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Casa Thomas Jefferson TDC 3 Methodology 1 Part 2 Reflective writing 2 Topic 2 Daniela Lyra

The choices of a 21st century teacher Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Janet N. Zadina, a Ph.D. who is an experienced high school and community college instructor and reading specialist now engaged in neuroscience research. Dr. Zadina started her talk by asking participants to stand up and define learning. Then, she looked straight at us and said: When teachers ask students to anticipate the content of the lesson, they know what they are doing. Teachers call it building students schemas, and neuroscience backs it up. The brain only absorbs information based on routes it already has. The brain also needs to access the recently acquired piece of information to understand that its relevant and biologically decide to keep this part wired. Teachers know this because, as we say, practice makes perfect. DR. Jadina told her audience that people need to or should move or stand up when learning since that is when the brain needs more oxygen, but teachers know that because we attend to the kinesthetic learners and bring movement to our classes. Nowadays, a significant part of a teachers job is to know why she/he favors a specific technique over another, and which principle he/she is focusing on at that moment. Moreover, part of a teachers job is to look for justifications for what he/she believes in based on experience and responsible reflective teaching. The answers are everywhere since language teaching has come to a level of maturity in which we recognize that a teacher should be able to make choices for any particular group of learners. In the assignment proposed by Brown in Teaching by Principles teachers are invited to look at a list of potential choices we have when designing a method on the basis of what we know about second language acquisition and the pedagogical process. I was asked to reflect upon which side of the continuum I would generally lean to, why I feel this way, and what contextual variables might influence a change away from my inclination. Its important for the profession that teachers are educated to focus on what research and theories have taught us about language learning and teaching and that teachers choices are grounded in principles. Whenever a teacher perceives connections between practices and theories, principles derived from research, , the teacher will be better able to see not only the reason for chosing a technique, but also his ability to assess usefulness in a selfappraisal. The first aspect I turn to is meaning versus grammar. Based on my experience, I truly believe the tasks have to be meaningful from the

start. Students should have the opportunity to experiment with the language first, and then move to exposure and analysis if necessary. There are groups that tend to feel the need for lots of grammar explanations and mechanical, highly controlled practice. Whenever I have a group like this, I try to bring in the idea of blended learning. I usually make clear that I understand the need, but class time has to be used for other purposes as well. Nowadays, I foster students autonomy when I stimulate the systematic use of blended learning and advocate the need to make room for automacity, subconscious absortion of language, and to resist the need to overanalyze language forms. I am convinced that students can do it if they are systematically trained to reflect upon learning. The second choice is whether a student learns best by using lots of analysis or through intuition. I have to say that this choice depends on the age group I am teaching, but I tend to lean towards intuition. Nevertheless, when teaching a group of grammar oriented, analytical adults, I tend to take a more neutral stand. Chomsky, in his innativist view of learning, claimed that students learn best when they are acquiring, not learning a language. For me , this acquiring mode happens whenever students are emerged in the meaning of the activity, confident and selfassured. However, there is also room for directiveness and inductive or deductive grammar presentations in my practice. After all, we learned that if we only focus on fluency and do not provide cognitive feedback, the student might just fossilize the error. The third option is about the use of the mother tongue in class. I remember attending a workshop by Paul Salingson. He asked the participants to start talking about the weekend in Portuguese, and then do it again in English. According to the speaker, the mother tongue offers a choice of language that a teacher might benefit from as students feel more at ease and relaxed. I see his point, but I lean towards avoiding Portuguese in class. I believe that students should be encouraged to use the target language from the beginning because it should be used for communication and not as a subject of study. When teachers establish routine procedures, and makes use of classroom language in class, students get used to their method and adjust. I usually establish a positive rapport with students and build a sense of community so that they feel safe to take risks and experiment with the language. The forth choice is whether I believe in immediate rewards or long-term rewards. I lean towards immediate rewards because I believe that exercises in class should tap into students reality and personal interests. Learning a language demands attention, time and effort on the learners behalf. Nowadays, its difficult to find the time to devote oneself to studying and practicing, but if the person sees results and has a sense of accomplishment, there is a greater chance of keeping the executive and choice motivation high and invest more. I feel the same way even with young learners. I advocate for the need of constant linguistic rewards as kids leave the room with a sense of accomplishment when they can sing a new song, recite a poem or read yet another book. The fifth point to consider is how to approach a beginner. I believe that people learn when they are relaxed and the classroom is a place they enjoy coming to. I

believe a teacher should be friendly and have high interpersonal skills because students may present frustrations and emotional barriers that might hinder learning. One of the approaches of the 20th century, CLL, claimed that learning involves the whole person; Its a social process of growth from child-like dependence on the teacher to independence. I can be assertive with beginners, but only if I have built a relationship of trust to keep all the emotional barriers down. The sixth choice focuses on whether feedback should be frequent or not. There are two kinds of feedback affective and cognitive. The former values and encourages a students attempt to communicate while the latter is an indication of the understanding of the language itself. Both kinds should be given frequently because errors are welcome in the classroom but need to be seen by the teacher and the students as opportunity for growth and improvement. Students need to be trained and take calculated risks, but to do so they need to overcome their language ego fragility and be self-confident. I invest a great deal of time into building a sense of community and a safe environment for feedback because I truly believe that while students need to be able to self-correct, they might also need me to point out where the linguistic or behavioral problems are. The last choice deals with communicative competence, the foremost aim of a truly communicative classroom. Should a communicative class give special attention to fluency or accuracy? This question makes me reflect upon what interlanguage is and how learners move towards mastery of the language. I believe that successful interlanguage development is partially a result of utilizing feedback from others. I do want to teach classes that foster the development of communicative competence. I do want learners who can communicate appropriately with different people at different situations, but I dont want students to fossilize errors and be unaware of how to react when talking to native speakers. I tend to focus on both. For me accuracy and fluency should both be taken into consideration. I always have in mind that a truly effective lesson must reflect three essential elements. It should provide opportunity for information gap; you dont ask what you already have the answer for. The presence of language choice; students should be aware that there is more than one way to say something, and the choice has to do with the listener and the speakers intention. And finally, feedback; whether or not your message was understood. If a teacher keeps these simple ideas in mind, he or she might deliver a class that encourages the concept of communicative competence. If the history of Language teaching has taught us anything, it has shown us that a teacher should have a set of beliefs that can be built from experience as a teacher or as a learner. If science and pedagogy have taught us anything, there are different justifications out there, and a professional should be able to make choices that reflect his/her ideas about learning and teaching. We can justify the choice for meaningful learning over rote learning by stating that meaningful learning subsumes new information into existing memory systems, and the resulting associative links creates longer retentions, or we can justify the same choice by advocating that whenever a

learner is involved in meaningful exchange he/she learns faster because the emotional brainpath is the strongest one , for learning is the biological process of survival; The brain pays more attention to anything that involves emotions. There is no single method, but there is the need of an enlighted teacher who can orchestrate practice and theories, techniques and principles to favor learners. One can focus on theory and research or turn to science itself to justify teaching or learning habits. In the end, what really matters is the amount of thought and drive to continue looking for theoretical support as we teachers make room for innovations and creative adjustments.