I met Beatriz when both of us were classmates studying Education at the Catholic University here in São Paulo. Since then, Beatriz has worked at several schools, including Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo, and has recently ventured to live in an amazing island off the Brazilian coast. There in Ilha Bela, Beatriz shares her time between her own English school for children, which is called Beatriz Siqueira - English for life, yoga classes for children, and her personal projects. Needless to say, I admire Beatriz both personally and professionally. Here is our interview!
Juan: I would like to thank you again for the lovely days I spent with you and your husband Jorge in the inspiring place you have on the beach. I have really enjoyed being with you and learning more about your work teaching young learners in the lovely area you have in your house. In our conversations I have notice your eyes shining when you talk about promoting the holistic growth of children. Could you please share what this is in your view and how you do it?
Beatriz: What I call holistic growth, or development is looking at the student as a whole, looking at everything the student is and brings with him/her when they come to my class. I happen to teach mostly kids, but it's the same with kids or adults. So, for example if the student comes to your class very angry because he/she just had an argument with his/her mother, this has somehow to be included in the class, or I might need a moment to deal with this before I start the class.
Beatriz: I have to know, as a teacher, that the student's head is going to be on the argument at least for a while. Notice I'm giving a very simple example, but many times teachers don't do it or don't know how to deal with student's emotional issues, because they don't know how to deal with their own emotional issues. So in a deeper level, I'm taking about emotional education, which is something we, as professionals and persons, don't know how to do because we didn't learn it in our education, at home, in school, or in university.
Juan: What changes have you noticed in your students' thinking, talking, and doing as results of your educational approach?
Beatriz: Some changes happen slowly and others very fast. Something that I always work on is expressing feelings. I encourage students to say how they feel when we have any kind of conflict in class, instead of saying this is right or that is wrong. In the long term, they start doing it not only in class, but also at home too and in other situations at school.
Juan: I saw pictures of you telling stories, creating scenarios, and living adventures in English with the children. How do you see the relationship between fantasy and language learning?
Beatriz: Fantasy is one of the ways we people express ourselves and for children fantasy lives very strongly. It's a pity that after kids grow a little and intellect grows stronger, regular schools abandon or decrease very considerably the work on stories and fantasy, and creative activities. I believe fantasy never actually die in us, even as adults. So it is certainly one very rich way of learning that is very much ignored by traditional education.
The more involved the student is in the activities, the better he or she can learn because it becomes something very meaningful. So fantasy should be part of the teaching/learning process as well as intelectual activities.
Beatriz: I have to know as a teacher that the student's head is going to be on the argument at least for a while. Notice I'm giving a very simple example, but many times teacher don't do it or don't know how to deal with student's emotional issues, because they don't know how to deal with their own emocional issues. So in a deep level, I'm taking about emotional education, which is something we, as professionals and persons don't know how to do because we didn't learn it in our education, at home, in school or in university. Juan: What changes have you noticed in your students' thinking, talking, and doing as results of your educational approach?
Beatriz: Some changes happen slowly and others very fast. Something that I always work on is expressing feelings. I encourage students to say how they feel when we have any kind of conflict in class, instead of saying this or that is right or wrong. In a long term, they start doing it not only in class, but also at home too and in other situations in school.
Juan: One area that I am really interested in is creating the conditions for learners and teachers to be fully present when they are together as I believe this presence can not only boost learning, but also make it very memorable. I remember that you are mentioned having a minute of silence in the beginning of classes and that students really enjoy it. How did you start fostering mindfulness in your classes?
Beatriz: This is a very good start, to have a minute of silence in the beginning of classes. It makes them very present and children realise that. As a result, they start using silence in other moments of their lives, before they go to bed, before an exam. But the teacher must practice this as well, it has to make sense for the teacher, otherwise it will become an empty practice and the students will be the first to notice, it just won't make sense to them and it will definitely not work.
Juan: I love when students talk about how they have progressed and are aware of how they learn best. How aware are your students about their own learning?
Beatriz: Very much aware. This awareness gives the students a sense of responsibility in their on process ,which automatically makes them participate more actively. This is actually the "test" or "exam" I apply to them instead of giving them a grade.
Juan: What inspires you personally and professionally? Where do you get your ideas and energy from?
Beatriz: What inspires me the most is the change I see in my students and families. Working with kids means working with the whole family, and we as teacher should know the responsibility it entails. When I see how much English my students are learning, it makes me want to work more and more. Ideas and energy come from the interaction with students, the every day life, research, meditation, the awareness of my place in the world, my hobbies, my free time, vacation. These are things that nourish me.
Juan: Which message would you leave to teachers of young learners around the world?
Beatriz: I'm going to quote B. K. S. Iyengar, an amazing Yoga master that left a great legacy to the world : "Teaching is a difficult art, but it is the best service you can do to humanity"
Juan: Thank you so much Beatriz for the lovely interview and congratulations on your amazing work!
And here we celebrate one more interview that casts a light on how English can be learned affectively around the world. Do you know anybody that you think should be here in the blog? Let me know and I will interview this teacher!
Hugs from Brazil,
Did you like it? Share it!