PROCEEDINGS

Teaching in
Public Schools

 
     TEACHING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Back Proceedings
Collaborating to Grow
Adriana Beneduzzi Passarelli
Renata Philippov

This paper is the result of a seven-year program developed at Associação Alumni, a binational center in São Paulo, as part of an agreement with both the Secretaria Estadual de Educação – Diadema and the Secretaria Municipal de Educação in São Paulo.

We aim at both fostering the teaching of English in the public sector and engaging in a collaborative process of sharing concerns, experiences and multiplying knowledge about theory and practice in the English language classroom at different levels. Along with a program ultimately designed to address teaching methodology, teachers also have their language skills enhanced in language classes, which also serve as a model for the issues discussed in the methodology component of the course.

One hundred teachers every year, who seek professional development and growth, meet once a week for four hours of intense instruction, discussion and collaboration. So far we have reached around four hundred public school teachers (in the beginning, fifty teachers participated in the program yearly; since 2000, a hundred teachers have been participating yearly). These four hundred teachers have, in turn, transmitted the knowledge acquired in the program to over 22,000 students in the public sector.

Bearing this in mind, one of our main goals is to familiarize teachers with a variety of teaching methods and techniques and engage them in a process towards communicative instruction and competence. Rather than setting a model, we want to help the participants to think critically about their practice, to share experiences and discover alternative solution to the problems in the public system that are pertinent to most of them .

According to Karen Englander (quoted Reagan, Fox and Bleich 1994): “collaboration is an underlying social orientation in which the participants share a general sense of purpose and orientation.” Under this definition, the teachers who participate in our program undergo a process of collaboration, bringing to class their experiences and worries, interacting with peers and, thus, discussing and implementing what is really meaningful to them. This interaction has also helped the affective factors; it seems to have reduced teachers’ anxiety and enhanced their self-esteem, empathy and motivation. Therefore, teachers who were at first self-centered, worried, insecure, passive and problem-centered, after having undergone our one-year program, seem to have become more student-centered, aware, confident, active and solution-centered.

After many sessions dedicated to theoretical and practical issues about methods, approaches, techniques, skills, lesson and activity planning and course design, participants are encouraged to formulate questions about some aspect of their teaching, which will serve as the springboard for an action research project to be developed throughout the course. This project engages teachers in collecting and analyzing data from a variety of sources, such as students’ interviews, analysis of students’ questionnaires, and dialogue journal writing with students. These tools are used as a means of addressing the issues that have been brought about both in our sessions and in their research questions, such as assessment, teaching strategies, motivation, and interaction. The project can also be undertaken collaboratively, thus involving two or more participants interested in looking into coincidental or complementary issues.

While these teachers develop their projects with a particular group they have chosen, they also write weekly journals that serve a two-fold purpose: first, to provide us with feedback on the course, which could give us a chance to reconsider its content so as to meet the participants’ specific needs, and second, to give them an opportunity to express themselves and reflect upon their beliefs and practices, pursuing solutions for their daily classroom environment.

As a result, both their journal writing and project development, along with a process of constant sharing with colleagues, seem to have promoted a greater understanding and awareness in these teachers, besides having offered them the possibility of trying out new alternatives and strategies that will address their students’ needs and boost their teaching.

Overall feedback so far has presented very enlightening data which suggests that we are on the right track to achieve changes and improvement in the public sector, as well as to gain knowledge about a different teaching environment and reality.

References

ENGLANDER, K. (2002). Real Life Problem Solving: A Collaborative Learning Activity. Forum, 40 (1), 9.
REAGAN, S., T. Fox, T. and D. Bleich, eds. (1994). Writing with: New Directions in Collaborative Teaching, Learning, and Research. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

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