RACISM* IN THE ELT INDUSTRY

You don’t need to be a genius to know that prejudice exists everywhere you find people gathered together.

The English Language Teaching industry wouldn’t be different. After all, it’s made up of people from all nations and races.

Do teachers (not necessarily language teachers) suffer from prejudice and racism?

Yes, since forever… You don’t need to go far -just watch the trailer of my favorite classic film – To Sir, With Love with Sidney Poitier.

To Sir, with Love

But in this blog I’m not going to be talking about national or linguistic prejudices as in “he’s not a native speaker” or “I don’t like his accent”. The smelly goat in the room is about racism and skin color.

Back in the day (1990s) when I was a partner in a language school in São Paulo, we hired teachers to provide private business lessons at different multinational companies – one pre-requisite was “English native-like fluency” (hey, it was the roaring ’90s, don’t judge me)- no color stipulation.

We had some Brazilian, American, British, Swedish, Nigerian, South African and even a Tasmanian teacher (a loose cannon for sure – some day remind me to talk about him) – most of them were white, mostly in their 20s or early 30s, but not exclusively. I remember Charlotte, who I thought was an old lady back then(now I think she must have been probably in her 50s or early 60s).

I remember in special, Kendra, who was a great teacher, students loved her and not because or despite of the fact she was black. She was an exchange student between her US university and São Paulo University (USP). She was pursuing a degree in linguistics and she took on several classes with us.

We also had a Brit teacher – mixed race and nationality – mother Brazilian, father English – had been born in London and had decided to try his life in Brazil. He was a good teacher, can’t remember his background, but we could see he didn’t want to be a teacher for long. Either he would become a partner or he would jump off ship, which he did.

Never did a student call us saying “I don’t want teacher A, B or C because he or she is black”. NEVER. Sometimes there were misfits due to teaching approach, some of the foreign teachers, the famous backpackers, were not reliable with time and class preparation, etc.

Did our clients get surprised to see a black teacher waiting for them in the room? I’m sure some of them did. Talk about stereotypes – “my English teacher (any gender) is tall, slander, blue-eyed and has perfect teeth”.

Now I know that Brazilian black teachers are few and far between, especially in the self-employed segment. Why? Racism? Lack of economic and education opportunities? A combination of it all?

All I can say is that during my school (Uni) years one of my best friends (and classmates) was black. She had also had more exposure to English than I had at the time and her economic situation was also better than mine, a white boy. Go figure.

Yes, racism exists and we must fight it, but it shows itself quite often in subtle ways, as if hiding behind the skin tone of a person.

Skin Tone Color Palette
Skin tone palette

We must be aware and mindful of its presence and stand up against it when it rears its ugly face. Racism sucks.

Cheers,

Mo

*DISCLAIMER: all the statements here are my own and may not reflect the reality of every single living creature on the face of the earth.

5 Dicas para estudar inglês sozinho / 5 Tips to Self-Study English

Sempre tem gente me perguntando como fazer para estudar inglês ( ou qualquer outro idioma) sem a ajuda de um professor ou tutor.

Self-teaching vs Degree – which is the best route into programming ...
“Aprender sozinho é possível”

É possível? Sim. Eu mesmo aprendi muito do meu inglês estudando sozinho. Também estudei francês sozinho – nunca tive uma aula sequer e atingi o nível intermediário (B1) que é suficiente para os meus objetivos. Posso aprender mais? Sim… mas tenho preguiça. Não me julgue rsrsrs.

Cada pessoa tem suas características, preferências e objetivos mas de forma geral, gostei das dicas que o Denilso de Lima do Inglês na Ponta da Língua relacionou, segue o link: https://www.inglesnapontadalingua.com.br/2016/02/101-dicas-para-aprender-ingles-sozinho.html:

Tudo bem que ele escreveu 80 dicas mas vou me limitar a 5 com as minhas adaptações:

How to Teach Yourself a Language - The Complete Process
“Você cria o seu método”
  1. Vá com calma! Não queira aprender tudo de uma só vez.
  2. Envolva-se com a língua inglesa o máximo que puder.
  3. Arranje tempo para estudar inglês todos os dias.
  4. Ouça inglês – música, documentários, entrevistas, séries, etc.)
  5. Leia um texto curto em voz alta. Verifique o vocabulário, a pronúncia das palavras. Reconte aquele texto em suas próprias palavras. Ouça-se e ouse.

Só isso? Claro que tem muito mais que vc vai descobrir aos poucos. Na verdade, embora eu seja um professor excelente – não posso inculcar em você o que eu sei – vc terá que fazê-lo. O meu trabalho é oferecer oportunidades para vc aprender e orientar, corrigir, incentivar, alertar para o seu desenvolvimento.

O aprendizado de um idioma continua durante a extensão da sua vida – e isso é bom – sempre você vai aprender coisas novas. O que não quer dizer que vc deve ser intermediário para o resto da sua vida mas que vc precisa estar constantemente revendo suas prioridades e motivação.

Happy Learning,

Cheers,

5 Tips to Self-Study English

There are always people asking me how to study English (or any other language) without the help of a teacher or tutor.
Is it possible? Yes. I myself learned a lot of my English by studying alone. I’ve also taught myself French – there was never a single class and I reached the intermediate level (B1) which is sufficient for my goals. Can I learn more? Yes … but I’m lazy. Don’t judge me lol

Each person has their own characteristics, preferences and goals but,in general, I liked the tips that Denilso de Lima do Inglês na Ponta da Língua listed, follow the link: “https://www.inglesnapontadalingua.com.br/2016/02 /101-dicas-para-aprender-ingles-sozinho.html “>

It’s ok that he wrote over 80 tips… but I’ll limit myself to only 5:

  1. Take it easy! Don’t try to learn everything at once.
  2. Engage with the English language as much as you can. 3. Make time to study English every day.
  3. Listen to English – music, documentaries, interviews, series, etc.)
  4. Read a short text aloud. Check the vocabulary, the pronunciation of words. Retell that text in your own words. Listen to yourself and dare.

Only that? Of course there is much more that you will discover little by little. In fact, although I am an excellent teacher – I cannot instill in you what I know – My job is to offer opportunities for you to learn and guide, correct, encourage, alert to your development.
Language learning continues throughout your life – and that’s a good thing – you’ll always learn new things. Which is not to say that you should be an intermediary for the rest of your life but that you need to be constantly reviewing your priorities and motivation.

Happy learning,

Cheers,

Mo

Surviving Covid-19: life as a self-employed teacher – Part 2

Locked in

Now over 70 days into my Quarantine – (since March 17) – what can I say? With the announcement that within the next two weeks some of the restrictions will /may /might (choose one or all three) be lifted or at least there could begin an easing out of the quarantine, some people are starting to think about their mid- to long-term plans.

Considering that I had already been teaching f2f lessons at home prior to the Quarantine measures “enforced” in São Paulo where I’m based – I already had an office – simple but convenient and comfortable – the only inconvenience is that my back is to the window – so the camera faces the window (gotta keep window and blinds closed) Feel free to suggest a different layout for my desk in my office.

Create an inviting and inspiring work/class environment with your likes and interests

Pre-Pandemic

Before the pandemic I had to get up to answer the door, other times I would go out and teach somewhere else. Now I stay in front of a screen – time goes by faster and more slowly at the same time (hard to explain it) – you feel more tired – you have no distractions or too many distractions. See what I mean?

Working from home has pros and cons – cat not included

Self-care

A great risk while working with your computer is that you can be distracted or look for distractions even with the best of intentions. For example, a student mentions a song – I immediately go to YouTube and look up the song (with lyrics, of course) to use during the class. This multitasking may sound cool or imply how efficient I am, but actually it causes distractions, and energy spent on something that could have waited.

Never ignore the importance of drinking water (hydration is king), and stretching every 60 minutes of so. Don’t deceive yourself that teaching classes sequentially back to back will do you good. They won’t. Allow breaks between classes so you can breathe, exercise (even if going to the bathroom) and stand up – to bring more oxygen to your brain.

Business in the pandemic

This week alone, two new people looked me up to ask about classes – one has already seen my work and decided to start classes as of next Monday. The other one is a 19-year-old 1st semester International Affairs college student – daughter of a former student of mine – I remember him, but not that he had once been my student – guess I’m growing old. Considering that for two months not even the phone had rung with prospective students – 2 calls in one week show resumption (hopefully) of business.

Professional Development

Braz-Tesol has been making available a wide range of webinars which are a boon to teachers everywhere offering a great lifeline and bringing a sense that things are starting to happen again. Check out their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/

Braz-Tesol’s great new series of Language Teaching Webinars

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The light at the end of the tunnel might not be a truck moving towards you.

Fingers crossed.

Cheers,

Mo

Surviving Covid-19: life as a self-employed teacher – Part 1

“2020 looks like it will be a great year” – or so I thought back on January 01 – unaware that the world would grind to a halt and be turned upside down.

New year, new students signing up on the professional level and 25th year wedding anniversary celebration scheduled for April with a lovely reception scheduled to take place by a lake shore with over 1 year bookings and preparations.

Well, … Covid-19 happened.

Right after Carnival (of course, nothing should get in the way of the beer, drugs and sex event) we learned that the virus was here brought by a traveler returning from Italy – or so that’s how it was officially labeled. Today, June 01, there are half a million Brazilians infected with the coronavirus, and 30,000 Covid-19 related deaths.

Covidzilla’s attack brought great devastation to the world’s society and economy.

In early March we found out they were starting to restrict access to some office buildings – including where I used to teach some of my business students.

March 16 – I told wife, “I’ve just cancelled my classes for the day – let us go take a walk on the beach before it’s too late”. Lovely. A sunny Monday on the beach.

The following day we knew quarantine was coming and since March 17 we’ve been in Quarantine. No malls, no schools, no churches, no coffee shops, no restaurants, no museums, no parks – even if totally in the open air – that reminded me of last year’s closures of many parks in the city of São Paulo because of yellow fever mosquitoes. Confusing information:

Don’t wear masks. Wear masks. Don’t drive. Drive. Stay indoors. Go outdoors. Hydroxychloriquine. No hydroxychloroquine.

One constant was the advice to stay home and leave it only if you’re part of the “essential workers” in-crowd. Of course, education and entertainment are not part of that crowd. But that’s fodder for another blog post.

Well, everybody thinks I’m doing fine financially because I’ve migrated my f2f classes to online.

Easy there with your assumptions. I already had a few students having classes exclusively online but 80% of them were face to face students.

When I told them of the “temporary” migration, some 70% agreed and started having classes right away, or at least were willing to try the online classes.

Is teaching online similar or different from face to face lessons? Yes! Of course the body language is different, the physical energy is missing but on the other hand the same content can be used both ways – different approaches at times, but… with the same goals.

However, 30% of my clients said they were not interested in having online classes. The lessons wouldn’t be the same, so they said. One elderly learner said she wouldn’t know how to connect with Zoom and was not willing to try to learn. Another student – a highly respected economist at an International Bank – said he doesn’t like that “sort of class” – without even trying – and he would rather wait for the end of the quarantine.

Another Student had a 30% cut in her pay, so in order to keep her on I agreed to a 50% cut. Another was so stressed dealing with her work that she decided to take some time off since she wouldn’t find any time to have lessons (in normal times she already didn’t have time – always feeling tired and stressed). Student A still had 2 classes that he had paid in advance so he made sure to have those lessons online and then, Hasta la vista, baby. Take care of yourself.

I’m used to losing students who have a family emergency or lose their jobs – that happens, life throws you lemons while you’re not even looking… but I still felt a little hurt when the students who claimed they loved my classes were so quick to drop me off at the first corner.

But, thank God I still kept some of my students- the well hasn’t dried up totally. Yet. (Touch wood). But my income has been down by 30% so far this year. Tightening belt ? yes.

Concern

All my life I’ve gotten students by word of mouth and observation. By that I mean every time I walked into a company, people were watching me. They saw that X, or Z were having classes with a private teacher and they would ask for references and my phone/email contact.

Now, I am clueless about how to get students online. Yes, I’m visible on Twitter and Instagram and YouTube – but I can’t compete with teachers charging peanuts for the “same” class I charge premium. Of course my students know I’m an excellent and knowledgeable teacher, highly qualified and experienced both in Brazil and abroad. But how will I convey that online? One way to do that is by specializing in a segment or segments -beyond “business English” – such as Exam preparation, writing etc.

Great food for thought.

Cheers,

Mo