Reflecting on the rush for people to continue with work, studies, meetings, happy hour encounters, etc on zoom, Skype and any other video conferencing platform I came to the conclusion we risk overusing that technology to our own loss.
Even The Guardian who tries to be balanced in issues other than politics, is adding fire to the game. Look at the headline below:
“If you need to go for a walk… why not wander around a video game?” Nothing left to the imagination or, gulp, to actual physical activity. But that would be subject for another post.
My point is that we risk missing out on the development of a great skill – especially if we’re teaching language learners: listening. Back in the 1990s we already could see the lack of time and mobility some students were facing to attend face to face classes. So I started teaching English lessons over the phone – “Phone Classes” – with great levels of success and student satisfaction. They ranged from 15 to 30 minutes a session which could be repeated 2 or 3 times along the week.
As a teacher of English and Spanish for nearly 30 years I can tell you that listening is one of the hardest part of language learning. Yes, they need to build confidence when speaking or writing and reading – they’re all important – but when it comes to listening especially if living in a country where L2 (second of foreign language) is not ubiquitous…
Yes, their hearing may be even better than mine but we can’t overlook the fact that many are so busy speaking or looking at “bells and whistles” that they can’t really focus on listening what others are telling them.
Yes, you may argue that there are tons of movies and TV shows to watch, internet radio is here to stay, yada yada yada (since we’re talking about sitcoms) but the default language exposure will be the learners’ L1 (mother tongue) – they may even watch a video in English but with Portuguese subtitles – “I just wanted to decompress, teacher Mo” – “I needed a break so I listened to songs but didn’t any pay attention to the lyrics”, they would say. And to add insult to injury video lessons are having the same problem. Entertainment instead of Education.
The teacher may present the best data show software in the market but progress will be slow even if entertainment is high.
Phone classes (no eyes necessary) – a couple of students of mine have stuck to the system and benefited from it – helps learners develop and enhance their listening skills – they have to really understand what somebody is telling them with no body language.
Of course, I can pre-teach them the vocabulary, tell them to research the topic we will be discussing online and even send them a sample interview, dialogue, for example. But when on the phone they won’t be focused on the teacher’s hair or makeup or PJs but on the sound the teacher is producing.
Quite often in my teacher talking time, I say what I imagine could be a new word in the target language (they wouldn’t know, for example, what a “field hospital” is but would for sure have heard about it in their mother tongue these days). So I usually say: “well, I was driving past a field hospital they’re setting up near my home for Covid-19 patients… how do you say “hospital de campanha” in English?” And they will always glibly answer “field hospital” – just to check if they were listening and following what I was saying.
So to sum up, not every class must be visual 100% of the time, learners will greatly benefit from extra listening practice.
We are living in unprecedented times … April 2020 – we are going through a virus pandemic that no one (doctors, scientists, politicians, business leaders) cannot guarantee what the world will look like in one month’s time, let alone in one year’s time. At times my imagination travels as if there is a green, noxious miasma outside ready to grab anyone who ventures out.
Schools have been suspended, offices and malls closed. People told to stay home and safe. Actually, “Stay Safe” has become the most popular leave-taking expression of the year in English – forget about “goodbye”, “farewell”, “see you later”, or even “take care”.
We must stay home and be distant socially, but not socially isolated – we can communicate with our loved ones online, on the phone, shouting from the window (if they live next door or in the apartment block across the street).
Teachers worldwide have been told to stay home and start teaching their lessons online – some record their video sessions, others go live using Zoom, Skype or their institution’s choice, while others still have to do both.
But from the get-go, the problems started to arise – of schools and education authorities are not interested in how the teacher will do it… They just MUST do it.
Some frequent problems:
- equipment – old cellphones, no computer, no access to broadband, prepaid services (which are way more expensive)
- Wifi – poor or no wifi access
- digital skills – many teachers may use their mobile phones for passive consumption of social media, WhatsApp and make the odd phone call. But to upload their lesson plan?!
- lack of confidence – I’m not good with gadgets. I don’t know where to start.
- fixed mindset – see some of the excuses above.
- complexity – come on… some teachers can’t adjust the clocks on their microwave ovens – do you think they’re gonna be willing to learn something new?
That leads me to a quote I read last week – don’t remember the author (too lazy to try to find out) but still true: “teachers don’t like to learn”.
What’s the solution? No magic bullets but, as teachers we must develop more tolerance for ambiguity, and willingness to learn.
Grow in self-awareness, self-management, and problem-solving.
Our online classes will not likely be ready to be shown on national educational TV programming but they will make the difference to our students.
Keep calm and grow, baby, grow.
Happy online teaching.
Me perguntaram: “Como é a sua manhã de sábado nestes tempos de isolamento social?”
Cada pessoa tem o seu estilo, mas para mim:
1. Continuo acordando cedo (5:30) e ouvindo hinos e/ou revisando a lição da escola sabatina
2. às 6:45 levanto, faço a barba, tomo banho.
3. Arrumamos a cama e colocamos roupas confortáveis (nada de pijama e muito menos terno kkkk)
4. Lemos o devocional matinal
5. Tomamos o cafe da manhã
6. Ás 8:30 estamos na igreja online do Unasp SP
7. Ás 10:30 entramos na English Sabbath School online
Um hábito gostoso e que me faz muito bem
Como é o seu sábado de manhã? 🤔😇 #Felizsábado
I was asked: “How is your Saturday morning in these times of social isolation?”
Each person has their own style, but for me:
1. I keep waking up early (5:30) and listening to hymns and / or reviewing the Sabbath school lesson
2. at 6:45 am I get up, shave, shower.
3. We make the bed and put comfortable clothes (no pajamas and much less kkkk suit)
4. We read the morning devotional
5. We eat breakfast
6. At 8:30 am we are at the Unasp SP online church
7. At 10:30 we enter the English Sabbath School online
A tasty habit that makes me feel good
How is your Saturday morning? 🤔😇 # HappySaturday
Here we are, March 2020 – Only 3 months into the year. Back on January 01 I said to myself: “2020, what a beautiful number. This year promises to bring optimism, economic recovery in Brazil (we have been limping since the recession started in 2016), new ideas, 25 years of Wedding Anniversaries, etc”.
Now it seems that most of the world has been brought down to their knees by a virus. It started in China, but quickly spread to other countries until it was officially labeled a “pandemic” by the WHO. Now Italy is shut down. Many countries are considering to follow suit while all others are encouraging telecommuting and online learning.
Companies and workers will be trying to follow those recommendations, even though many working parents would rather leave home for the peace of their offices. Online classes for younger people – how would they work? would they be pre-recorded or live sessions? A blend of both? Who would make sure that learners are following with their studies? How different would be the learning environment without its social aspect? Would video chats replace face to face interaction?
There seem to be more questions than answers before this new normal sets in… will a “quarantine” take place whenever a new virus appears?
I have been teaching online for years, initially because I traveled a lot accompanying my wife on her business trips and it was wonderful to enjoy such flexibility, to be able to continue classes initially by phone (we are talking here mid- to late 1990s) and then via video chat. FaceTime (it doesn’t usually work very well), Skype and Zoom (my favorite platform) allow my students to prepare for the upcoming classes by practicing listening, vocabulary, grammar exercises (talk about the flipped class concept) and it doesn’t require much technology, you don’t need special VR goggles and sound effects. Even if you have a piece of paper or a mini whiteboard, that will be enough for you to interact with your student. Duration of the lessons varies according to student needs and cash availability (hey, it matters), so it can range from 30-minute to 90-minute sessions.
What could ensure a better flow of the classes? Preparation (by both teacher and learner). It’s a class – not a free chat session (which incidentally may occur) but a structured session with warm-up, review, speaking time, listening time, objectives, etc will yield better results.
Now I’m considering developing a language learning app for Brazilians – including pre-recorded videos with a teacher (me, who else?) and drills on grammar, vocabulary, social skills, etc. Initially it would be a general English app and later expand to a Business English context.
At the end of the day, crises must not be the end of the world. Let us think up of new possibilities. Any suggestions or recommendations?
Happy online teaching.
Ah se eu soubesse naquela época o que eu sei hoje…
Carta aberta para o Moacir em 1985
Sei que você é um tanto tímido e às vezes se sente um peixe fora d’água em certos lugares e ocasiões. Isso também acontecerá com você depois dos 50 anos. Portanto, vai se acostumando aí.
Mas preste atenção numa coisa: a sua escolha profissional para fazer Letras e ser professor não foi um acidente não. O seu professor no primeiro ano colegial (o curso vai mudar de nome depois mas não melhorar na qualidade ), o Valdir, Sabe quem é, né? Ele viu em você um grande potencial para idiomas, no caso dele, inglês. Também tem o irmão Santiago, da igreja – aquele motorista de táxi (um fuscão verde), ele te convidou para ensinar a lição da escola sabatina para jovens e adultos quando você tinha 15 anos, e Deus abriu as portas.
Claro, você vai ter medo. Às vezes, alguns alunos vão saber mais do que você, uns de fato, outros se achando (risos). Mas você vai inspirá-los a continuar aprendendo e desenvolvendo suas habilidades linguísticas.
Logo mais você vai ser convidado para dar aulas na escola adventista da Alvorada na Lapa, estando ainda no seu segundo ano da faculdade e sem ter a menor ideia de como lidar com alunos entre 5 e 17 anos. Principalmente os alunos da 7a. e 8a. séries vão lhe dar muita dor de cabeça, provocar, ridicularizar, chacotear, até mesmo jogar apagador em você quando der as costas pra eles. Por falta de apoio, orientação e experiência você vai fracassar e desistir do ensino. Mas alguns anos depois vai cruzar com alguns dos alunos e eles vão te agradecer pelas aulas e pelo gosto pela língua inglesa.
Você vai buscar trabalho como funcionário público da Caixa Econômica Federal, ganhando o dobro do que ganharia dando aulas, sem falar na estabilidade e carreira vitalícia, mas vai continuar insatisfeito. Vai voltar a dar algumas aulas à noite – como bico – mas logo descobrirá que ensinar é o que vc gosta mesmo de fazer.
Ao pedir demissão do emprego estável e sólido vai se aventurar pelo mundo dando aula de inglês em escolas de idiomas e empresas. Terá que acordar bem cedo (5 da matina) a fim de atravessar São Paulo de ônibus e metrô desde a Freguesia do Ó até Santo Amaro e São Bernardo para dar uma ou duas aulas em empresas. Vai passar os intervalos procurando uma sombra para sentar e esperar a próxima aula, já que a distância impede voltar para casa. A sua última aula vai terminar às 10:45 da noite e mais uma hora e meia de viagem para voltar para casa. Mas ânimo, trabalhar com o que você ama não vai te deixar doente. Continue aprendendo e crescendo. Vai chegar o dia que vc poderá escolher os horários que quer trabalhar e até mesmo trabalhar via video – como se fosse televisão… chique hein?
Busque sempre o profissionalismo ao lidar com seus alunos e clientes. Sim, você poderá se socializar com eles, mas lembre-se de que o seu trabalho é de ser o professor e não o coleguinha deles.
Não se deixe abater se alguém lhe desprezar por ser “apenas” um professor, ou porque você não é nativo de país de língua inglesa, ou porque você nunca viajou para fora do estado de São Paulo.
Mais alguns anos e você terá o privilégio de visitar e lecionar em diferentes países. Você será convidado para pregar em inglês num igreja da Cidade do Cabo, na África do Sul. Você será chamado de Program Director numa escola nos EUA, dará aulas na York College em Ontário no Canadá e aulas na Irlanda (depois você olha no mapa para ver onde fica, tá?). Você vai viajar até a China falando inglês e espanhol. Dá pra acreditar?
Sim, Deus fará coisas maravilhosas por você que cresceu usando chinelos de dedo e shorts feitos em casa (sem nem mesmo ter cuecas). Vai demorar ainda uns 20 anos mas você vai alcançar o topo da sua carreira, até mesmo ser convidado para palestrar em conferências sobre o ensino da língua inglesa, em países como a Costa Rica, Canada e EUA.
Não me pergunte como, você vai descobrir aos poucos. Continue aprendendo, crescendo, fazendo o seu melhor e a recompensa virá em diferentes formas.
Gosto muito de você. Se cuide, viu?
Level: A2 and higher
Kobe Bryant’s Dear Basketball: a love letter to a sport that is now a poignant epitaph
The NBA star’s Oscar-winning short film, in which he mused on his post-basketball future, now has a new layer of sadness and irony. May his soul and of the others in that fatal accident rest in peace.
Watch and read Bryant’s letter:
From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:
I fell in love with you.
A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.
As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.
And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.
I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.
You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.
And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.
And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1
Love you always,
Oscar for Kobe – Complete with the verbs in the right form. You will have to use some of the verbs more than once:
WORK CREATE BE TELL USE ANNOUNCE WRITE WIN EARN RETIRE FALL
In a 20-year career in the NBA, Kobe Bryant (1) _____________ five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, (2)___________league MVP in 2008 and (3) _____________All-Star honors 18 times. In 2018 he (4) _______________ another honor: an Academy Award for (5) ___________ the year’s best animated short film. At the 2018’s Academy Awards ceremony, Bryant (6) ____________ the coveted gold Oscar statue for “Dear Basketball,” a movie based on a poem he (7) _____________ when he (8) ___________ he (9) ________________ from the NBA. After (10) _____________ an Oscar for his very first film, Bryant said “I feel better than (11) ____________ a championship, to be honest with you.” The movie (12) ____________how Bryant (13) _____________ in love with the game and (14) _____________ hard to achieve success and greatness. He created it with Disney animation artist Glen Keane. The “Dear Basketball” movie (15) _____________ art to help tell a story.
Oscar for Kobe (answer key)
In a 20-year career in the NBA, Kobe Bryant (1) WON five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, (2) WAS league MVP in 2008 and (3) EARNED All-Star honors 18 times. In 2018 he (4)EARNED another honor: an Academy Award for (5) CREATING the year’s best animated short film. At the 2018’s Academy Awards ceremony, Bryant (6) EARNED the coveted gold Oscar statue for “Dear Basketball,” a movie based on a poem he (7) WROTE when he (8) ANNOUNCED he (9) WAS RETIRING from the NBA. After (10) WINNING an Oscar for his very first film, Bryant said “I feel better than (11) WINNING a championship, to be honest with you.” The movie (12) TELLS how Bryant (13) FELL in love with the game and (14) WORKED hard to achieve success and greatness. He created it with Disney animation artist Glen Keane. The “Dear Basketball” movie (15) USES art to help tell a story.
In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story that interests you. Use what you read to create three drawings that could illustrate key facts or events in the story. Share with the class.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
Last week I came across a video on YouTube where Christian (from http://www.canguroenglish.com/) talked about resolutions for students to effectively learn English in 2020.
He listed nine reasons that could beautifully sum up steps that would open the door towards learning and I decided to create step by step posters of his tips:
Tip #1: Practice actively – don’t just sit passively in front of your computer watching YouTube videos. Read, speak, write, repeat.
Tip #2: Don’t believe the lies – You can’t learn English in 90 days or while you’re sleeping. It requires time, effort, commitment. persistence.
Tip #3 – Have realistic expectations – don’t expect to be making phone calls or understanding Shakespeare after 2 classes.
Tip # 4 – Grammar is important – understand about verb tenses and modal verbs, for example. But it corresponds to only a tiny part of the language and your communication skills.
Tip # 5: Forget about exams – yes, Universities will require exams but if your goal is just to get a passing score, you will be missing out on the opportunity of actually learning the language – you’d be better off then just focusing on the tricks of exam’s questions and timing. Tip # 6 – Stop trying to sound like a Native – some people have lived for 30, 40 even 50 years in an English speaking country and have NEVER lost their accent – which has not held them back from enjoying their adoptive country to the full. Embrace your voice and accent, that’s part of your identity. Tip # 7 Mistakes are Learning – yes, you say you’re a Virgo and a perfectionist – I don’t care, and most other people don’t either. You will make mistakes and learn from them. Instead of just kicking yourself, pay attention to the mistake and try to avoid repeating it again and again and again. Move on to the next one. Tip # 8: Use your English to do things – watch TV, read, travel, do whatever you would do in your mother tongue, start experimenting with the language you’re learning. Tip # 9 Have Fun – it’s impossible to have fun every single moment – but enjoy the ride – if you enjoy the journey, your destination will feel even sweeter. Happy learning in 2020!
Last weekend we were celebrating my birthday at the home of a dear couple, Mari and David, who even surprised me with a deliciously personalized Black Forest Cake. They were so excited to have that cake made especially for me and quickly apologized saying that the cake maker had mislabeled it with “Congratulations” instead of “Happy Birthday”.
We had a wonderful time together and talked about nothing and 1001 things. At one point, my wife ask Mari about her English classes.
Mari works in marketing and customer service for an international company and needs to improve her language skills so that she can participate in global conference calls and presentations.
The last time we had talked about it, Mari had told us she was having online classes with a “native” teacher and that she found it hard to study and focus but she was feeling she was making some progress.
This time, she said, “now I am having face-to-face classes at a language school near my office, after work. But… my teacher is ‘NATIVE’ “.
My astute wife shot back right away: “why are you saying he’s ‘native’? What difference would it make if he wasn’t native?
Mari stood there (or sat there as I remember) with her mouth hanging open searching for good reasons. She realized I’m an English teacher and I am not “native”. So she said, “Yes, Mo, but you are native-like”.
Agreed, my English is amazing (may modesty take a hike for awhile), but what makes me a great language teacher (there I go again) is not simply the fact that I can speak English and can lead some people to believe I am an American, or Australian, or Canadian, or Irish etc… depending on the nationality of the students trying to guess where I am from.
I am a great teacher because:
- I am knowledgeable /an expert in the subject I’m teaching.
- I know how to convey information in a simple, brief and clear way.
- I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be trying to speak another language: Empathy.
- I am patient.
- I motivate, correct, exhort, encourage learners to aim to a higher level with my own passion for the language learning process.
A couple of weeks ago I came across a post written by Justin Murray (a ‘native’ teacher of English) on the English Experts website:
“[…] Another advantage about native speakers is that their students generally feel more motivated to speak in English in class. The fact that the teacher is from an English speaking country and not the country of the students generally works as an unconscious trigger for the student to speak the language. This may have nothing to do with the teacher’s proficiency or teaching ability.”
“The final advantage, which is the most popular, is that a native born teacher will teach or transmit much better pronunciation. This is for sure an advantage, but what a lot of people don’t know is that it’s difficult for beginners and lower intermediate students take advantage of this. In my opinion, upper intermediate and advanced students will benefit a lot more.” https://www.englishexperts.com.br/are-native-english-speakers-really-better-teachers/
Having read the quote above, I risk repeating myself:
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what planet your teacher is from, what will matter is the learner’s commitment, focus and effort (time, money, skills) to learn and improve their language skills. If having a native teacher makes you feel better, knock yourself out. But that doesn’t mean you’ll learn any faster or better.
The teacher, either Native, Native-like, or Martian will be just a facilitator and provider of resources.
Happy teaching and happy learning,
(The cake was amazing, by the way)