September 5, 2010 by Willy Cardoso
I’m now based in London. I arrived here three days ago, and will be here till I don’t know when. I suspect it’s going to be for about two years. I feel this month’s posts will be very personal. I’m not working anymore, not studying yet and won’t go to any conferences. Sort of a hiatus, in which the main task is to find an apartment and enjoy the city while the weather is okay.
For now, I’d like to indulge in reminiscence writing a very brief short little tiny account of the last five years with English in the Office in São Paulo, Brazil.
From 2005 to 2007 as an EFL teacher and from Sep 2007 to Aug 2010 as a teacher trainer/course coordinator/academic manager/… I was blessed to have worked at a place that meant a lot to me and without which I wouldn’t be as happy as I am at the moment and would still be miles away from having a fulfilling professional life perhaps. And more than anything this job allowed me to find pride and joy in being a life-time learner, something I had lost somewhere in primary school.
I’d like to share a few things that I learned, that I was part of, or that popped in my head while writing this post about what so far was ‘the best job I’ve ever had’.
- A philosophy that really places Education in the lead role, even when there are big bucks at stake.
- A multicultural environment with lots of respect for diversity. Brits, Aussies, Irishmen, Frenchmen, Texans, Latins, gays, lesbians, blacks, whites, greens, and yellows working together.
- An environment conducive to personal and professional development. Respect for the individual, constructive feedback, second chances, coaching, solidarity and companionship.
- Teacher autonomy at a peak. — This sounds marvelous but it is not always like that, staff and admin need to be very down to earth and outstanding team players to make teacher autonomy work. And many times, strangely enough, teachers don’t want autonomy. Autonomy is power, and Spiderman’s grandpa already said ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, or something like that : )
- Learner training and individualization. Not always as much as we would like, but always more than the average out there.
- Having 95% of students by word-of-mouth advertisement.
There were disappointments of course, after all nothing is perfect. I can’t be really specific now, but the top 3 are:
- The English teacher is far from being a respected profession in the country I come from.
- A whole lot of people haven’t learnt how to learn by the age of 40.
- In the corporate world, many students I’ve had looked automatizingly worn out. — It’s funny how people read trendy techniques to nail it, like the 11 habits of highly efficient super duper managers, but still work 14 hours a day and complain about not having time to spend with their kids. Anyway… Cada um cuida da sua vida, né?
Other random things:
- It takes a lot of passion to be a good teacher.
- Learning a foreign language is a beautiful and elevating experience. Everyone should do it at least once.
- Very few people can enjoy 7am lessons. It should be banned in some metropolitan areas ; )
- Reinvent the wheel if you have to, but each class has to kick some ass.
- Teachers, demonstrate the kind of learning you expect your students to have.
- Administrators, demonstrate the kind of learning you expect your teachers to have.
- Learning how to learn a foreign language is as important as learning about a foreign language. More learner training and autonomy.
- Managing human resources can get quite scary.
- Some students expect the teacher to play the role of a parent, or shrink, or friend, or dictionary, you never know, so be ready and be yourself.
Evidently, I could never describe such a long experience unless I wrote a book about it, including some cute vampires.
For these bits above and a whole lot more, I will certainly deeply miss English in the Office, my second home for the past 5 years.
Moreover, I will be forever thankful to Marina Schandert and Márcio Berg, two of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, my mentors and friends for life. Thanks for the inspiration, autonomy, sense of humor, leadership, trust, laughs, and now that I’m finishing up this paragraph… tears.