Tag Archives: work

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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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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English Week at UPE!

I’m so excited to announce a special event next week at UPE Campus Petrolina: the first Encontro de Língua Inglesa, a week of lectures, workshops and activities coordinated by me, the other UPE English professors, and my favorite American nordestinas Cara and Laraine (our English Language Fellow). The event will include UPE, IF-Sertão, and FACAPE students, as well as ex-students and other interested parties in the area.

You can see the program on the blog for the UPE English course, upepetrolinacursoingles.wordpress.com.

To register, send an email with your name, school and class (or, in the case of an ex-student, place of work) to englishweekupe@gmail.com.

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Poets’ Corner at UPE

A few weeks ago, the wonderful UPE English professor Zaira Cavalcanti asked me to bring some short poems to her evening class on Reading and Composition. Inspired, I spent a few hours searching through some of my favorite poems, like “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams.

Students editing their poems in class.

I had a vague idea that I wanted this project to culminate in student-produced poetry, but at that point I had no conception of how brilliant the results would be. After reading and analyzing the poems I brought to class, I explained to the students a few different possible forms for their own poems: haiku, acrostic, found poem, etc. I told them that if they wanted to use their own form, they should feel free—having no major expectations for this option.

Alessandro posted the first poem on the poster I made for class.

The day that the students read their poems sticks out in my mind as one of the most inspiring I have yet experienced here. Looking back, I realize that I was silly to forget how powerful a tool poetry is for students who are learning to express themselves in a language. The malleability of a poem is such that students can lose their preoccupations about grammar and correct structure: the most important thing is simply to communicate a message in whatever way works. I was blown away by the depth and creativity of the poems that the students created; even those who struggle with English in other forms (like speaking) came to class with beautifully and creatively written pieces.

Below are two examples. I hope to use the 20 poems that the students created in a publication of English writing by students from the whole department, to be finished before the end of the year.

Continue reading

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Teaching Baseball to Brazilians

In the middle of April, I kicked off the weekly meeting of the American Club at UPE – Campus Petrolina. (Check out the calendar of future events here.) Our first meeting’s theme was one of the things I am most excited to teach here: baseball! I am a big baseball fan, and the start of the national leagues’ season in April seemed like an appropriate time to begin teaching the sport to my students.

It was just a start, but a great start—we have some important new vocabulary, a basic understanding of the rules (three strikes and you’re out; run around all the bases back to home plate and you get a point), and perhaps most crucially, we produced a lovely rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Below, I’ve posted my presentation, for curious readers but particularly for students to practice the vocabulary!

For future classes on baseball, I’m excited to get to teach baseball idioms (sneak preview: “When we meet for class again, I want to practice our song right off the bat! = “immediately”). I also want to talk about minorities in baseball and the story of Jackie Robinson, as well as get into some more controversial questions: what about women in baseball? Is baseball democratic? Teaching this stuff makes me so happy; it almost doesn’t count as work. (But as we said in a previous post, work and fun are often synonymous here.)

After I finished teaching yesterday, I ran into a few students who hadn’t been able to come to the class. They saw the baseball bat sticking out of my bag (yes, I brought one) and asked if they could play. Uh, of course! This part was totally unplanned: stumbling through an impromptu game of baseball in the courtyard at 9pm with a bunch of Brazilians. Three trees were our bases, and no one had gloves, but that’s the best thing about sports like this—for basic functionality, you need minimal equipment. Mostly the men played (and one woman, plus me), but other students gathered around to watch, and it reminded me how much physical games can bring people together. And even better, it was none other than America’s favorite pastime bringing us together. This is exactly why I am here. Since language and culture are so tied, even if I’m not great at teaching English grammatical structures, at least I can provide the cultural component—with barely any effort; simply my presence and a bat and ball.

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An Important Partnership, and My Job as an Official Inspirer

From the day I arrived, Jeziel made clear that my job isn’t to teach everyone English.  That would (1) be impossible; and (2) is not my life mission.  My job is to make people want to learn English.  I am an official inspirerer.  There are moments where the task feels large and hopeless—there are 75, 000 all-paid scolarships abroad just waiting for English-speaking science students to grab.  It is agonizing that the students of the IF consistently qualify on the science front (they are the exact type of students the government is hoping to target) and yet are they excluded from these opportunities because of their lack of English language skills (something that would rarely inhibit an English-speaking US citizen).

But after a year of infinite visits to schools, cities, and classrooms in Petrolina and the Sertão (the region where I live); after Rugby teams, inspirational speeches, home stays, presentations and parties, I am thrilled to see Jeziel’s once abstract job description come to fruition via the partnership between the private English language school Aecus and the IF Petrolina

Visit the Aecus stand at the Petrolina Campus to register now!

When 200 inspired students arrived at IF-Petrolina Director Artidonio Araujo Filho’s office and placed a signed petition to learn English on his desk, a partnership was born.  Internationalization is happening—students can now take 5 hours of elementary English class a week, taught by teachers from Aecus, at a reduced rate of 50 Reais (28 USD) per month.  Usually the cost of such a course would run from 130-230 R, a prohibitive cost for many of our students.   Thanks to Jeziel’s vision, Artidonio’s progressive outlook and Director of Aecus Julio Bernandino Silva’s genuine care for the community (besides directing, he personally teaches one of the courses), IF-Petrolina is leading the way in preparing students to go abroad.   There are 80 students studying English at the Petrolina Campus room H27-our new Global Language Laboratory- during the following times and days: Saturday 9-12 and Monday and Wednesday 10-12:30, 13:15-15:45, 19-21:30.  Please visit the Aecus stand at the IF Petrolina Campus, call, or stop by to register for courses.

It can’t stop here–the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test required to obtain a grant requires a high level of proficiency.  To get a passing score, students will have to study hard for an average of 2 years.  But this partnership is a very important first step in the right direction.  I would like to say “well-done” to the bright students investing in their future and encourage you to keep working, keep fighting to achieve your goals.  I congratulate you on your efforts.  Continue to live the statement “O Brasileiro desista nunca–Brazilians never give up!”

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Inauguration of the Global Culture and Language Center– THIS THURSDAY AT 17 HRS

Come one, come all to the Inauguration of the Global Culture and Language Center, this Thursday, March 29 at 17 hrs in the new Language Center– H27– at the Petrolina Industrial Campus! I look forward to seeing you all there.

Pictued here with several of my students (from both IF and UPE) from my English Writing Course-- IF Sertão Petrolina Believes-- in our new Language Center at the Petrolina Industrial Campus.

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Brazil– Where Leisure Time is Productive

 One of the first things I learned in Brazil is that as a Fulbright Scholar and an American, my job is to represent not only myself, but also my country, my language, and my people.  As such, in everything we do, Chelsea and I are always working.  We travel, we work; we dance, we work; we go to the bank, we work; we eat, we work; and so on.  We have “official” teaching jobs here, which often do require a lot of work in the traditional sense, but we also spend a good amount of time doing, as some might say in the US, “nothing.”  While at first this bothered us, we have come to understand that even our leisure time here can be productive.

In Curaça, from left to right- Me, Tony, Tio, Maick and Chelsea

This weekend we were invited to the home of Maick Menezes, one of my students (and top Rugby players), who is going to live and labor for the next 18 months in New Jersey for a US-Brazilan import-export mango company.  Hopping on a bus headed to Curaça, in the state of Bahia the only directions we had were “Maick´s house,” and so we got slightly lost.  But all along the way people stopped to talk to us, ask where we were from and what our country is like, and then help us find our destination.  We get lost, we are working.

We backtracked to Irrigation Project 1 Curaça, where we were met by Maick´s cousin, Tom Tõem (Tony).  En route to the Project, traveling the best way to travel (three deep on the back of a motorcycle), we stopped for sweet agua de coco and to take pictures with a group of gentleman admirers who had never met Americans.  We drink coconut water, we are working.

Fresh green delicious cocos!

We were the last to arrive at Maick´s house, where we were met by 20 more of my students from the IF-Sertão Pernambucano. We drank our cerveja bem gelada,  really cold beer (in Brazil the quality of beer is measured by how cold it is—the colder the better), and everyone sat around saying all the words in English they knew.  We drink beer; we are working.

The project had a party that evening, with some 300 people from the surrounding areas of the interior of Bahia (the state where Curaça is located).  We danced forró  and pagodão, and represented our country.  We party, we are working.

Here in Brasil, our lesiure time is productive.

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