance and, at the same time, motivate them to do better on their next test. It seemed impossible! But the teachers I spoke to knew me and trusted me. They said I could do it. So I asked students how they had prepared for the test, how they thought they did, and if it had been easy or hard. I spoke to them in Portuguese and they opened up very quickly. I found out a lot from my students that day. They are under a lot of pressure from their parents, their regular schools and themselves. They also thought, same as I did, that teaching and learning were automatic processes, and all they had to do to get a good grade was to “sit down and study”. For them, given how they did on their test, it hadn’t been enough.  I thought they were being too hard on themselves, but then again, I realized I had been too hard on myself too.

I needed to take the focus out of this blame game. I asked the students to trust me and to help me help them. Thinking about it now, I noticed that what I did was to ask them to stop looking for someone to blame and start focusing on learning. I remembered something that my coach had told me on my first semester at CTJ: “We a have to teach students how to learn”. So based on that and also on the things I have been learning at the TDC - Teacher Development Course, I started changing the way I planned the lessons for that specific group.

The first thing was to teach them strategies such as scanning and skimming. I showed them how to look for information, how to look for clues in exercises, patterns in sentences, and in essence, how to develop strategies to solve the exercises. I also turned the wrap up stages of the lessons into mini projects. For example, after a lesson about the differences between past simple and past continuous, I told the students to create a story using only three sentences. They all sat down on the classroom floor to make a poster together, and it was the first time I saw them actually happy to be in class.

Basically, I started focusing on making the students feel independent and in control of their own learning. I stopped simply giving them information and started giving them the tools to get there themselves. I noticed a complete change in behavior. What I had thought was just normal teenage behavior during a class at 2pm had basically been lack of motivation. Before, they were barely present in class, mostly quiet and unresponsive. They didn’t do their homework and they didn’t answer my questions. They also spoke a lot of Portuguese. Now, they try harder to speak English, they use the language being presented, they respond faster to eliciting. And, I’m relieved to say, out of all the students, only one had a below average grade on their second test. It was not a miracle change though, — the lowest passing grade was 76 — but I’m counting my blessings!

This had been the one group I dreaded meeting every week. They made me feel like a real failure. Now that they are motivated, they are the best part of my week. I’m glad I stopped focusing on laying blame and decided to trust the advice of senior teachers: I learned that motivating my students was the best way to motivate myself.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

BRAZTESOL Conference - Different Generations: A common Goal

We, Carolina Piacenti and Evania Netto have just attended the Braz-Tesol Conference in João Pessoa, AL. It was a great conference: well organized, in a great site (Escola Internacional Cidade Viva) and in a beautiful city. Furthermore, the quality of the presentations were fantastic and there wasn´t a single talk or workshop that we didn´t like or regretted attending.


However, as the topic of our own presentation was “generations” and the way that different generations of teachers can benefit by working together, we started paying attention to the mix of generations that could be seen and heard in the event. To start with, we browsed through the program and realized we could choose from a workshop given by one of the most renowned ELT senior representatives from Brasília-Sara Walker, watch the plenary session given by the brilliant Jeremy Harmer or feel touched by the emotional session about getting older given by Jane Revell. It was not only the senior generation that made presence in the conference, though. Looking again at the program, we could easily verify that the Baby Boomers and the members of Generation X were also active, bringing innumerous contributions to the field with names such as Ben Goldstein, Paul Seligson and Jeff Stranks. 

On the other hand, if one preferred to see the newer generation of speakers, they would not be disappointed as they would be able to check CTJ world-wide technology expert Carla Arena, an academic session about gaming and gamification used in teaching and learning a second language given by Janaína Weissheimer or the fantastic J.J. Wilson talk about teacher development. Nevertheless, due to the amount and variety of choices, one would not be able to see everything and would have to choose something related to their own field of interests which would turn out not to make attendees less enthusiastic but to enhance their social networking and ability to reflect upon their careers as they could see themselves working in pairs with Scott Thurnbury, Steve Taylore-Knowles, Élcio Souza or just a novice teacher who had just graduated from college.


So, as you can see, Braz-Tesol was a fruitful and enriching professional experience where different identities met to form a mosaic of generations that by collaborating could help each other achieve the goal that the older, the middle or the younger generations of teachers  have in common - to teach English in effective ways. 
 








Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TESOL 2014 and Being a Leader


This was the first time I attended a TESOL and I was amazed at how big and how well-organized it is. It was great to see so many teachers from all over the world learning, sharing, motivating and being motivated. There was a huge variety of topics for the presentations, with options for everybody’s interests. I chose to attend those related to Teacher Development and Leadership not only because of my present position at Thomas, but also because I believe we teachers are always searching for professional development opportunities and we are all leaders.

There was one particular presentation I enjoyed a lot and would like to share with you: “Leadership Skills and Styles Affecting Leaders” by Dr. Sufian Abu-Rmaileh, from the United Arab Emirates University.

He started by defining Leadership:

“The act of identifying important goals and then motivating and enabling others to devote themselves and all necessary resources to its achievement. It includes summoning one’s self and others to learn and adapt to the new situation represented by the goal” (NYSBR 2003, p. 3)

“Much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do” (De Pree 1989, p.148)

So, who is a leader?

Astin and Astin (2000) define a leader as anyone who has a formal position and who holds the role of bringing about change in the society in which they live and work.

De Pree (1990) says that one of the major tasks of a leader is to expand and unleash the talents and skills of the different people in the organization.

These definitions made me think of how much we teachers match them. Every semester we face different challenges to which we have to adapt and learn how to deal with. We are in charge of groups of students who need our constant guidance, model, assistance and motivation. More than teaching English, we teach them how to respect and help their peers, how to accept different opinions, how to overcome their difficulties. 

Good leaders help their team achieve their goal, which should be in accordance with the institution’s/organization’s. I particularly like De Pree’s  saying about the role of a leader. A good teacher/leader should be able to expand and unleash the talents and skills of the different people s/he leads.
There are different leadership styles and we can adopt different styles according to our and others’ necessities and in different moments of our life. Dr. Abu-Rmaileh talked about the six leadership styles listed below.

1.       Directive Leader:
Allows little or no negotiations
Keeps tight control without delegating
Is not flexible or open to new ideas

2.       Visionary Leader:
Has clear standards and feedback
Explains the logic behind procedures
Inspires people to a higher purpose for their work

3.       Affliliative Leader:
Creates harmony and affective/emotional bonding
Avoids confrontation with others
Provides little explanation on direction or rationale behind tasks

4.       Democratic/Participative Leader:
Collaboration and team concurrence
High on trust, respect and commitment
Motivates his/her team by empowering them to direct themselves

5.       Pacesetting Leader:
Sets high standards for performance
Obsesses about doing things better, faster, quicker
The pursuit of excellence is overwhelming

6.       Coaching Leader:
Helps team members to discover their own strengths and weaknesses
Guides people to find and create their own career development
Links goals, personal and career, with those of the organization

Leadership Matrix
 
How it Builds Resonance
Impact On Climate
When Appropriate
 Competency requirements
Visionary
Moves people towards shared dreams
Most strongly positive
When changes require a new vision, or, when clear direction is needed
Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Empathy, Transparency, Visionary Leadership, Change Catalyst
Coaching
Connects what a person wants with organisational goals
Highly positive
To help an employee improve performance by building long term capabilities
Self-Awareness, Empathy, Developing Others
Affiliative
Creates harmony by connecting people to each other
Positive
To heal rifts in a team, motivate during stressful times, or strengthen connections
Empathy, Teamwork & Collaboration, Conflict management, Building Bonds
Democratic
Values peoples input and get commitment through participation
Positive
To build buy in or consensus, or to get valuable input from employees
Empathy, Teamwork & Collaboration, Influence
Pacesetting
Meets challenging and exciting goals
Is often Highly Negative  - because it is generally poorly executed
To get high quality results from a motivated and competent team
Self-Awareness, Empathy, Self Control, Achievement Drive, Transparency, Initiative, Adaptability, Teamwork & Collaboration
Commanding
Soothes fears by giving clear direction in an emergency
Can be Highly Negative – because so often misused
In a crisis, to kick start a turnaround, or with a problem employee
Self-Awareness, Self-Control, Empathy, Achievement drive, Initiative
http://www. maetrix.com.au/leadership_styles.asp

I’m sure you have recognized yourself at different moments of your professional life in many of the characteristics listed above. These characteristics are just a few among many others for each style. We can select some and put them together to come up with our idea of an effective leader. Dr. Abu-Rmaileh presented effective leaders as being:

-          Visionary
  • -          Trustworthy, fair and honest
  • -          Role Models and Mentors – “Effective leaders demonstrate courage in difficult situations, and provide a model of moral leadership for other to emulate” (NYSBR, 2003, p. 2)
  • -          Visible
  • -          Dedicated – Effective leaders are dedicated to the institution which they serve. They have commitment and loyalty to the constituents and to the institution.
  • -          Good Communicators

The implications of good leadership are many. Good leadership in the classroom leads to a calm end of semester, not necessarily an easy one, but surely one in which we have a sense of accomplishment. Some of the implications Dr. Abu-Rmaileh talked about and I believe are appropriate for a classroom environment were:

  • -          Achievement drive: high level of effort, high levels of ambition, energy and initiative
  • -          Honesty and integrity: a trustworthy environment
  • -          Self-confidence: belief in one’s self, ideas and ability
  • -          Emotional maturity: well-adjusted groups



The presentation made me reflect on the kind of leader I am and the kind of leader I want to be, my personal characteristics that influence on my leadership style, and the aspects I need to work on in order to be a better leader. I hope it helps you see yourselves as leaders too and realize the importance of being a good leader.