Finding My Tribe

I've spent most of my life feeling like an outsider. Maybe it's more normal than most of us think it is to feel like we don't fit in. Or maybe shy introverts like me feel it more. I never know how to answer the common question, "Você já se acostumou a morar no Brasil?--Have you gotten used to living in Brazil?" But I try.

I've come so close to burning out as a teacher, but what's kept me going strong and opened up my world to new possibilities has been the online community, BrELT--"A Global ELT Community Made by Brazilians." (For folks who don't know, ELT = English language teaching--my field is madly in love with acronyms!) I joined about a year ago, and, even after having been an English teacher for ten years, I have learned so much more about the field through this community. I've become better equipped to teach through various resources and stories shared, through webinars and online chats, and, most recently, a conference in São Paulo.

It's a weird but refreshing experience to finally meet people in person who you've only met online, though in meaningful interactions. The people in this community come from many different backgrounds, and hold different beliefs and opinions than I do. And yet we all challenge each other to think critically and more deeply about our own values and underlying assumptions about why we do what we do in the classroom.

Mark Hancock's Plenary Session on Pronunciation-- "What's It For?"

One of many amazing moments on Friday was a round-table chat about Diversity and Inclusion in ELT moderated by Ilá Coimbra and Cintia Rodrigues. I mostly kept quiet there, listening and learning from colleagues whose experiences were very different from mine, as they passionately discussed ways to make our schools a safe space for all students. I looked around the room at these lovely people, each one with a different story, and yet just as deeply committed to bringing peace and healing and empowerment to the world through our work. It was there that I realized I had found my tribe.

There are so many things to share, but I'm going to keep this post brief. If you are an English language teacher in or with any significant connection to Brazil, I would encourage you to join this community. If you are elsewhere, I urge you to find--or create--a community where you can grow and be supported. We need each other to be our best selves.

I'll share some more thoughts next week for #MakerMonday, reflecting on a workshop I had the opportunity to lead. For now, though, I'll end with the words of one of the organizers of this conference, someone I admire, and who has taught me a lot, Thiago Veigga:

In a country where museums, libraries, hopes and dreams go up in flames, choosing to go to an ELT event on a holiday is nothing but insanity. Why would someone invest in their education when the world asks them if they 'work or just teach'? The answer is simple: because you are crazy. We are crazy.

Once you accept that madness has taken over, you relax. You find comfort in that reality, surrounded by a bunch of crazies. As my friend and Diva said in her plenary, you know that you found your gang.

My gang does not believe English belongs to a particular group, or that teachers need to be tamed and watched closely to make sure they follow a set of instructions. My gang believes in children as agents of change, but also believes we teachers are agents of change through the children we teach and oh, boy, have our young ones been neglected... My gang knows they are not beyond good and evil and they too might believe in fake news, so do your research and sejE menAs. Seje menas so you can be more and your students can be more. Don't pontificate, listen. Don't attack, try to understand.

As I look at the pictures and read the thank yous, I feel small and not because I have low self-esteem, but because I know that I am small. I am one in more than 19k crazies. I have the temporary privilege of being a kind of doctor who's been committed to an insane asylum called BrELT (and that feels amazing).

Thank you, my crazies.


Congratulations on your post! It says a lot about how important is sharing ideias and experiencies rather than knowledge only!