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Monday, 29 February 2016

"Preaching Collaborative Learning: Brazil and Peru joined for the same cause."

"Alone we are smart, TOGETHER we are brilliant." - Steven Anderson

Last January, a group of educators joined the same cause, working on our CPD. That was great a chance to join in such as awesome community as The iTDi to take this adventure and learn together with our tutor Ms Penny Ur, taking  the course: "Course materials: design, selection and use." 
I  still remember every single second of our live sessions and the enthusiasm of all of the participants, who were so touched by such a great tutor and community as The iTDi, we learnt not only to design, select, and use a textbook, we did learn how to share and contribute each other through a wise and happy community. After the live sessions , shoots of photos were inmedialtely posted on social medial, because we felt we needed to say others: "This is the way to learn, this is the way to pray what we teach our students, this is the path to follow... 

Then sweet Barbara was always sending the recordings and reminders of our assigments, and at that moment all the party started in the forums with the stunning contribution of assigments and discussions we have had during January, we were 75 members of different countries, no matter distance, no matter time, we were all joined for the same cause .. Learning in a collaborative way for our students and of course to keep on learning.
So that's why this lovely idea was born, three educators and friends now from Brazil and Peru would like to express their sayings about how meaningful this course and community has meant to us:
It is my pleasure to interview two awesome colleagues from Brazil, Danilo Ribeiro and Thiago Castilho:
1.- Who is Danilo Ribeiro?

Hello! It’s me! My name is Danilo Ribeiro. I am from São Paulo Brazil. Family and friends usually recognize me because of two Paramount facts about me: I absolutely love reading and teaching. When I became a teacher, I was a bit clueless about this profession. I knew I had the hang of it, because according to my mom, I used to teach my toys. LOL. However, It took me exactly a year to understand that teaching is not about me, but it is about the students, and it is my duty as a teacher to provide them with high-quality learning instruction. Nowadays, I teach young learners and adults, prepare students for the FCE exam amongst other duties. I hold the CELTA and the ICELT, I am an oral examiner for the Cambridge main suite exams as well as a clerical marker for IELTS.

2.- What did it make you to take the decision to take Penny Ur Course with the iTDi?

One of my ex-teachers took a face-to-face course with Barb, and Chuck. So she recommended my taking the course. Furthermore, I am interested in materials/course design, so I believed that in addition to providing me with a review on these areas, it gave me plenty of stimulating, valuable ideas to share and use in class.

3.- How did you find the community, live sessions, rapport among colleagues and new friendships which were born there? 

 Well, never have I taken an online course with so much interaction! Actually, most of the online courses I have taken are done at my own pace, with very few interaction with other participants. The iTDi team exceeded all my expectations! Firstly, I was part of a lively community of competent, skilled teachers. Some of them were teacher trainers, others novice. What made the whole course awesome was that not only did I learn from experienced teachers, but I was also able to contribute to novice teachers with ideas as well as have experienced teachers comment on my ideas. The live sessions were always the best moment of my Sunday. While Penny was delivering her lesson, we were able to express our feelings, and other people would share the same feelings, criticize them, but offer a solution. Overall, the community has given me life-long friends/teachers to whom I will always be grateful for their support, constructive feedback and advice.

4.- If you could choose the most relevant thing you got from this course with the iTDi what would you choose and why? 

I would like to mention a topic that provided me with food for thought. During the course, Penny mentioned stereotypical messages portrayed in books, which raised my awareness of sexism, ideologies amongst other topics. What really struck a chord with me was the course participants’ feedback on how I handle these issues as they appear in the book. My approach to handling these issues was praised. However, I did not take it for granted; instead, I made all their comments my stepping to stone to be better prepared to tackle problems as they appear.

5.- Why would you recommend to join the iTDI community to all teachers ? 

Teachers, if you are willing to learn from other teachers, this is a golden opportunity to seize. Besides contributing to a huge learning community, you will also have the opportunity to have feedback on your ideas and see how other teachers approach the same topic given the fact that everybody is on the same page in the course.

6. How are you adapting in your own classes what we have been taught in Penny Ur course with the iTDi  according to your students' needs? 

Most of the ideas were not new to me because I am an avid reader of Penny’s books. However, some of her ideas have been helping me engage the students and make learning more meaningful. I believe Penny’s feedback on a writing game I was used to doing totally changed my view on how I prepare/deliver my classes. Now, I am much more aware of how to design materials and make teaching subordinated to learning as the proponent of the Silent way suggested.

 1.- Who is Thiago Castilho?

I am Thiago, English teacher for 7 years, CELTA and CPE holder. Born in Brasilia, living in Sao Paulo, Interested in technology applied to learning and intercultural exchanging. I believe that you can only survive in the world as it is by considering it as a whole, taking advantage of your own cultural heritage and what makes you unique. As teachers, we are bridges between what students were in their own limited view and what there is for them to take, to conquer, to achieve. This is my belief. 
My life in ELT began in 2009, when I decided to take an offer in a school next to my house. Teaching English is considered a part-time, underqualified job in many schools here in Brazil, so though I did not hold a degree at the time, I had to make a living. Little did I know that I would fall in love with what I did, and I pursued further development. I left Brasilia (my hometown) and my job at Casa Thomas Jefferson (some of the educators I admire the most are still there) to Sao Paulo, with my wife-to-be at that time. The best thing about my job is the range of opportunities to improve, to connect with other amazing professionals and learn more each and every day.

2.- How did you decide to take Penny Ur Course with the iTDi? 

Penny Ur is one of who I call the ELT popstars! You know, professionals you look up to, people always recommend a book or an article by them, and you never think you will have the chance to meet them? Well, iTDi offered the chance to have an actual course with her, and I am happy I did not let the opportunity pass on by, and I will never regret it. Penny provided us with great ideas, discussions, feedback and attention.

3.- In your own experience How did you find the community, live sessions, rapport among colleagues and new friendships which were born there?

The first thing that comes to my mind is to know, in first hand, how our ELT environment is around the world. There were plenty of professionals from all continents, with plenty of stories, with their own challenges and mountains to climb. I caught myself reading plenty of stories, comparing them to my own, imagining how it would be to teach in a different country and if I was ready to handle it the way they brilliantly did. During lectures, everybody was so respectful and shared helpful contributions. I learnt a lot and I also feel how much I still have to do. And I could never feel as excited as this!

4.-If you could choose the most meaningful  thing you got from this course with the iTDi what would you choose and why? 

The people we got to know in the course, there is no doubt. We learned a lot together, with Penny's gentle leading and support. It made my Sunday mornings much better, I actually missed them when we finished the course.

5.- Why would you recommend to join the iTDI community to all teachers ? 

There should always be a time in our normally busy when we leave some time for ourselves, for our own development. I highly recommend iTDi because all teachers are very friendly and the environment is very conducive to learning and sharing. All teachers trainers and other teachers welcomed everybody, you feel safe to share and reflect upon your own practice, and there are examples from all over the world to help you with that. If you need an opportunity of self-reflection, you would like to meet great professionals and learn from great tutors, iTDi is your call.

6.- How are you adapting in your own classes what we have been taught in Penny Ur course with the iTDi  according to your ss needs? 

Penny offered plenty of alternatives to do routine steps I overused in my own classes. Classes feel lighter, as my repertoire has increased, and students give valuable feedback as to what estimulates them. Therefore, I can personalize my classes better, I feel I have been given valuable tools to improve my own teaching practice. I feel more encouraged to try new approaches out, check how students react to it and improve whenever needed. 

Last words: 

 "Teachers, you are not alone! You have companions all over the world who can lend you a hand and help you through even the darkest of days! The more we share, the more empowered we are."

Special thanks to all the iTDi Board and community from teachers to teachers.

Danilo, Thiago, and Patty.