SAYING GOODBYE

Letting Go | Hoffman Institute
Letting go is bittersweet

The act of saying goodbye has bittersweet notes. There’s always the excitement, the glad anticipation of a new student starting and that strange feeling when it’s time for you to say goodbye to a student.

Teachers and students traditionally say goodbye at the end of the term. That’s expected and part of the program. In the case of the relationship between private teacher and student the situation is rather different. The duration of a language coaching program has no pre-fixed termination date and it quite often flourishes and goes on for years. It’s like a therapy process (it sure feels that way). It’s an amazing feeling to observe how students grow in the process. But all good things must come to an end.

Saying Goodbye to a Client. – Florida CAM Courses
A bittersweet feeling

This week I’m saying goodbye to two long-time students. Student A is leaving because the bank he works for has acquired an “automated platform” for English learning where staff may do exercises and in case of questions consult with an online “teacher”. NO NEED FOR REGULAR CLASSES WITH ANOTHER HUMAN. Student A had been having classes for over 3 years and was successfully developing his listening skills. But it was slower than he would have expected or wanted – it took him all this time to go through level A2 – next semester he would be starting his B1 level. His progress would have been faster had he been fully committed to the program – but at times, no homework, no practice and having classes only 1 hour a week – will take its toll. Very optimistically after 140 hours he finished his pre-intermediate level. Not bad. Of course, he still has a long way ahead, he still mispronounces “son” and soon” , for example and thinks when I ask him “Who won the game?” He replies that Juan was not there. LOL.

The second student to leave is Student R. Initially she hated English, she was B1 and was terrified about the prospect of speaking in English and considered herself unable to understand anything. Having 1-hour classes only once a week -but as they like to say, better one hour than nothing – slowly I started to introduce audio files with English conversations, reading aloud helped her overcome the speaking barrier, role playing also had a positive impact. Student R started to attend meetings without suffering from anxious stomach pains and could increasingly state her points and understand what her colleagues and clients would be saying. With some information gaps, of course. We persistently worked her listening skills with lots of fill-in-the-gap activities, which really helped her immensely. In her case, she is leaving because she has been let go by her firm and now she needs to cut expenses.

In July two new students will be starting their programs with me but the feeling of ” it’s out of my hands circumstances” still bugs me. I always require a 30-day minimum notice for the suspension of classes which protects both me and the student from unpleasant situations and that allows me to wrap up that student’s program, provide some feedback and advice.

Do You Know the Chautauqua Salute? – Isabella Alden
Waving them goodbye with a white handkerchief

I wish them all the luck and all the best in their pursuits. Despite that nagging feeling of “I wish I could have helped them more” I also know that I am growing in my resolution to learn from their experiences and incorporate them into my own teaching career.

Cheers,

Mo

TEACHERS WANTED! Must they be Native?!

I’ve been a teacher of English and Spanish for over 25 years and I’ve never let the fact of my nationality or birthplace affect my professional performance. Never believed that anyone could be a teacher – it’s way more than skills, it’s a calling. Born in Brazil,, born at home because I wanted to be close to momma (lol), my mother tongue is Portuguese with a Paulista accent and proud of that. As anyone should be proud of their heritage.

Proud of being Brazilian!
Proud to be a Brazilian teacher

My first contact with English was at school when I was 11 years old and as English was replacing French and Latin as the foreign languages taught at public schools I was fortunate enough to have an amazing teacher (whose name I’ve forgotten, I think it was Maria Cecilia, but not sure) who gave us a great basic structure of the English language in the 9 months she taught us. We’d copy her texts from the blackboard, we would repeat what she said, we would try to memorize verbs and their conjugation. No visual or audio resources. Remember it was a public school in Piqueri, a low income middle class neighborhood in São Paulo, Brazil. Yes, some of my classmates had parents who were doctors, lawyers, teachers and housewives. Some had money – even a telephone and a car. Not my family’s case either way). Others came from the shacks in the “Buraco Quente (Hot Hole)” favela near our school (that already in the early 70s).

Public schools used to be aggregators bringing together people from all social classes, even shantytowns.

Yes, Still today I don’t know every single word of the English language or I may mispronounce some words. So do native speakers.

Teaching a foreign or second language is more than just your mommy singing lullabies to you in that language when you were born.

It takes hard work, constant studying, and passion for the subject matter.

I’m not saying native speakers cannot be great language teachers, but it’s undeniable that a teacher who also went through the process of learning that language can not only empathize but also provide strategies for their students.

Of course many people who don’t know better still think that a language teacher is not a professional but a person born in a place where English, French, German is spoken, period. Wanna learn Portuguese? Don’t look for a professional teacher, get a Brazilian or Portuguese national to teach you. If you get your lessons for free or almost free, even better. Yes, Virginia I’m being sarcastic.

The market wants the market gets

The list above from LinkedIn shows the priority that many language schools have – they not even bother to say “native-like” teacher – why? Because that’s what their clients are demanding. It’s a reality, not a myth, Virginia. Certifications, professional history or experience are often not necessary. And let’s not get started in cases that I witnessed when the school would pay MORE for the native teacher than the local indigenous educators.

teachers wanted – Harmony Science Academy – Carrollton
Teachers wanted… must be native speakers?

I’ve seen cases that students asked for that “tall, blue-eyed man to be their teacher because he looked native. “But hey, he’s Swedish not from an English speaking country“. Students would say: “close enough!

Also I’ve witnessed cases when a Black British person would be turned down as a teacher because he didn’t have the “qualifications” – I think you get my gist.

Prejudice is alive and well in different manifestations of the human heart and it’s no surprise it is so present in a humanistic career as language teaching.

Patient prejudice toward nurses - American Nurse
Prejudice is alive and well

What can be done?

The British Council, yes, the British Council well known for their neutrality, right? published the following back in 2014:

“If you start questioning these practices (preferring native teachers), you are likely to hear one or all of the following excuses:

1. Students prefer NESTs
2. Students need NESTs to learn ‘good’ English
3. Students need NESTs to understand ‘the culture’
4. NESTs are better for public relations

They go on: ” So why does this obsession with ‘nativeness’ refuse to go away? Because for years the English language teaching (ELT) industry told students that only NESTs could teach them ‘good’ English, that NESTs were the panacea for all their language ills. But let’s be blunt and have the courage to acknowledge that the industry encouraged a falsehood which many of us chose to turn a blind eye to while others assumed they could do nothing. I feel this needs to change”.

“The good news is that positive changes are already taking place. TESOL France has issued a public letter condemning the discrimination of NNESTs. Some of the most renowned ELT professionals such as Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury, as well as organisations such as the British Council Teaching English team have already expressed their strong support for the TEFL Equity Advocates  campaign I started, which fights for equal professional opportunities for native and non–native teachers.”

And I make theirs my words: “And you can help bring about the change too in numerous ways that were outlined here. So stand up, speak out and join the movement.

(Source: https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/native-english-speaking-teachers-always-right-choice)

Cheers,

Mo

REMOTE LEARNING IS EASIER?

This year ( 15 months, 7 days, 9 hours and 46 minutes into the covid-19 pandemic – yes, I refuse to capitalize you) I went back to the classroom (remotely, how else?). I needed to brush up my conference interpreting skills in this brave new world (no pun intended) of remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI – as it is professionally abbreviated by those in the know).

I knew that Zoom and other video conferencing services had an add-on feature that would/might allow for simultaneous interpreting, but now I’ve discovered that there are whole sets of platforms operating along with them. In other words, the challenge to the interpreter has risen from just knowing the vocab and terminology and having mind agility to listening in one language and blurting out in a second or third language to becoming an IT and Sound engineer – more than doubling our checklist before even uttering the first sound.

Today’s Simultaneous Interpreter is expected to know way more than 2 languages

I’ll write later about interpreting – now the focus is on remote learning.

Again the very respected interpreting and translation institution, Alumni, like make other educational structures, just transferred the onsite sessions to the online environment – same teachers, same methods, same length of sessions, same coffee breaks. Any changes necessary?

The flipped classroom format is ubiquitous – the school will send you an email with your assignments and agenda for the forthcoming class and woe is you if you don’t go over them carefully. Fine.

But they take some things for granted. In yesterday’s session, our very good trainer said – “Ok – during the interpreting practice remember to record your voices”.

Ok. Questions in my mind: “Did he tell us which app to use? how should we proceed?” It’s not intuitive.

I asked a boothmate and she told me she was using the Windows recorder. Ah ok.

Instructor: “After today’s session send me your recorded audio”.

My brain: “how? email? WhatsApp? a web platform? I don’t have his number or email address. Did I miss his instructions again?”

These are just simple examples for us teachers. We can’t just assume our students know what to do on their own (you know the old saying, right? “When you assume you make an ass of you and me”). Whatever happened to show and tell? Show me how you do it and then tell me to do it.

Pin on LOLZ
Assumptions must be kept in check

TAKEAWAY: If simple and clear instructions and directions were essential in the in-person environment they are crucial now in the remote classroom.

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

JOB INTERVIEWS IN A FOREIGN OR SECOND LANGUAGE

As a teacher of English and Spanish as Second or Foreign Languages for nearly 30 years one thing that will make students get highly motivated and pay attention to every word you say is when they have to undergo a job interview process. Some will break out in a cold sweat or start crying in the bathroom. What advice would I give them?

Tips for Medical Interviews - MedEntry Blog
Avoid clichés during the interview: “I’m a great team player” – say: “I collaborate …”

1. What can I do to prepare for an interview? First, do some homework on the company – what’s the company looking for? Review your skills, experience, qualities… etc. And most importantly: WHY are you interested in the job?

2. What can I do if I’m really nervous in my job interview? Spend time preparing, rehearsing, learning more about the prospective company and job position.

3. Ok, … but what about my language skills? Oh yes,… that. Don’t lie about your language skills – try to be fair and balanced in your assessment. Check key vocabulary that describes your work and persona. Don’t be afraid to say: “Sorry, I’m afraid I didn’t get that” – don’t apologize for your lousy language skills (sometimes you won’t even need to speak it after you get the job – the language was just a filter, honestly). Be willing to listen. Ask the interviewer to repeat – it’s better than just trying to imagine what they asked or said. Check if you got it right. Use lexical fillers during your answers- buy time while thinking – umm… uh… well…

4. Provide examples of your work. Lessons you learned.

I don’t know if you will get the job but you will most certainly have had the chance to network and build your own confidence towards the next job interview.

Should you be funny in a job interview? | PBA
Preparation will prevent awkward situations

Good luck and lots of success

Cheers

Mo

A DIFFERENT YEAR IN ELT

AND IN EVERYTHING ELSE... .

Yes, the comic strip in my desk calendar was quite right – considering it was originally created in 2019, that the new year (2020) would be a LOT different from last year.

“Things will be a LOT different from last year” insightful Non Sequitur words

Exactly one year ago we prayed and gave thanks for coming to the end of a year, which hadn’t been easy financially and welcomed the New Year: 2020.
What did I expect? A good year – an even number – representing balance and prosperity (at least in my thoughts and wishes, mind you). But then… Covid-19 happened. The year 2020 became an odd year.

Spending New Year’s Eve at the Arab Christian Fellowship in São Paulo in 2019

In fast succession cities, states, and countries started shutting down – in Brazil (as everything else) we awoke after Carnival in March to the sad news that tropical and happy Brazil hadn’t been spared from the virus, contrary to what our clownish president J. Bolsonaro (a.k.a. Bozo) mockingly had promised would happen.

Companies, retailers, schools of all sorts were told to shut down and self-isolate. Initially social distancing was successful in some parts of Brazil – in March or April – when social distancing or stay at home campaigns reached the adherence of roughly 60% of the population. But as the days went by, and the virus didn’t seem to be THAT lethal, more and more people started wearing their masks under their chin instead of mouth and nose and getting more relaxed about large gatherings and crowds with people staying at home hovering at around 30%..

Back in January I had gloated that wife and I would never spend a Sabbath without going to church and just the thought sickened me to my stomach. Suddenly, in March churches were closed and now nine months later I feel like questioning myself -“why did I really make a point of going to church?”

Our English Sabbath School class went online and there it has been a source of fellowship and joy in the midst of all the bad news taking place.

“This is my Bible” @ English Sabbath School – Believes Unasp

All companies where I used to teach at shut their doors – if not to all employees – most certainly to all “nonessential” service providers – such as language teachers. Another hurtful 2020 keyword: “nonessential”. Are the Arts, Music, Education, physical contact not really essential?

My migration to Zoom was rather smooth – only one “Zoom bomb” incident – by the way, whose fault was it when the moronic teacher posted the meeting’s Zoom ID on Twitter – what was I thinking? (or not thinking? LOL) – I hadn’t used it before, but had already taught using FaceTime and Skype; had to learn some of the resources but at the same time I was reminded that “face time” is more important than all the gimmicks and tricks with PowerPoint or any other gaming gadget. Students need to see the teacher’s face more than a slide or special effects. The teacher must be focused on listening instead of looking at the next button to press or feeling turned on by their own image on the screen (chuckles).

Yes, a couple of students dropped out of classes because they didn’t “enjoy” online classes – (mind you, they not even bothered to try) but some new students joined the roster of my excellent learners and I was able to filter out those who need to find themselves before finding a teacher/tutor.

Hopefully I’ll be able to better use digital coursebooks in the coming year, honestly I didn’t come across any that grabbed my attention – I resigned myself to using PDF files of books I already knew. By the way, publishers will hopefully awake to the fact that learners need more than flashy photos with bells and whistles. Interactivity with the coursebook must involve vocabulary, pronunciation, listening, writing with resources to self record and verify accent and pronunciation; correct and explain grammar errors, etc.

Well, … it’s December 31 and what does the future hold? On a personal note, wife, and I and Luther will be moving to a new home in the countryside sometime in the first half of 2021. New place, new house, new people, new things to discover. I think that’s what the new year should invite us to do: Start 2021 with a purpose – to be different (and better) from who you were in 2020. If I can fulfill this resolution the dividends will be immeasurable.

Happy New Year

Cheers,

Mo