Tag Archives: UPE

On Transparency and Inequality

The Contradiction of Brazilian Democratization

In November of last year, the Universidade de Pernambuco (UPE) held an election to select the next Director of the Petrolina campus. The position had been held for the last 16 years by the outgoing Director Maria Socorro Ribeiro Nunes and her sister, who had been trading the post back and forth to meet the term limit requirements.

University director candidate Moisés and his running mate, Marta Guimarães (photo: www.blogfolha.com)

University director candidate Moisés and his running mate, Marta Guimarães (photo: http://www.blogfolha.com)

This election was different for two reasons. Primarily, it would be the first election after a 2011 decision that changed a critical part of university electoral law. In both the previous and new policies,  school administrators control a third (33%) of the vote, faculty control another third, and the student body controls the final third. Under the old law, the final percentages for each candidate were calculated out of the total number of eligible voters. By virtue of the university’s structure, there is always a low voter turnout in the student body because eligible voters include literally all enrolled students, not only those who take classes or frequent the campus. In other words, even if all the students who appeared to vote all voted for one candidate, that candidate’s percentage of the student vote would still be significantly diminished because of the inevitable greater number of students who missed the election.

Secondly, outgoing Director Socorro had chosen a successor other than her sister: Carlos Eduardo Pinho Romeiro, then the Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies. His opponent was Moisés Diniz de Almeida, a History professor at the campus who was extremely popular with the student body.

For almost two months, Moisés’ supporters manned a tent set up outside the main campus building, passing out literature and stickers daily, hosting open-mic performances, and maintaining a constant presence of fliers, posters, and banners around the university. Around every corner was a Moisés campaign logo. Still, his team was anxious: even with the new electoral law, each administrator and faculty vote received more “weight” than each student vote because the student population, so much larger than either of the two former groups, was nevertheless given an equal percentage value. In other words, one administrator’s vote could overpower dozens of student votes for a different candidate. Moreover, about half the administrator positions are appointed by the Director in power, so those individuals would be highly likely to vote for the incumbent as a job retention strategy.

This election characterizes so well the pattern that democratization has taken in Brazil. In some ways, the country is exceptionally transparent and formulaic, favoring public campaigning, painstaking inclusion of all parties, and neat math combined with the most sophisticated voting technology in the world. In others, it contradictorily manages to maintain inequality in the face of such transparency, creating pockets of extremely concentrated power. Ultimately, given these contradictions, the government fails to completely eradicate the major faults in its own system, and the voters—still faced with vast disparities in education and income inequality—struggle to utilize effectively the rights and powers that their government has provided.

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PIEF Thank Yous

Parabens to all who participated in Petrolina’s First International English Fair! Although there is a still lot of work to be done, the fair itself ended with a wonderful evening of music and presentations at the public amphitheater in the city center on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

The first of many posts about our event must be dedicated to thanking all the people who helped and collaborated.  Without everyone listed (and probably others who are not listed) this event would not have been possible.

Consul, Usha Pitts (center in black jacket) and participants after the opening ceremonies

Consul, Usha Pitts (center in black jacket) and participants after the opening ceremonies

Fabio Marcelino: Volunteer number 1 who did all of our design work for FREE–from making our logo, to designing the program, and crafting the posters from large to small.  We even had a billboard for the event!  All thanks to the fabulous Fabio.

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All of our event volunteers who worked 12 hours over 3 days, helping with everything from picking up trash to managing the stage and to our volunteer MC who opened the fair with grace and style—Karina.

Surprise Superstars – Eliane from the GRE and Ana Maria from UPE who worked thanklessly behind the scenes.  Eliana organized all the transportation, making sure students arrived, providing snacks for the teacher’s workshop and ensuring a lovely space at the GRE for our cocktail event on Thursday night.  Ana Maria created the two most beautiful stands– one with a chocolate fountain and the other with a Gothic themed tea party, complete with costumed students– representing UPE, the only University in Petrolina responsible for forming English Teachers!

Francisco: He built all the stands from scratch and made all three of our event locations aesthetically pleasing with just colored fabric and a lot of creativity.

English fellows: Avram Blum, Laura M.—our inspirational/informational lecturers with a special thanks to Laura for whipping together at the last-minute a games section.  Thanks to Scott for helping with the consulate stand!

Maria Snarski, Regional Language Officer for Brazil, with students trying, for the first time - the free English Language learning video game "Trace Effects" sponsored by the US State Department.

Maria Snarski, Regional Language Officer for Brazil, with students trying, for the first time – the free English Language learning video game “Trace Effects” sponsored by the US State Department.

American consulate in Recife and their fleet of Americans: Special shout out to Heidi for all her work and mentoring leading up to the event, the informative palestras, and the heartfelt speech during the round table and for all the time and energy at the consulate stand.  Heidi continues to be not only an inspiration for aspiring young women such as Chelsea and me, but also a good friend.  Thank you for everything, Heidi.   Maria, Brazil’s Regional Language Officer for honoring our fair to be the inaugural event of the Consulate’s Language-Learning computer game, Trace Effects and for her workshop on Saturday, which many said was the highlight of the event for them.  And finally to Usha Pitts, Consul for the North-Northeast who used the fair to visit Petrolina for the first time, opened the fair with a charming and sincere speech and interacted openly and with humility to all participants.  Usha never ceases to impress all who cross her path, and we thank you for bringing grace and prestige to our event.

The GR TV, the radio shows (especially the dynamic Genival Ferreira) that helped get the word out about our event.

Thanks to the following institutions for their contributions: GRE – space for the cocktail, teachers workshop, print material, student presence and buses; IFSertão – buses, print materials and 3/5 of organizational committee, and the flooring performance at the opening ceremonies by the Symphony of the Sertão; UPE  – even when they cannot contribute with resources, they over compensated with talent- wonderful stands and 100% participation; UNIVASF -even though we would have liked more physical participation we thank them for being unafraid to put their name and we are grateful for Lucia Marisy´s faith and confidence in our abilities; SENAI – complete use of space and Lucienne and Paulo—two great helpers; and finally Gilmar Mello and Amazon Produce – for being a leader in corporate responsibility in the region, sponsoring the cocktail, graciously showing the diplomatic team around Petrolina and the genuine speech at the opening ceremony.

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Laraine: for her vision of a culminating event, the delicious meals to ease the pressure of meetings, the results she produced despite communication difficulties and most especially for her dedication to the teachers from the public schools, who made the event what it was… which brings us to…

Teachers:  Your projects and your presentations floored us.  We recognize that you do not do it for the money, but for the love of your students.  That love shone through the marvelous work you shared with Petrolina during the fair.

Students from 1- public schools: from far and wide came to post their work on imported science fair boards and present songs, dances, plays, etc. My most sincere thanks go to the students and their teachers from Cabrobo, who traveled 4 hours from the island where their indigenous tribe live to present work about their tribe (in English) and present a song a dance representing their tribe at the fair.  2- the universities: who made up our volunteers and enriched our lecture halls.  We hope that you were inspired—you certainly inspired us.

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PE Professors Filipe and Barto: They helped run the rugby workshops on Saturday morning.

Rafaela: MC for the closing ceremonies, writer of all eloquent Portuguese, mounter of the IF stand and contact with the private schools and institutions.

Finally – the most important person to C² – Jeziel.  Thank you for your dream, for your tireless and too often thankless efforts, for caring for us as people and treating us like family.  You inspire and push us everyday.

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From left to right – Heidi Arola, Jeziel Junior and Rafaela Carla

THANK YOU!

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Sneak peak into an English Fair project!

I’m excited to post a little preview of one of the Petrolina International English Fair student projects, produced by the second semester English students at UPE! Here’s what they have to tell you, written by themselves, about their stand:

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Hello, welcome to the English Fair!!

We English students of the second semester from UPE invite everybody to an amazing multicultural trip!

Our central objective is to present the irrigated fruticulture from Petrolina-PE to the world from the angle of the cultivation of the grape. We will be offering to the public a tasting of grapes, a chocolate waterfall with fruits, among another activities and games.

Searching to understand grape cultivation, the group counted on the support of Miguel Cappellaro, administrator, who showed us the way patiently during the visit, teaching us all the process of cultivation of the grapes, from plantation until harvest. We were fascinated with the plantation–it’s a lovely experience, one we recommend.

Miguel further told us about the importance of knowing English in the work market, which always needs a professional with this knowledge. In addition, learning another language can also help with personal growth.

Cappellaro Fruits, a company that has worked in the region for twenty two years, is formatted on a family base, contributing to development of the city generateing hundreds of job, making donations to the municipal nursery and also participating in the return of packaging recyclable and toxics.

Come visit the English Fair and let yourself take in this multicultural trip!

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Breaking News: PIEF Countown, 24 days!

C² is thrilled to announce our big hurrah for the end of this year:

the Petrolina International English Fair (PIEF)!

The event is the first of its kind in Petrolina: think science fair (with English instead of science), academic congress, and cultural festival all tied into one. The Fair has two main goals: to showcase the work of English students in Petrolina, particularly from the public high schools and universities, and to demonstrate the importance of English as an international language in an increasingly globalized world.

The Fair will take place November 29-December 1, 2012. For two full days, there will be lectures and free English mini-courses during the day, framed by a science-fair style demonstration of students’ English creations and a stage to show their performances. At night, we’ll have invited guest speakers and round-table discussions on how to improve English teaching and broaden access to English classes. Finally, Saturday will feature sports events and a teacher training workshop, and a big arts and culture festival in the amphitheater at the city’s center. (Check out our full program.)

It’s amazing to think back at where we were when we started this blog, and where we are now–collaborating with other visionary English teachers and local educational leaders to realize an event that highlights a crucial key to Petrolina’s future. The blog itself shows some of this change; we’ve moved to an official .com domain and we’ve temporarily rearranged the organization of the site to be the Fair’s online home base.

I don’t think we’ve linked this video before, but we use it all the time in class. Jay Walker’s brief TED Talk on English Mania succinctly and powerfully describes the drive for the world to learn English–and it isn’t because of hamburgers and Hollywood. We’re proud to be taking part in helping our students achieve their highest potential.

Thanks to the PIEF sponsors below: particularly the U.S. Consulate in Recife, the State of Pernambuco Secretariat of Education, the Petrolina Prefeitura, and UNIVASF for their support and resources.

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An English Immersion Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a group of daring young students set out to master a foreign tongue on a magical island.

They departed from the kingdom of Petrolina, traveling merrily over land until arriving at the massive hydroelectric dam of Sobradinho, where the noble Noah boat awaited them.

Disembarking from their trusty transport, the travelers received their first surprise: a magic amulet, called a “rubber band,” which forbade the wearer from speaking his or her native tongue. Immersion in the foreign tongue, the most used language in all the world—English—had begun!

Armed with their challenge, the valiant voyagers boarded the Noah, where there was much merrymaking and singing.

By the time the sun was two hours lower in the sky, the boat full of adventurers scraped the sands of Treasure Island (Ilha do Tesouro in the local language). And there were treasures aplenty, just waiting to be discovered.

After settling in their cabins, appetites were worked up over tournaments of tetherball, volleyball and soccer until the first of many great feasts.

Bellies filled with American fare, the campers tackled group tasks for a great festival in their kingdom, whose goal is to share English with all the dwellers of the land (the Petrolina International English Fair).

Later, leaders helped the students climb new heights; daring was unburied from deep within.

As the weary travelers trooped back to their cabins, the first glimmers of all the riches to be had were fresh in their minds.

With the rising of the sun, the campers set off on a quest to explore the island.

Not only did they discover a beach full of gleaming crystals…

…but they also uncovered their own bravery and strength, hiking up mountains…

…jumping off cliffs and climbing up steep rocks.

Over the next few days, uncountable treasures were discovered. Participants explored the island as they explored their own daring, testing their abilities at kayaking, archery, zip lines, swimming, horseback riding and more—all while communicating in the strange sounds of English.

 

The linguistic conquerors showed their mastery of the foreign tongue by creating songs, dramatic works and dances (to be shown to all the townspeople during the great PIEF festival).

They even fell in love with the adventure of tasting strange new foods such as marshmellows and peanut butter!

Around a blazing fire on the beach during the last night, the adventurers bid their adieus over sweet melodious campfire songs and sweeter s’mores.

Merrymaking continued until the parting of ways, a day’s journey later. Just as diamonds are indestructible, the richness of getting to know new worlds and all that they entail (friendship, understanding, and a new language) will be forever with all those adventurous enough to take part in the First English Immersion Camp in the North-East Interior at Treasure Island!

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Caution: Autonomous Learning in Process

A few weeks ago I completed my Autonomous Learning lectures in UPE English classes, and then met with over 15 students individually to discuss their personal goals and strategies when it comes to improving their English. The lectures and workshops were extremely rewarding, and I even met with a few students who had never come to my classes before. The whole experienced reinforced the concept that the most effective goals in language learning are short-term, specific, and evaluable. This way, they are all that much easier to achieve!

Here is my powerpoint from the lecture:

And here is the Personal Goal Setting handout I asked my students to fill out before meeting with me.

But the process is never over! For those who met with me, I’ll be setting up meetings in another few weeks to help them evaluate where they are in their goal process. For those who haven’t yet made goals and would like to talk more about how to do it, I’m here–get in contact!

Thanks to Christina Lorimer, ETA in São José do Rio Preto, for her consultation about autonomous learning and goal-setting. Another great web resource from an avid autonomous learner is Innovation in Teaching.

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Coming Up: Autonomous Learning at UPE

One of the things I’m emphasizing this semester at UPE is that language learning requires independent initiative. You’ll learn a language best not only by going to class, but by setting goals for yourself, learning the way you learn, and practicing effectively on your own.

However, it can be hard to know how to start this independent work. To this end, when Cara and I come back from our English Camp (for which we are inexpressibly excited) next week, I’m kicking off a two-week series on Autonomous Learning at UPE. In Week 1, I’ll give a half-hour lecture to each of the four periods (freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in American terms) during scheduled class time. At the lecture you’ll discover what Autonomous Learning is all about and receive a questionnaire to begin your “journey.” In Week 2, I’ll teach a workshop to follow up on the lecture, where we’ll talk personally about your questionnaire, set some goals, and design strategies for moving forward.

Week 1 begins on Tuesday, October 2. UPE English students will get the lecture in their classes; students from other courses or outside the school should contact me to get a schedule. Week 2 will have two identical workshop slots, so choose which one works best for you. They will be October 9 and 10th, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 5:30-7pm.

Stay tuned for a post-Camp post (hah) in the beginning of next month!

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Application Open for English Immersion Camp!

[Tradução em português abaixo]

C² is thrilled to announce our first English-immersion camp at the Ilha do Tesouro (Treasure Island) in Sobradinho, BA.  The camp will be a four-day event: participants will leave Petrolina at 11 am on Thursday, September 27th and return Sunday, September 30th.  There will be kayaking, zip lines, horse rides, beach time, campfires and lots more—all in English! 

The camp is part of an upcoming Petrolina International English Fair, to be held from the 29th of November to the 1st of December in the Convention Center in Petrolina (more details in future ensinapetrolina posts).

WHO CAN APPLY: University students and Petrolina community members of at least 16 years of age, who will commit to speaking only English during the camp and to volunteering at the Petrolina International English Fair at the end of November.

COST:  Only R$70 (all-inclusive price)

HOW TO APPLY: Fill out the English Immersion Camp Application, and send it to escreveconversaingles@gmail.com with a copy of your CPF and identification. Applications are due by Friday, September 7thselected participants will be informed of their selection Monday, September 10th, and payment will be due by Friday, September 14th.  There will be a mandatory question and answer session at the C² home on September 21st.

Also check out the Four-Day Camp Schedule of activities and the Four-Day Sample Menu.  Feel free to write with any questions or comments and spread the news to all your friends—we want MAXIMUM participation for this one-of-a-kind oportunity!

For pictures and information about the island, click here.  Looking forward to reading your applications!

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C² – Chelsea e Cara – estamos super animadas anunciar nosso primeiro acampamento da língua inglesa na Ilha do Tesouro em Sobradinho, BA.  O acampamento acontecerá durante quatro dias; os participantes selecionados vão sair de Petrolina as 11:00 horas na 5ta-feira dia 27 de setembro e retornarão domingo dia 30 de setembro, 2012.  Entre ambos, as atividades incluirão tirolesa, carroça, praia, fogueira e caiaque—todo em Inglês!

O acampamento faz parte dum evento iminente – I Petrolina International English Fair – que será realizada de 29 de novembro a 1 de dezembro no Centro de Convenções em Petrolina (mais detalhes estarão em postos futuros do blog ensinapetrolina.wordpress.com)

QUEM PODE SE CANDIDATAR: Alunos das universidades e pessoas da comunidade que têm pelo menos 16 anos de idade, que vão comprometer falar somente inglês no acampamento, e que podem ser voluntários no evento Petrolina International English Fair no final de novembro.

CUSTO: Apenas 70 R (todo incluído)

COMO SE CANDIDATAR: Favor de preencher o English Immersion Camp Application e mandar para escreveconversaingles@gmail.com com uma cópia do seu CPF e sua identificação. Tem até 6ta-feira, dia 7 de setembro, para enviar os formulários preenchidos. Dia 10 de setembro os participantes selecionados serão informados, e terão que entregar os 70 R na 6ta, dia 14 de setembro.  Haverá uma reunião mandatório  para perguntas e respostas na casa da C² dia 21 de setembro. 

Também anexados são o rascunho do calendário dos eventos (Four-Day Camp Schedule) e o cardápio pelos quatro dias (Four-Day Sample Menu).  Escrevem-nos com qualquer pergunta ou duvida e divulga a informação para todos seus amigos—a gente quer a participação de TODO O MUNDO!

Para ver fotos da ilha, visitem o site.

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We will accept 75 campers, and camp quotas are as follows:

10 spaces for IF- Sertão

10 spaces for UPE

10 spaces for UNIVASF

5 spaces for GRE

35 open/undefined spaces

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Second Semester Classes at UPE

I’m back from an eventful vacation: a trip with my parents to Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis, and the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra, a move from a one-room studio apartment to a three-bedroom, two-bath house in the center of Petrolina, and a whirlwind of course planning for my UPE classes and new TOEFL class at UNIVASF.

This semester, I’m changing my class offerings a bit. In addition to my TOEFL class and a for-credit course, “Literature & Cinema,” I’ll be teaching a number of extra classes: a class of English games, an hour-long discussion seminar, a professor conversation class, and Arts in the Americas workshops (theater, dance, sports) about once or twice a month. Movie nights for my Lit & Cinema class will be open to whomever is interested, too. The English Chorus will continue from last semester. You can read all about the updates here, on the UPE English Course blog.

Here’s the calendar! All classes will occur at UPE in the English classrooms, with the exception of the movie nights, which are at our house here in the Centro. Email me at seawaite@gmail.com for the address!

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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!

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