By - Thatia Pinto*
My name is Thatia, English teacher and writer who lives in BH, Minas Gerais, Brazil. I always loved English, but teaching only came years after I moved back from the US. At that time, I was in Brazil preparing to marry an American man. I was supposed to stay at least a year in Brazil due to paperwork bureaucracy. Then, I realized I needed a job, and that was teaching. The vibe of the classroom caught my attention and I haven’t stopped since. After teaching to young learners, I started to write English stories for kids. At this moment, an English editor is editing my latest story: Mika in the fantasy land.
Only after about five years teaching have I encountered my best class: it was in a regular school. It was a 1st grade class of twenty-seven kids in it. It was too much in terms of quantity, but this class made me realize the potential I had as a young learner teacher. It is relevant to point out that I was teaching only adults. In my first years as a young learner teacher, I suffered a great deal, because I didn’t understand my audience. And because of lack of understanding from my part, most students from previous schools took advantage of that. One specific example of that was a class of three-year-olds. There were twenty-five of them in a class, and most of my classes were a hassle. One class, however, really stood out. On this day, my lesson was about fruits. Music time was great, warm up was wonderful, but when I was preparing to transition to the game on fruits, they all started to run towards me in order to knock me down. On this day, I felt bad because the feeling was of a complete failure. This experience taught me about attention span, since they were three years old and the activities could not last longer than 3 minutes.
I had all the reasons to quit, but somehow I found resilience within me. I also learned that it is necessary to be transparent with the school you work for, which I did. I showed them that I was a professional looking for self-development. So I took many courses on how to teach young learners, I entered many English teacher networks in order to exchange experiences.
After doing that, ideas never stop flowing. Simple tools such as flashcards are powerful because there are different ways to turn them into games. With flashcards, students can play games like “naught, cross”, “mining field”, “run to the teacher”, “tag” (these are games adapted to work English vocabulary).
Year after year in a classroom, our routine tends to get easier, but the challenges never really go away. For young learners, I highlight classroom management. When the class is really agitated, teaching is difficult to take place. So I always come back to the fact that getting to know your students and understanding them is always helpful when there are discipline issues to deal with. In order to follow this idea, I suggested that my director stay for one week with my 3-year-old class. During that time, my focus was not teaching. I needed to build rapport, have the kids to trust me as a person and after that, trusting the teacher would be easier. My classes were much better after this idea.
I also believe that my values have influenced me as a teacher. The first school that I worked did not allow me to even mentioned the name God. I am a Christian, so I knew it would be difficult.
After that, I was given another opportunity to teach at a school where prayer was very important. Now, three months in the semester and my kids are always asking to pray. The classes are much calmer and our time together is much more pleasurable.
The role of teaching has given me the opportunity to be a writer as well. During my storytelling time with my classes, I started to create my own stories in order to perform to my students. Now, I am working to edit and launch my first bilingual book entitled: Mika in the fantasy land.
*Thatia has an Undergraduate degree in Social Communication by an American university and another one in English by UFMG. She is currently working on her graduate degree in English Teaching by UFMG. Her future plans involve starting a Pedagogy course sometime next year.