ESL Teacher Interviews: Ana Maria Menezes
Kaplan speak to Ana Maria Menezes, an EFL teacher with more than 20 years experience. Ana Maria has taught at different language institutes in Brazil. As well as being an enthusiastic blogger, she is also currently the head of the Edtech department of Cultura Inglesa Uberlândia.
What made you become an ESL teacher?
I started teaching English informally to kids after coming back home from a foreign exchange program in the U.S. It was a way to keep using the language. When I was about to choose what to study at University, I discovered I already knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, teach. I believe I didn't really choose to become a teacher but teaching EFL slowly came into my life.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I would say I’m restless at searching for effective ways to facilitate learning. I’m not afraid of changes and love seeing my students use the English language and their creativity to produce content such as comic strips, digital stories and videos.
What cultural insights can you get from teaching ESL?
Teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) is quite different from teaching ESL, I suppose. First, my students and I are not in a foreign country, so we all speak the same native language. The challenge is to have all of them use a foreign language to express their ideas in class when they could easily be using their mother tongue.
In an ESL class, I believe it makes more sense to use English to communicate as you might have students from different backgrounds. However, learning any language involves learning about the culture of other countries. I always try to help students understand that English opens doors to several cultures, in fact. Nevertheless, we can never forget to value our own culture.
Have you experienced cultural difficulties from teaching ESL?
Like I answered previously, my students and I come from similar backgrounds, therefore, I believe it’s very important to raise students’ awareness of other cultures and problems that might arise when being in contact with people from a different background who see life differently. Learning to respect the others is vital.
Which other ESL teachers do you admire and why?
There are so many teachers I admire! But the ones I admire the most are the ones who see teaching more than a mere profession but an opportunity to touch people’s lives. I am very privileged to work with a great professional who has inspired my work, Luiz Pedro Silva.
I admire the way he goes beyond teaching the language to teach culture and motivate students to always search for more knowledge. In the Edtech field, I have to mention my admiration for another Brazilian educator, Carla Arena.
In the early stages of Web 2.0, Carla was already exploring new possibilities for education and has been an inspiration to many English teachers around the world kindly sharing her knowledge during free online workshops, such as the Electronic Village Online.
What would you say to someone who was considering becoming an ESL teacher?
Teaching in this digital era brings certain challenges to teachers. First of all, I’d advise the person to experience different kinds of learning, in real life classrooms, online conferences, MOOCS, and online courses in order to understand the wide possibilities which are available nowadays.
Use social network sites to make connections with other teachers worldwide; we can learn a lot from each other. Study a lot; it’s important to know what we’re doing in search of an informed practice. And finally, explore, experiment and be open for changes.
What do you think is the future of ESL teaching?
I can see a big change happening in the field of ESL and EFL teaching, where the focus is more on learning and less on teaching. Teachers are slowly learning to get off the stage and have students lead the way, as a result, our roles are changing from providers of information to guides and facilitators.
The many new trends in education are pointing to a path where learning might be student-driven, take as an example Dogme, Project-based Learning, Problem-based Learning, Passion-based Learning, Gamification, Blended Learning and so many others.
Which superhero would you be and why?
A super hero? How about a cartoon character? I've always identified myself with the old cartoon character, the atomic ant, small but very powerful, kkkkkkkk. No matter how tiny you are (I am very short indeed), you can do a lot.
Many thanks to Ana Maria for some enlightening answers. If you're a teacher, do you have any thoughts on the different challenges faced by ESL and EFL educators? Please leave a comment below!