Monthly Archives: July 2012

IF on Strike, Classes on Pause

“Workers of the Rural Campus ON STRIKE”

The space was packed. Monday, July 23, 2012 the Instituto Federal, Campus Petrolina was full of boisterous cheering, loud clapping, passionate outbursts. Sporting event? Evangelical retreat? No and no. But the experience was equally as thrilling–I was taking part in my first worker’s strike. After all 38 IF campuses in Brasil entered on strike or greve, mine finally voted unanimously (all those who were present) to join.  We were the last campus to enter.

One of the things I respect most about Latin America its affinity to strike- individuals sacrificing for the greater good.  All of my experiences in South America have been shaped by unions of workers or students in protest.  Even having been historically ruled by brutal and violent dictatorships, people here rebel against their government, and not by bitching about it but by getting together and actually doing something about it. It is exhilarating to see the country stopped by Professors and administrators, supported by their students, fighting for a salary that matches the dignity of their profession (among other demands). We in the USA could learn a lot about the art of protest and unity from our Southern neighbors’ strikes.

Join the Conversation… the conversation course, that is!
Every Monday and Wednesday from 10-11 or 13-14.
Basic knowledge of English recommended. The more the merrier!

Although my and Chelsea’s TOEFL courses will continue as normal though the UNIVASF, ALL COURSES AT THE IF, CAMPUS PETROLINA AND ZONA RURAL WILL BE SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Please stay tuned for updates on when classes will restart. I look forward to seeing the smiling faces of my dear students when we return!

Students from Basic English Conversation Course I

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Cara’s Calender of Courses

I know what you’re thinking – what amazing alliteration.  You know, sometimes you have to say something, and it all happens to start with the same letter and that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

And with that, here is the calender of courses (and other activities) for this semester.  I will be updating it as situations arise (cancellations, adjustments, etc.).  So subscribe to the calendar or to this blog to stay informed.

Please note that Intermediate English (formerly Advanced English) will begin this Monday, July 16 at 16:00 at the IF-Sertão, Petrolina Campus.

Also note that Chelsea and I will begin the first phase of our TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) course on July 21st.  Students interested should register with UNIVASF and begin studying for the entrance exam, which will be a simulated TOEFL test.

This week is the second week of English Conversation.  Week one was FANTASTIC (thanks to all who are coming to participate).  Also many thanks to Grande Rio TV for interviewing me live to talk about the course!  I’m trying to get a hold of the footage to post… stay tuned.  To those of you who have not yet come– COME!  Class is either from 11:00-12:00 or 13:00-14:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays at the IF-Sertão, Petrolina Campus.  We have fun, play games, chat and so much more all in an hours time.  The class is open to all, and the more the merrier!

As always, feel free to write with any questions or comments.

Tagged , , , ,

Happy São Jõao!

São Jõao, aka the June fesival, in Brazil – bonfires, lots of corn and corn-related foods, homemade liquors and tons of forró music and dancing (check out the news clip below at minute 2:20 for a demonstration by yours truly!) and even a type of square dance called quadrilha!  Think Brazilian Carnaval …for the country folks.

The northeastern tradition, celebrating the nativity of John the Baptist, draws from the european midsummer… although here in the Northeast the festival marks the beginning of winter (and when I say winter in the NE of Brazil think springtime weather in DC) and the end of the rainy season.  In the semi-arid climate of the interior, a little rain is cause for thanks and celebration indeed.  If you´d like to see where I was last year during this time and some examples of the quadrilhas, check out this short clip:

São Jõao is one of my favorite holidays of all time.  It unites the warm, happy people of the Northeast  and celebrates the culture of their region: a region often marginalized and discriminated against, despite its being what I think is the richest and most unique area in the country.  A lá Brazilian, we now have two weeks of vacation, to make the end of São Jõao a little less painful.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Tying it all together: English Week at UPE

Since our students are busy with other classes, and in many cases jobs and families, it’s often hard for Cara and I to find enough time with them to do all the activities we dream up. But when we’re given that time in the school schedule, it’s a great opportunity—like Cara’s English Week in Salgueiro, or in this case, my Encontro de Língua Inglesa at UPE. (The event happen at UPE, but also included students from the IF and FACAPE, and interested community members.)

Rafaela teaching her workshop, Common Pronunciation Mistakes for Brazilian Speakers of English

One of the things I was happiest about that week was the breadth of activities: we had everything from academic lectures and pedagogical lessons to dancing, singing, poetry, films and baseball games (check out the whole program!). Language learning is so dynamic because virtually any kind of activity can be relevant and valuable by incorporating the language or its culture.

For example, Cara’s hip hop dancing workshop breaks out of the “language classroom” model but accomplishes many of the same goals: the students practiced listening comprehension (her directions were all in English), they learned some important vocabulary (left and right, body parts, movements, etc.), and they got a direct cultural experience with a specific kind of American music. Cara even incorporated some sports culture into the dance choreography—baseball and basketball moves! I think that as English Teaching Assistants, this out-of-the-classroom kind of language instruction is often our forté. For the most part, I leave the grammar lessons to the experts—the trained professors—and augment those lessons with baseball games, dance classes, an English chorus, and any other kind of activity I can imagine to bring the language to life.

Leandro visiting the White House on the Tour of DC

Which brings me to the part of the week that I concocted completely from scratch: the Tour of Washington, DC. The activity was organized like a huge scavenger hunt for the whole group: after an introductional lecture about the District, I split them into five teams (with US state names) and directed them to visit each of five “attractions”: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Newseum. Each of these attractions had a room of its own, with a projection of the silhouette of the building and at least three activities, plus a discussion question, posted on the walls. Examples of activities included: filling out the blanks in the lyrics of “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock, completing a George Washington wordsearch, finding world headlines on the Newseum website, and writing three questions to ask President Obama if you had the lucky chance of running into him at his favorite burger joint, Ray’s Hell Burger. Upon completing at least two activities per room (taking into account that some activities would require too high a language level for some students), everyone had to return to the auditorium to complete an entry in the DC Guest Book.

I still love the entire concept of this activity, and now that I’ve prepared all the materials, its replicability is extremely attractive. However, I also learned some really valuable lessons that will improve the Tour in the future. You can see those thoughts below (click “continue reading” at the end of the post). I also hope anyone who participated will send their reactions and feedback to me.

Marcelo about to hit a home run in our baseball game!

Before this post gets too long, I’ll mention one more wonderful aspect of the English Week programming: we were lucky to have a great diversity of guest professors. My students already know Cara but are always happy to see her again, and they also got the chance to meet Laraine (our English Language Fellow in Petrolina) and Rafaela (the wonderful English professor at the Instituto Federal). In addition, we coordinated the final English Festival to coincide with the visit of five English teachers from Texas A&M University, who had been traveling in Pernambuco giving workshops to English teachers in the public schools and universities. If anything, I know my students learned one new word in English Week: “howdy!”

We’re about to go on winter break here in Petrolina, and I’m heading to meet my parents in Rio, but UPE’s English Week was a wonderful way to finish the semester: having planned an entire week of activities for over 100 students, I have some real successes and lessons learned to file away for next semester’s adventures.

See my pictures from the week here!

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,