sábado, 23 de julho de 2016

Engaging and motivating students to keep them truly committed to learning

(Juliana Tavares)

Engaging and motivating students to learn, along with classroom management, is probably the biggest challenge teachers face today. How can we make our students actually enjoy what we teach and be engaged in the classroom? Moreover, how can our job make them motivated enough to learn on their own?

For starters, let us try to remember ourselves as students. If we stop to think about it, we will realize that we have many things in common with our students today, even though a lot has changed since we were in school. However, we always remember the subjects for which we had the best and the worst teachers. That is probably because what really draws our attention and gets us involved in learning is how meaningful what we are learning is to us. Does it “speak” to us in any way? How important is it to our lives? What are we going to do with it? How can we apply it to our lives?

The role of the teacher in engaging students and making the subject meaningful consists of, basically, enabling students to find the answers to these questions in what we teach them. When we are successful engaging students in what we teach, we can see their growing motivation day by day.

In order to do that, teachers themselves must be involved with what they are teaching. Otherwise, how are you going to make your students fall in love with something that does not do anything for you? We have selected some tips that can help you engage your students:

Student engagement happens through communication  

Students can sense when we are genuinely interested in they have to say, in what they like and do not like, in how they learn best. If I am able to show them I care, there is not much else that needs to be done. Listening is also the best way to truly get to know your students. Once this happens, you will be able to suit your classes to their profiles and make learning meaningful.

Student engagement depends on rapport 

In order to build rapport with your students, you must use your personality, sense of humor and charisma. None of this is easy unless you are genuinely willing to do it. Do not take for granted that students will be involved in your classes just because they have to. Give them reasons to do so. Rapport only happens when you are able to make a positive connection with your students, based on their feelings for you. It depends very much on honesty and openness, and it cannot be faked.

Student engagement depends on your own engagement 

As we said before, rapport leads to motivation. However, students can easily read your feelings, and they will be able to tell whether you are truly engaged in your classes or just there because they have to be. Therefore, finding passion in what to do is key to fostering motivation and engagement in your students. 
What do you think? What else would you add to this list? Do you feel you're engaging your students?
Take a look at more ideas here and talk to us!

terça-feira, 12 de julho de 2016

Are teacher trainers really necessary?

(Louise Emma Potter)

When I first became a language teacher, in the 1980s, not much thought was put into the theory that underlies what it is to be or become a teacher. I was very intuitive, my students seemed to enjoy my classes, were very participative and, most important of all, they were learning the language. I was hard working and extremely committed to my job. At that time, I could not see the necessity of having a theoretical background for my classroom practice. I had the course book, I was creative, I spoke the language fluently, I planned my classes carefully. Intuition was my guidance.

Nearly 30 years have gone by.

Ironically, teacher training has become my life. If I had known then what I know now, I believe my students would have become much better learners and speakers of the foreign language they were attempting to learn.

As Russell and Munby (1991, p. 164) point out: “Ask any teacher or professor, ‘How did you learn to teach?’ As likely as not, the response will be ‘by teaching’ or ‘by experience’, and little more will follow, as though the answer were obvious and unproblematic. While there is an implicit acknowledgement that actions and performances can be learned through or by experience, there is little understanding of how this comes about.”
The premise that teaching ability is something innate is very mistaken. Some people are born to be teachers. We have all met someone who cannot be seen, other than inside a classroom. On the other hand, most of the teachers we encounter in our education system are ones who have a university degree in Education, have been teaching ever since, however, need help to make that jump from being an ordinary teacher to a great one.

Teaching can and should be taught. Not only during the university courses, but throughout the whole career. When teachers adventure out to teach their first class coming fresh out of their university courses, they are able to put into practice a little of what they learned and a lot of it they pick up on the job, from their own experience. After a few years, they learn how to pull the strings so that the students learn what they are supposed to learn in that year. However, after some time, teachers tend to settle down into a comfort zone of underestimating what our students are able to learn.

Teaching can and should be taught. Teaching is an extremely complex profession, dealing with many different skills that need to be mastered, not only by the knowledge of theories, but also by being guided through by trainers with pedagogical methods, self- assessment sessions, classroom observation, guidance and view. There is no such thing as a bad teacher. I would say there is a lack of interest by many schools who are neglecting their most important students: their teachers.

Teaching can and should be taught. As teachers, our main objective is not to teach students a certain content, but teach them how to learn that certain content. In order to do so, different aspects of teaching must be taken into consideration: pedagogical content knowledge, collaborative work, knowledge of multiple intelligences, classroom management, theories of teaching and learning, reflective teaching, feedback sessions and many more. How is a teacher able to do all this without guidance and training on a daily basis?

With the advent of technology, so much more can be done for our students, and even more for the teachers. To be a teacher means to never stop learning and it makes it so much easier if you have someone to guide you on this exciting path of constant research.

Are teacher trainers really necessary? Yes! Definetely. Big changes are needed in schools. Classroom observations with critical and constructive feedbacks, teachers with clear goals and procedures on how to reach that goal, teachers encouraging students to think critically, teachers with clear classroom management and instructional skills. We have a long way to go!

quarta-feira, 6 de julho de 2016

O “Inglês da escola” e o paradigma da insuficiência

(Juliana Tavares)

As frases listadas abaixo resumem o que mais comumente ouço quando converso com pais de alunos, próximos ou não, a respeito do aprendizado de inglês dentro das escolas da rede pública e particular:

“Quando ela ficar um pouco mais velha eu vou colocar no inglês porque o inglês da escola é muito fraco.”

“As crianças da turma dele são bem avançadas porque a maioria faz inglês fora.”

“Na escola não dá para aprender inglês, com aquela bagunça e aquele monte de aluno. Tem que colocar na escola de inglês mesmo.”

“Eles têm inglês, mas são duas aulas por semana. E a professora é muito fraca.”

Essas frases possuem algo em comum: todas elas refletem uma descrença no ensino de língua estrangeira nas escolas regulares. Já falamos aqui sobre os principais problemas que identificamos nas áreas de idiomas das escolas e não é nosso propósito negar a existência deles. Sabemos também que, para fazer de fato a diferença, o ensino de língua estrangeira deve ser muito bem fundamentado em formação contínua e busca por resultados.

Porém, se formos destrinchar essas frases com mais cuidado, identificamos um conjunto de crenças (ou descrenças) que formam o que vou chamar de paradigma da insuficiência: a ideia de que o inglês ensinado nas escolas nunca será bom o suficiente e precisa ser “reforçado” com a escola de idiomas. O problema com esse paradigma está no triste fato de que, não importa o que é feito na escola em prol da qualidade, ele parece perdurar com muito mais força. É como se o problema de qualidade no ensino fosse algo exclusivo das línguas estrangeiras, já que nunca ouvi ninguém dizer que vai colocar seu filho em uma “escola de história” porque a “história na escola é fraca”. Além de desqualificar o ensino de inglês, essas crenças também desqualificam o professor. Afinal de contas, se o inglês é fraco, de quem é a culpa?

Não se sabe dizer ao certo quando esse discurso começou a se espalhar, mas muita gente já pesquisou e escreveu sobre o assunto (veja referências interessantes aqui). De fato, grande parte dele foi construído devido à má qualidade do ensino em geral. Entretanto, creio que o ensino de inglês sofre um pouco mais com isso, porque saber um idioma já se configurou condição si ne qua non para a conquista do mercado de trabalho. Portanto, se “não se aprende” na escola, há de se aprender em algum lugar, pois sem inglês não se sobrevive no mercado (come se as demais disciplinas não fossem também essenciais em seu conjunto de habilidades!).

Isso nos leva a refletir um pouco mais a fundo sobre o real papel das línguas estrangeiras na escola. O que a maioria dos pais provavelmente desconhece é que a função dos idiomas na Educação é (ou ao menos deveria ser) muito mais complexa do que o proposto nas escolas de idiomas! Que dentro da escola devemos estabelecer diálogo com outras disciplinas, trabalhar com habilidades não-cognitivas, inserir a cultura dos países falantes da língua de maneira mais aprofundada, desenvolver o pensamento crítico, etc. Em outras palavras: ensinar uma língua não se resume a ensinar a falar uma língua. E é exatamente por isso que não se deve comparar o trabalho feito nas BOAS escolas de línguas com o trabalho desenvolvido dentro das escolas regulares. Ainda assim, é preciso melhorar muito o que é feito hoje. Porém, para melhorar, é preciso que haja valorização, tanto por parte dos pais, quanto por parte da própria escola como um todo (professores, direção e alunos). É preciso que a importância das línguas estrangeiras na escola pública e particular seja reconhecida, e que essas disciplinas obtenham o mesmo status das demais. Somente dessa forma poderemos caminhar rumo a um ensino de idiomas sério e de qualidade.