My experience: Teacher training for greater representation of race and gender in English teaching

Maria Carolina Almeida de Azevedo is an English teacher at the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Secretary of Education and is a master’s student in Education in Diversity and Ethnic-Racial Relations at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). She focuses her work on the issue of the representation of race and gender in English teaching and carries out work for the inclusion of girls and blacks students in English teaching with teachers by the British Council.

“Training in race and gender, for me, is primarily a personal need, which later spills over to fill gaps in teacher training and classroom practice. As a black woman and an English teacher, it bothered me a lot to be among my peers and not have a single comment about the absences I noticed in teaching the language”.

She recalls that during her own training racism was not talked about, in addition to the fact that the focus was unique and exclusive on the American and British variants of the English language. Thus, only the icons of European cultures were present, while stereotypes of the black population continued to be printed in books, such as the mulatto, the sportsman, the Bahian, Latin and South America as exotic and Africa as miserable and in need of help.

“That intrigued me a lot, as there was absolute silence and an idea of ​​neutrality among professional colleagues that needed to be criticized. That’s when I started to seek training in racial issues and in the history of Africa. In this way, I was able to discover how much they hid from us about the richness and abundance of stories from the African continent, as well as the setting and history behind the racism that founded the society we know today”, says Maria Carolina.

When she began to introduce issues related to race and gender into English teaching, she noticed not only the enchantment and participation of black students, but also the discovery of white students by other versions of learning in the English language. There were also those who were surprised or rejected, after all it is not common to talk about African royalty in English language classes, but she says that the acceptance by most students is very positive.

“And as for black students, the idea is really to bring other ways of being in the world, provided by an affirmative representation of the black population, which does not contemplate the stereotypes propagated by common sense”, completes the teacher.

“Since I started my studies in ethnic-racial relations, I’ve been looking forward to working with training English teachers on these themes and, with the invitation of the British Council, I was able to carry out these trainings through workshops,” says Maria Carolina.

The objective is to provide English teachers with some notes about race, racism and intersectionality. It also shows how these issues are present in English language teaching and how it is possible to bring ethnic-racial diversity into the classroom, in order to provide visibility and prominence to the mostly subalternized cultures in our society, such as the African and the indigenous.

Webinar debates race, gender and English teaching in Brazil; check out the video

Event is part of the actions of the UK-Brazil Skills for Prosperity Programme

The idea of ​​the work is to bring critical reflections to students about the teaching of the language so that they can have a more humane and equitable education. “We had a very positive feedback from the participants, as there are still few spaces that provide this type of reflection and training for English teachers. Most were unaware of some topics, while others had superficial knowledge of some issues. Their participation was very positive and contagious, and I ended up pleased to be able to share other forms and contents that will contribute to new pedagogical practices and another way of thinking about language teaching, since the ‘more of the same’ does not belong to us anymore”, emphasizes Maria Carolina.


Image: Joyce Cury / Banco de imagens Fundação Lemann

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