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‘I remember writing on the board and a student called me ‘teacher’. I don’t know how to explain the feeling, but I knew then that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.’
Verônica’s English journey started when her grandmother gave her some English books when she was only a child. These books sparked her imagination as she used to pretend to teach English with her toy blackboard. Her English journey has led her to achieve teaching qualifications from Cambridge, become the headteacher at a Cultura Inglesa English school in São Paulo, be the first in her family to travel abroad, and build a successful teaching career.
I was born and raised in Cotia which is a small city in São Paulo. I now work here as a headteacher, and I’m also involved in teacher training. My English journey started when my grandmother gave me some student books, which had questions and answers. I was about 11 years old and she’d seen me play a game at home: I had a toy blackboard and I used to mimic myself teaching invisible students! Looking back, the game was actually more about teaching me rather than my ‘students’, because I found I would learn things much easier if I read them out loud. I couldn’t afford extra English classes, but I still really wanted to learn English. I think it might be the Harry Potter influence, a little bit of British culture inserted in our daily lives that made me really want to learn the language.
In high school our teacher asked us to start thinking about our career and I knew I wanted to work with something linked to English. I later graduated with a degree in Translation Studies and it was my aunt that said to me: Why don’t you teach the language? Why don’t you become a teacher? I was like, ‘no way’ and then I thought, ‘why not?’ I sent my CV to a school on a Friday and they called me straight back and I started working on the Saturday! I had no idea how to teach and it was really scary. That evening I talked to my aunt again as she was a university professor. Her advice was to write down a script of my lesson, and she told me that when you are teaching, you’re like an actor!
Looking back, this game was actually more about teaching me rather than my ‘students’, because I found I would learn things much easier.
I remember the first lesson because there were 20 students of different ages in the group who all had a basic level of English. I decided to teach them the days of the week. I remembered that the song Friday I’m in Love by The Cure included the days of the week in the lyrics, so I printed them off and deleted the days of the week. I then asked my students to listen to the song and complete the days of the week, which they found really fun. I remember writing on the board and a student called me ‘teacher’. I don’t know how to explain the feeling, but I knew then that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
There were definitely challenges along the way, and one of the most frustrating things was students asking me if I had ever been abroad. I hadn’t, because I didn’t have enough money. However, an opportunity came up and I saved money for two years and went to the US to study teaching at a college in Illinois. I was really excited about this because it was a huge achievement for me, and when I came back to Brazil I started working at a branch of the English school Cultura Inglesa in São Paulo.
The British culture here was very important and teachers were seen as facilitators whose role was to help students come up with the answers by themselves. So I enrolled on my first Cambridge course, which really helped me – it was CELT-P. I really loved that course and I could definitely see a huge improvement in my lessons.
I then took TKT Young Learners and was invited to be a coach which meant I would be training new teachers at the institution. I then decided to take the Train the Trainer course from Cambridge which helped me feel confident enough to help teachers to feel inspired.
I then wanted to learn more about English culture and I decided to go to International House in London to take the CELTA course for teachers. I spent two months in London and I went in December so I got the full Christmas and New Year experience. It was the trip of my dreams and so exciting and everything that I experienced was pretty cool to learn. When I was in London, I went to the theatre to watch Harry Potter. It was so exciting because it was the first time I had watched something in English and I could understand it without any support. That was huge for me because I’d originally read the books in Portuguese!
When I came back to Brazil, I was invited to be the headteacher at the branch and it was the first time I felt this level of confidence, not doubting my skills. Right now, I’m taking the DELTA course from Cambridge and I’m in the middle of that journey. I do like challenges, and they seem to come at me!
My inspiration comes from many different sources, but my family have been a big influence. My aunt and uncle have been very supportive, particularly when I wanted to give up. No one in my family had been abroad and for some time I thought it wouldn’t be possible. It was a huge step for me and I could have just gone for a week as a tourist, but I wanted to experience the culture and learn about little day-to-day things. My aunt and uncle always said: ‘You can do it! You will be able to do it! Save money! If you know how to organise yourself, you’re going to be able to achieve your dreams.’
They also tell me: ‘Look how far you’ve gone and you never thought you would.’
About Verônica Gomes Silva
Verônica is an English teacher; she obtained TKT Young Learners, CELT-P, CELTA, Train the Trainer, and is now enrolled in the DELTA programme. She is headteacher at the Cultura Inglesa Institute in São Paulo.
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