Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Learning languages - a critical skill for a globalized world

I started my career as a teacher in Brazil when I was 23 years old. I have been working in an educational setting for 18 years. The only reason I start by saying this is to highlight that, even after all those years, I still find passion and significance in what I do as an educator. 
In Brazil, I had the privilege to start working with kids, the equivalent of 5th grade here in the United States. At this level, you develop one very important skill as a teacher: students will learn if they are interested in the subject, and more importantly, if you find ways to make the subject relevant for them. This means that developing pedagogical strategies is essential. Especially today, relying only on the professorial authority is a strategy that will take you only half way down the educational road.
 But my time with the little kids is long gone, and I am grateful for that. After some time, I began to believe that I didn’t have the physical energy to run with them and keep up with their energy level, and for that matter, it was good for me to move on up the educational structure. So, I went to work with college “kids.”
I worked at three universities in Brazil, one public and two private. Although they were very distinct institutions, they all provided me with the expertise to work with a completely different body of students. It was only after my master’s degree that I moved to the U.S. I went to the University of Minnesota to get my PhD and I had one of the most significant experiences: to teach Portuguese as a second language. My whole expertise had been developed to teach Portuguese to native speakers and some of the goals for that enterprise are completely different from teaching Portuguese as a second language. Again, I had to reconfigure myself to be in the classroom, and a new set of skills had to be developed.
My professional journey brought me to USU in 2010.
Here, I have the opportunity to teach and research Brazilian Literature. At USU, unlike any other place that I have worked in the U.S., the majority of my students come to my classes with 2 years of experience in Brazil. This is a very positive linguistic background. My students also come to my classes without being specialists in literature or even in Humanities.
When I think about the role of higher education and the importance of the Humanities in this context, I’d like to believe that this is an essential part of the mission of any respectable university. In this sense, my goal here is to transform Brazilian Literature into a subject that will help my students to continue to improve their linguistic abilities in a second language (very important in an increasing globalized world), and to develop critical skills that will allow them to be more sensitive to cultural differences and to become good citizens in a democratic society. And I am proud of it!
                                                             - Marcus Brasileiro, Assistant Professor of Portuguese

No comments:

Post a Comment