NNETESOL Member: Oscar Carvalho Neto
Many different reasons brought me to TESOL. I have always been fascinated by the English language and found English to be an interesting and beautiful language. Some people may feel this particular way about French or Italian, but since I was a young child, I saw beauty in the English language. Growing up in Brazil, I was also interested in American culture–watching American movies always gave me the impression that this was a great place to be. I always knew I wanted to visit America, but I didn’t imagine that one day I would be living here! I knew from an early age that I wanted to work with English, but I wasn’t sure how or what I would be doing. Initially, I was interested in becoming a translator and did some translation work informally but found rather, frankly, boring. I still wanted to work with languages, and what better way than teaching? Teaching allowed me to work with the subject I loved, but in a fun and engaging way. As an immigrant myself, I also knew that I wanted to work with English Language Learners because I can relate to their experiences. I know what it is like to move to another country, learn a different language and experience culture shock. I know I am biased, but I find immigrants special. It takes a very strong person to live outside of his or her country and to face those challenges, especially in times of charged rhetoric against immigrants.
I recently moved to New Hampshire from New York City where I taught at an all ELL high school and also worked at a community college teaching ESL to adult immigrants. I am now the ESOL teacher for the Newmarket School District. To go from teaching in the most diverse city in the world to a low-incidence area has been quite a change! But I absolutely love my new job, and I especially enjoy the fact that I get to work with students in different grades and get to experience learning among different groups of students. I work with students in all grades in a combination of push-in and pull out instruction. Newmarket is a great community and surprisingly diverse for a small New England town. Although the ESOL population used to be predominantly Laotian, it is quite diverse these days. I have students from Mexico, Greece, India, China, and the Dominican Republic to name a few.
I see myself as more than a language teacher. Teaching is such a complex job, and skills are not taught in isolation. I am very passionate about teaching my students to be critical thinkers, regardless of proficiency level. To me, teaching (and learning) is an intellectual activity, and, of course, critical thinking will look very different depending on grade level. One thing that I like to incorporate in my lessons is a KWL (know, wonder, learned) chart. As simple a strategy it is, I feel that it is such a powerful and versatile tool! They can be used for pre-teaching, assessment and as an extension activity. Not only do KWL charts validate what students already know about a given topic, but it can also generate interesting discussions, help students take ownership of their own learning and allow them to reflect and revisit their question and look at a topic in a different way.
NNETESOL gives me the opportunity to connect with colleagues in the field. Because Northern New England has a relatively small ELL population, ESOL teachers need to be very intentional about staying connected. A big difference I have noticed from being a teacher in New York City is that professional connections and opportunities for professional development happened more organically there if that makes sense since the population of ELLs (and teachers) is so much larger. Small does not equal a negative, however. I feel that in New Hampshire, the community of ESOL teachers is like a tight-knit family. Even if teachers work in different districts, they are always willing to help each other and share best practices and resources. In addition to being an NNETESOL member, I am a member of the TESOL International Association. Being part of these professional organizations allows me to stay up to date about the latest developments in the field and meet other professionals who are passionate about working with English Language Learners and take pride in the important work they do!