It’s a big day here in Brazil. For the past week, it’s been impossible to go anywhere in Sao Paulo without hearing “Dilma! PT! PSDB!” as well as a number of choice words I will leave to your imagination. Campaign posters are everywhere, TV stations have been airing publically funded campaign ads in specified time blocks, and the streets are filled with people handing out political propaganda. On Thursday, the fourth presidential debate was held, and over the weekend, Brazilians all over the country journeyed to their hometowns to place their votes. By now, Sunday evening, the votes are in, indicating essentially that all the excitement is culminating in six more weeks of winter.
Because no one candidate garnered the majority of the votes in today’s first round of elections, the top two candidates: the current president and PT’s Dilma Roussef and her PSDB rival Aécio Neves will go head-to-head two weeks from now. This was a surprising first round result in what has been a dramatic and even tragic election season. On August 13th, less than two months before election day, Eduardo Campos, the candidate representing Brazil’s third major party (PSB) died in a plane crash in Sao Paulo state. At the time, he was polling well behind the other two candidates, and it seemed clear that Dilma would keep the presidency. However, after tragedy struck, Campos’ vice president Marina Silva began to rise in the polls, giving all indication that this radical environmentalist who grew up poor and illiterate in an Amazonian state, might give Dilma a run for her money.
The first rule of the Callan method is to buy into the Callan method. However, when I watched the Callan videos Michele sent me before I started, I was highly skeptical. There is no creativity, no freedom of thought or personality. How can students learn English this way, never mind possibly enjoy class? Clearly employing this method was going to be a serious challenge for me. Still, I liked Michele, the owner of the school, and the prospect of starting a job immediately was pretty appealing. Plus, really, what do I know about teaching or learning a language; I keep starting new ones before mastering the old. And furthermore, there was just something comforting that first day about walking into the school’s office with it’s team of friendly teachers and office assistants, its appealing decorations and the familiar admonishment to “leave the area better than you found it”—of course at that point, it also possible I was just relieved to have internet access…
And my impression of the Callan method changed on my one day of training. After going through the lesson structure and idealogy, Michele used the Callan method to give me a mini Portuguese lesson, and I was shocked to find that, perhaps I’m just devoid of all original thought, but, for me, it was actually kinda fun! Even though it seems silly and almost condescending, trying to keep up with the teacher is like a game, and with the constant inevitability of being cold-called in a class size of, at most, six students, you certainly never run the risk of falling asleep!
From observing other teachers’ classes I have also learned that it is altogether possible for a student to show personality and even share opinions. Callan takes no prisoners in terms of asking personal, sometimes even intrusive questions, and I’ve been surprised by how much the simple questions can reveal about a student as well as Brazilian culture. For example, in a beginning stage, there is a line of questioning about “your mother’s name; your father’s name; your father’s wife’s name; and so on.” and several times it has become apparent that Dad has divorced Mom for a co-worker or secretary. After an awkward pause, we usually continue rapidly through the lesson. My cultural education on many topics, such as politics, is far from dependent on my Callan method students, but it was still interesting to hear a student respond to a guided question that he thinks politicians from other countries are better and that politicians in Brazil are bad because they do not account for the money they spend. A very simple Callan method question was capable of eliciting a student response that accurately represents the widespread feeling of political disillusionment.