Looking back at resources: a practical overview

I’ve reached a point with this blog where I wanted to take a more mindful approach and exchange experiences with some of the great professionals working in the educational landscape, offering some perspective and starting a conversation about the changes we’ve been observing in learning environments out of demand for innovation and reality-based language production. So far, I’ve tried to map out topics of interest for learners of different levels, starting with the short texts, which I later remodeled, and the idea of 12 broad themes to correspond to the label resistant competencies teachers also have to acquire and refine through many years of practice and careful observation. Through the past couple years, I experimented with language I was definitely not comfortable in using, but it felt necessary to expand on stylistic changes that would make, so I believed and hoped, a reading activity less of a bore and more of a conversation starter, a moment of reflection and maybe a seed for having an active role within the English speaking world. Very often, we resort to entertainment for a vast scope of experiences, but we don’t participate in it. The purpose was, and still is, to make production free and risky, with an attentive eye to circumstances where we may get out of hand by reasons that have nothing to do with grammar, but rather, context, every linguist’s favorite word. What I’ve found was that it’s considerably hard to find out where an analytical, investigative approach begins and identity fades, and what to do with these blurry lines, considering how the workplace tends to scrutinize posture and deliverance coupled with attendance and satisfaction.

We’re all going digital, aren’t we? Actually, no. We can say that teachers are curators, but not technology specialists, which is one of the main challenges in preparation, but never, no matter where you are, what you get paid for. In fact, going off topic and overly chatty, especially in your students’ mother tongue or L1, gets you a warning or two, but what’s the purpose of a language class if not discuss communication and its various aspects? The answer is that reveals you went too far in the good chat and failed to control the bad chat, but maybe not in every classroom around the globe. We know about the Common European Framework of Reference, and we’ve probably heard about what they’re calling the Common Core in regular schools, but an English class is far from a live debate on CNN – and I would add, cohesion and coherence may be more complex today with the diversification of media than it was a decade ago, when half the publishers, established or not, hadn’t started to feel what their repertoire was asking them to do with language. If I want my advanced group to debate issues from parenting to mental health, from sexism to copyright law, it should be understood that society has to come to at least a majority agreement on these issues, which are likely to be challenged by a colleague with a different opinion, not always in a polite tone, which makes turns curation into moderation and sometimes gets closer to a peace prize. Debate is healthy, but have you seen our public speakers in 2019? It shouldn’t be a political statement to point that out: it’s language, and we study it.

Reality, however, is we all stagnate or let ourselves be consumed by demotivation. Basic students of English don’t often interact with the outside world, and barely participate in class. How can we shape language? Is it our job to guide their linguistic awareness by using simplified vocabulary from the beginning or should we have the understanding that, for some, there may be a need to go with their mother tongue in order to use time and resources appropriately? At this point in my career, I come to wonder how many would think I’m being a good or a bad professional in recommending several approaches and making them responsible for their interest level, because there’s content everywhere. But I know, deep down, the actual scenario is every educational approach should come with instructions on how to use a method, and if they don’t, they’re not serious. Theory and practice: it’s okay if you mispronounced it; we will secretly judge you for not being one of us. Obviously or not, that’s one example, and the optimists out there might think it’s a much better experience to get in touch with other L2 speakers from different areas instead of natives, but even they would point out we’re far from perfect, and that comes with one or two broken bones when you try to communicate more freely and life teaches you exactly where you’re supposed to be. Let’s not shift the conversation to immigrants, because, apparently, that’s not a social issue as much as a political issue right now.

We know just how much frustration it generates when our efforts in any area aren’t met with admiration, excitement, support and a little helping hand. It’s not a classroom exclusive situation, but when we choose not to use a prolongued vowel saying “very good”, we’re just treating majorly young adults as young adults, not as toddlers. But please, if you want to really understand, go to L3. I’ve tried Duolingo, and the experience was interesting for 3 days. The app started to feel like a burden, I always thought I had other things to do, and my teacher would not use a prolongued vowel with me simply because I learned the word “femme”, which I still don’t feel safe in saying out loud. So how am I supposed to guide people through their first time reading in a foreign language? At the same time, how am I supposed to look into extra classroom materials as a source for intelligent, honest debate on themes of controversy and make it out of the fuzz alive and happy with the results? Fuzz, or noise, depending on how you like to play your guitar, can very well be a positive aspect of the whole experience. Not to be confused with a lack of meaning, there are many layers of possible interpretation in any given context of debate that can inspire and make people participate with an insight, even the basics, suddenly aware that something’s not right, something needs to be said or that they want in. In practice, however, we’re correcting do and does, not resolving climate change after watching an activist speak to the world on a video, either at home or in the standard learning space.

So here’s the big question: should we really get to know each other? Is it for the sake of engagement that I’ll tell a personal story or is it because I’m dealing with people, and naturally, when they get together, they tell each other stories? Experience reveals that we’re in the basics of interaction management by raising this question, because stories can be planned, but always have unpredictable effects. One of the stories on this blog is an interconnection between fictional characters who are struggling to get somewhere in life, somewhat resembling a book preview; another is a disperse narrative relating themes from media to romance, inequality to habit; other entries include discussions on technology and culture. How interested are students to read about these topics, and maybe more importantly, regular people? Is it a valid stylistic approach, considering how rare it is to find an avid reader in Brazil and how likely to be ignored a tweet really is, even though it extends possibilities in many areas of knowledge basis? Does it go in the right direction with an intent to separate classroom language from authorship and identity? Does it reveal too much? And above all, should more people take the risk to write more?

If everyone is a content creator, we’ve come to a point where it’s more about the tools and habits, presentation and organization then it is about the content per se. We’re not all in a desperate soul search, chasing the meaning of life or the deepest truth in human experience: sometimes, a lot of the times, we just need company – or the impression of it. We don’t need the news 24 hours a day, just like we don’t need to be updated on the trends or markets, whether or not you think these are closer than most people think. A good “wyd” works, but watch your tongue. If you’re a writer, the road is painful anyway. But if you’re just learning, trying to learn more at your own pace, and counting on me to deliver the universal matrix of second language acquisition, maybe this blog has failed you. My apologies are horrid, but it’s just that real life demands a lot of effort to be conscious of what’s really at stake at all times, and when we realize it, we need routes of escape. This blog has been mine, along with Twitter, but these are immensely different forms of communication. Video, text, long, short, depressive, funny, courageous, moderate, explicit, clean, whatever you’re looking for, you won’t find many excerpts of real language in the textbooks, but they are supposed to be adapted – at the cost of paper and reviews. If you’re a teacher, you’re probably wondering how this would all fit into a class. But have you tried producing? The tendency, for most teachers I’ve learned about and from, is you’ll come up with your own examples. Are they good enough? Do they relate language items to a practical experience, real life situations and engaging, recognizable chunks of speech? We all need to rethink second language, simply because not everybody in the world communicates the same way, but we all want to be connected – somehow.

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