This issue’s interview is with Luiz Otávio Barros, an ELT professional based in São Paulo. What’s special about him? He presented four different workshops at the 12th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention in July! In this interview, he tells us about his teaching experience, and also about what made him submit four workshop proposals to this year’s convention (and how he felt about running all of them!).
Luiz Otávio, tell us a little bit about how you became an English teacher.
I attended English classes from 1984 to 1990 and, unlike most of my teenage friends, I absolutely adored studying English and just didn’t want the experience to end. So in 1988, when I was getting ready for the CPE, I plucked up enough courage and took my first teacher training course. Way back then, I wasn’t planning to build a career in ELT, but I guess that’s where my soul was and you can’t escape that, can you? So more than two decades later, here I am. I think I’ve worn nearly every hat a teacher can possibly wear: online tutor, teacher trainer, consultant, author, program designer, branch manager, Cambridge examiner, newsletter editor… but when someone asks me what my occupation is, I still go back to “teacher”, even though I’m doing hardly any teaching these days. Surely that must mean something.
At the last BRAZ-TESOL National Convention, last July in São Paulo, you presented no less than four workshops. First of all congratulations on having them all accepted! Please, tell us what made you decide to submit four proposals. A lot people freak out presenting only one…
July’s National Conference was my fifth, so I wasn’t exactly a stranger to the whole thing. But I’d never attended a BRAZ-TESOL convention in São Paulo and I was really looking forward to it. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to present at least two sessions, perhaps three, so I submitted four proposals, for fear that one or two might get turned down. Well, it so happens that I got four acceptance e-mails a few weeks later. In hindsight, I’m glad I took the plunge.
What are the positive and negative sides of presenting more than one session at a conference like the 12 BTNC?
I usually like to relax, focus and pull my thoughts together at least one hour before and after a I present a session, which means that I find it nearly impossible to attend the workshops that come immediately before or after mine, so when you multiply that by four… but I still think the pros outweigh the cons. First, you can reach a wider audience, of course, and that’s always a good thing. Second, doing more than one session can help you keep your failures—and successes—in perspective. Third, I think the more you present, the better at it you become, really.
We heard you had very positive feedback from your sessions and that this encouraged you to create your blog (www.luizotaviobarros.com). How did this happen?
Three of them were very emotional sessions, at last for me. As I was waiting for each one to start, I saw dozens of former colleagues streaming through the door, rushing to reserve their seats. That was when it hit me that some of those people had actually sat through nearly every session I had ever presented through the years! I felt profoundly grateful, in a way I had never done before. And don’t get me started about all the teachers sitting on the floor! I mean, those people could’ve been anywhere—there were great sessions running parallel to mine—but, for some reason, they were there. And again, surely I was flattered, but I was more honored and grateful than flattered. Well, anyway, after the last day, I got home and realized that the 2010 BRAZ-TESOL took me way back to my roots and, in a way, helped me reconnect with my professional mission on Earth, I think. So I bought a web address for 10 dollars, found a decent blog template, uploaded my four sessions and the rest is history. In 40 days, I had as many as 2000 visits and 7000 page views. I still have to pinch myself to believe that this is happening.
What are your plans for the future?
Three things, really. One, I intend to continue doing the kind of work that I’m doing right now. Two, I hope to find the time and the energy to keep posting on my site, otherwise I may never forgive myself for letting this whole thing die. Three, I want to go back to textbook writing. I think there’s a lot I’ve learned over the past few years that I’m eager to share with as many people as realistically possible.