Recounting a teaching-related “Unsuccessful Event”

After 1 year of the Covid-19 Pandemic with companies and individuals cutting down on their expenses and labeling “language learning” as non-essential, I feel that my network of prospective students has been shrinking. New potential students don’t know me and are more focused on price than experience and great qualifications. And there is no shame in saying I need help to find new students.

Nothing better than counting on the support of an international organization with students and teachers from all over the world with expertise in student prospecting. I am sure we can both benefit from this synergy.

Part of their vetting is based on an online grammar test and writing test. Here’s my writing test:

Recount an endeavor, personal or work-related, that was unsuccessful. Provide as many details as possible. If you were to do things over, what would you do differently to ensure the success of the endeavor? *

The following will be assessed: grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction/organization.

I have always felt that learners and teacher are partners, collaborators in the exquisite adventure of learning. The teacher will create opportunities for learners to grow and, in the case of learning a second or foreign language, to improve their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. To learn to be comfortable in their own skin with their acquired language.

One side cannot be held responsible for everything. The student must show interest, commitment, dedicate time, money and effort towards their goal. Likewise, the teacher must be fully interested in their students’ progress.

A few years ago I had a student who was often cancelling her classes, never did any homework or any reading/writing assignments and she came up to me asking why she couldn’t feel she was making any progress.

I looked at her, took a deep breath, and said that her progress depended on her commitment and effort. She needed to, at least, try to do some of her homework and make an extra effort to show up in class.

She got furious, fuming through her eyes and nose, and said my job was to teach her. That’s why she was paying me for. I said apologetically that maybe I didn’t have the right profile for her. I expect my students to be committed.

She stormed out of the room and told her assistant that from then on I was banned from her company.  Weeks later she contacted me and apologized for her attitude, she said she was going through rough personal times and my comments had been the last straw.

That just confirmed my purpose to have students as my partners and if the partnership is suffering I cannot sugarcoat it. Only that way, shall we have cooperation and growth. 

May our efforts be rewarded,

Cheers,

Mo

Questions You Should Ask Yourself as an ELT Solopreneur

You must have already heard it many times: “There are no stupid questions” – and I always add: “Only stupid people”. Joking apart, the idea is that questions can help you come up with answers that you’ve never considered before, and those never before considered answers have the potential to transform you and your business.

Buzzwords: Solopreneur | Comstock's magazine
The Solopreneur

The focus of today’s post is found in Aaron Nelson’s podcast series (unfortunately now ended)- The Freelance ESL Teacher Podcast – Episode 15 (2018) (https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/the-freelance-esl/episode-15-questions-youve-0OebVTgHC4U/) some powerful questions to ask yourself as you get your freelance teaching business started or developed – or to help you grow it well in 2021 and beyond! My gratitude to Aaron who provided these great questions to help me be more mindful of my business growth:

Sometimes the best questions are ones you never knew you should be asking!
Aaron came up with 4 questions that have really helped him which were found in a fantastic book that he had just finished reading called: 
Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition by David Newman (Here’s a link to the book: https://tinyurl.com/4chkr57k )

Question 1: What’s Your Model of Business – or How do you want your business to look in the future?

I am keeping it a a ‘solopreneur’ .- That’s been my idea over the past 25 years. Before that I wanted a language school but I hated the administrative side of the business. I’m only interested in building my business to the point of keeping my schedule alone full and guarantee a reasonable income.

Question 2: How will I make money?
Active Income: Selling services, classes, expertise: short (1 month); medium(1-3 months); long term (3 months – a year or more.); projects.
Passive Income: e-books, course materials that you create, development of an language learning app? How will I sell my services?

Question 3: How will I deliver my services?
Face to face classes?
Online classes?
Both?
Workshops?
In my own location? Location of my client?
Will I focus on a country, city, neighborhood? Well, I guess that the Pandemic has answered this question. All classes are online – how long? God only knows.

Teaching online is the answer for now

Question 4: Who is my ideal student?
Vital – It’s so important to know who you do your best work with.
The wrong students in your business, and not because they are bad people, but because you don’t remain in your strengths’ zone when you serve them – it will make your work seem harder, will drain you, and can run the risk of retarding your business’ growth!
Fill your business with your IDEAL students. Do you know who they are?

Providing tips for both learners and fellow teachers

My ideal students are adults, professional, business oriented people, who won’t be a drain on my energy. Let me tell you, I’ve already had some students that were toxic to my professional persona and I had to terminate their contract to save my sanity. Of course, ideal is what is desirable not always attainable. Quite honestly, i am taking any paying students willing to learn.

Cheers,

Mo

Teaching in Brazil in Times of Covid-19 – Year 2

A fellow teacher, Ms. Teresa Thompson, based in Lincoln, Nebraska sent me this email last week:

The Teacher's Notes | OUTLOOK magazine
Teresa Thompson

Just got through hearing about Brazil again on National Public Radio (hope it’s not too large a file–can send the link instead, if you want -https://www.npr.org/2021/03/18/978832056/brazil-covid-19-cases-climb-as-deaths-overwhelm-hospitals-and-funeral-services ). Here’s what we are saying about your country...you guys are a global threat! It’s your turn to lead the world in this pandemic. Not exactly an honor though, I’m afraid. Please take precautions seriously and by all means, don’t turn down any vaccines!

Here’s my reply to Teresa Thompson’s email:

States in red have a fast advance of Covid infections, yellow stable and green declining (March 10, 2021)

Thank you Teresa for your concern. Yes, the situation down here is cause for concern especially around the poor areas of the large urban centers.” 

“Many pastors in our union and local conferences have already died or are in the ICU  – the grim reaper is taking also younger people – contrary to last year – now the number of deaths of the elderly is down by 25% while the numbers of deaths of people between 20 and 50 has increased by 65% .”

“All we can do is stay home as much as possible, keep clean hands and wear a mask when outdoors. “

“I still notice a strong international bias against Brazil because of our moronic president – and I mean it – he still insists that COVID is just the flu, people who die is because they were already sick and would die anyway, he preaches that masks are filthy, useless and make people sick from wearing them. No wonder many Brazilians now blame him for the nearly 300k deaths and call him a genocider.” 

Bolsonaro, um presidente provocador e sem máscara - ISTOÉ DINHEIRO
While Covid spreads like bushfire, our President refuses to wear a mask saying that the mask will make him sick

“And also the nation is divided – at least 30% of the population blindly believes what president Bolsonaro says (I’m calling him now Bolsominion 😜) – and so many people keep on walking around without masks and saying that a lockdown would be devastating to the Brazilian economy – a few deaths wouldn’t be as bad. 🤦🏻‍♂️ And going to group protests on streets to defend the president. “

“To add salt to the wound, state and municipal governments opposing the president started bickering among themselves and not following a coordinated movement to raise awareness of the population … approving mini lockdowns and labeling some COVID treatment hospitals as “catastrophe hospitals” and changing directives about what should companies and citizens do during this time. 

Let me give you an example: One day the state orders: No food takeaway. Only through delivery or drive-thru. The next day: Takeaways are allowed. The next day: No takeaways. Are we entitled to feel a little lost and confused?! “

Bares e restaurantes de SP enviam ofício a Doria pedindo liberação de  retirada dos pedidos no local | Jovem Pan
No takeaways in SP. Only delivery or drive-thru

“The picture ain’t pretty in our sad tropics but hope still shines. “

Profissional de saúde trata paciente com Covid em UTI do Hospital São Paulo, em São Paulo, no dia 17 de março. — Foto: Amanda Perobelli/Reuters

“Stay well. Stay safe and Happy Sabbath. “

Teresa replied with the following:

“Thanks for the first hand reporting there. Sounds like you not only had mixed messaging about the virus, like we had with ex-President Trump. Sounds like all your messaging has been bad!”

Wonder if that variant is responsible for the increased deaths in younger people. Now that’s something I bet they are concerned about–or should be!

“I’m actually concerned that now that I’m vaccinated, my daughter’s family won’t be quite as cautious. I’ve worried all along about them getting sick too. There’s just no rhyme or reason involved in this covid (sic).”

“But it’s sad that something that should be uniting the world, is actually dividing it so much. I keep praying that God will have mercy on all of us….no matter how we mess up and disappoint Him.”

Hope this message gives you, dear reader, a glimpse of the situation in Brazil.

creative title* - Imgflip
Yes, Virginia. Laughter IS the best medicine.

Staying safe and hopeful.

Cheers,

Mo

Visual media as more than just entertainment

I remember when I was a wee kid in a state school in a corner of this giant metropolis called São Paulo, I would be daydreaming in class about the time the bell would ring and I would rush back home so I could watch some of my favorite TV shows. I don’t recall a time a teacher used some visual resources in class other than the illustration in a book (sometimes, which would totally grab my attention).

Stanford 'tips-by-text' program helps boost literacy in preschoolers, study  finds
Images boost literacy in children and adults

At church they were more “sophisticated”. From an early age, our Sabbath School teachers would use flannel board bible stories that would transport us to bible times and I had a red-letter day every time I was allowed to touch the figures and place them on the board. How many stories did I learn and understand thanks to those illustrations.

Staying Christian: Why I Don't Just Pick Up and Leave the Church for Good |  Resurrection & Recovery
Flannel Board Bible Stories were awesome visual resources

Today I know that Visual Literacy helps learners to follow a story and predict what’s going to happen, activates their memory and their vocabulary, as well. Many times, visual resources were used simply as entertainment or a distraction to keep us children quiet.

The influence of images on learners

Church also introduced me to the first slide projector – with colorful pictures illustrating prophecy or projecting the words to a new hymn, at a time when television was still black and white (we got our first color tv in 1978 – that was so memorable that I remember the year).

Magic lantern - The latest novelty in Church music. Substitution of... News  Photo - Getty Images

Only in college after 1983 was I introduced to the amazing overhead projector and the ability to write and highlight texts on the screen.

Mary Loftus on Twitter: "Jerome Sheahan going old-school with with the  OverHead Projector - and the lecture style - getting some laughs 🤣  @NUIG_UL_RDay… https://t.co/KMRNbDxWeC"
Overhead projectors allowed teachers to highlight points on the board

In the 1980s VCRs became more popular and pretty soon we started using some video lessons in the language classroom – those videos were especially prepared for the class as companions to their coursebooks (nothing much has changed today – maybe some time in the future I’ll talk about the video courses available for the ESL/EFL market).

If you knew somebody living in an English-speaking country maybe you could ask them to mail you one or two VHS tapes with the recordings of some tv shows and commercials and explore them to your heart’s content. (In my case, only in the early 90s did I come across some VHS tapes that somebody from the school where I was teaching had recorded when traveling to the US).

But videos were still seen as just a “break” from the lesson. When the teacher wheeled in a TV set and VCR the students knew they would have some “down time”. At best, the video was seen as a glorified listening activity or simply as a decorative resource giving a break to both teacher and students.

Today, however, we know we can use videos and images in a much more purposeful way. Here’s an example of a talk at the Global Teacher’s Festival on Visual Literacy and the many different approaches we can have:

Visual Literacy uses

Most teachers will agree that video use in the ESL/EFL classroom brings many benefits:

  1. it exposes students to authentic materials
  2. it provides more motivation and interest
  3. it gives learners the opportunity to read as well as listen to messages simultaneously

But there are also disadvantages in using videos in the classroom:

  1. video technology might be scarce or you might have connection problems
  2. it may be boring if overused
  3. it may encourage passivity on both teachers and learners (“the other day an adult learner said: why don’t you give me songs to listen to and fill in the gaps?” My answer – “do you need ME to give you a song to listen and get the words? Have you ever heard of MTV? Can’t you google it up on your own?”)

The appeal of visual media continues to make videos and pictures an amazing educational tool with a high potential impact when properly used. They are now more accessible and less cumbersome to use. Let us take advantage of them in our lessons.

Cheers,

Mo

Wrong is such a strong word

This past weekend, Thiago, an English learner messaged me asking: “What’s right to say: “That’s he singing” or
“That’s him singing”

Welcome, singular “they”
He vs Him

And he added a compliment😋: “Hello, you know you are the wisest one to answer to me this question Which of this two sentences are right? Is right?”

My first inclination was to answer: “Well, firstly, let us learn the difference between THIS and THESE”. LOL… but, actually I sent him the following answer:

“[It is + nominative pronoun/subject pronoun] is generally regarded nowadays as hyperformal, and its use, even in written English, tends to be restricted to cases where the pronoun is followed by a relative clause, as in:

It is I who am to blame.

contrasting with informal

(*)It’s me that’s to blame.

You are unlikely to be criticized by anybody – except the most ardent, dyed-in-the-wool purist – for saying, or even writing, “It’s me” rather than “It’s I”. Indeed the juxtaposition of inherently informal contraction it’s with formal ‘I’ would even strike most speakers as rather ludicrous! – so stick with “that’s him” 🤪


Thiago replied: “I said this and a girl from US told me it’s not correct”🤔

Moacir Sena: “And … who cares? – do you know everything about the Portuguese language just because you’re Brazilian ?! Native speakers mostly never know how their language functions – they just use it 😋 – I’m never a stickler for details …”
Thiago: Hahahaha. So I also wasn’t wrong?🤔

Again I was tempted to correct him say: “Wasn’t I wrong?!” but let it pass.

Adventure Time: I Was Wrong LYRICS HD - YouTube


Moacir Sena: Wrong is such a strong word. 🤔There is no Academy of the English Language to dictate what’s right or wrong and if there were such an institution people would disregard it – so in language matters better focus on:

  1. Usage: what do people use or say?
  2. Clarity: can others understand what I’m saying?
  3. Taste: do I like it?
  4. Register: it depends on the place, time and public to receive the message. Thiago replied: “Interesting. Wise words. I (sic) gonna say as they say. Even if it is grammarly (sic) weird hahaha.”

My advice to Thiago: Read, my friend. Read a lot. Read good books and articles from good magazines and serious newspapers. Observe the way the phrases are written and flow. Watch lectures and good documentaries where you will have a clear exposure to the language. And keep on learning.

Pronouns. - ppt download
Pronouns

Cheers,

Mo

5 Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue For Teachers

Since March 2020 most of us have been thrown into the digital world of online classes – no matter if we were ready or not. Some of us were already teaching using FaceTime, or Skype for example – I usually used online classes when traveling accompanying my sweetheart on her business trips. But all of us had ALL our classes moved to the online environment overnight. And that was good, considering that the option to online classes would be no classes at all and consequent unemployment.

We started watching tutorials on how to share screens, take notes, set up students in virtual classrooms, play videos and other audio practices while “the plane was up in the air” as the cliché accurately portrays it.

During this year I’ve learned some things about dealing with online classes and trying to control /avoid the so-called Zoom Fatigue.

We’ve all already felt the effects on us of extended spells of online classes – headaches, tiredness, red eyes, backache, tired legs, etc. Here I outline 5 ways to combat Zoom fatigue:

  1. Don’t multitask during the sessions – I know it’s tempting to google up something, check Whatsapp, etc while something else is happening, but it will take a toll on your mind.
  2. Alternate speaker view and gallery view.
  3. Turn your video off sometimes (when showing a video, for example).
  4. Take breaks. Yes… I know we do a great job making students feel they are the only “special” ones – but actually we have more than one student and back-to-back classes will cause you stress – if necessary end your class 2-3 minutes earlier and start the next class 2-3 minutes later (punctuality will suffer but your body and mind will thank you for that; and your students too – a teacher who’s feeling well will be conducive to the wellbeing of their students).
  5. Make sure your “class” space feels different than your “relaxing” space. Get up and go to the bathroom, get a cup of herbal tea (coffee is not the best option but if it helps you who am I to deny you this comfort drink), drink water (keep yourself hydrated). Look out the window. If possible, relax somewhere else.

Of course, there will be days you will get more tired than others but by following these simple tips you may prevent burnout.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Cheers

Mo