We came to this conclusion during a long after-dinner chat round the table at Jennifer's in Albi the day we arrived. Each one of us told a brief story and gave examples of our rebelliousness.
I rebelled on four different occasions. When I say rebelled, I mean that I acted differently from everyone else, because I thought 'out of the box' for different reasons. And not once did I regret doing it.
The first time was when I started teaching in Jan 1976. British English was the only English accepted and taught in the Portuguese school system. American English was taboo, anathema, so to say. I'd studied in the two school systems, but was greatly influenced by AmE due to my 4-year stay in the USA and immersion in their public school system. I was not set on giving up my fabulous background and almost bilingualism. To me it was like Portuguese in Portugal and Brazilian Portuguese, a common language each with their own specificities.
I explained my stance to my English Department Coordinator: I would speak with my American accent and would write the American way. However, I could give the English pronunciation and spelling when I felt it was appropriate and significant. It would be enriching for the students. Thank God she was open-minded and accepted me as I was.
The second time was during my internship (1977) when the use of realia and images were 'in' and the use of the native language in the English classroom was prohibited. I disagreed but tried it a few weeks so that I could prove my point based on my two-year teaching experience and, as always, on my intuition: it was a waste of precious class time to be beating around the bush to make the students get the meaning of a word or what the Simple Present of Be and Have meant. We could easily say it in the native kanguage and carry on.
I told my coordinator that I wasn't going to ban Portuguese in my classes when I could use it to explain specific things rapidly and effectively, even if my attitude meant influencing my assessment negatively. I took the risk. She came to agree with me, especially after I told her that after the Christmas break a student came up to me and said: "Teacher, do you know that there's a verb 'Be' in English and it means 'ser' and 'estar' in Portuguese?" OMG!!! We had done little else in terms of grammar during the first term and they hadn't got that. I couldn't believe my ears!!!
The third moment was when I adopted technology in my classes back in 1998 and blended learning in 2005. Nobody at my school was doing it and nobody understood why I wanted to do it. I was considered "nuts"!
I started with a group of seven students carrying out an extracurricular email exchange with an American class. Two other exchanges took place in the next two years with whole classes. They worked great and the students improved their English and loved being in contact with American students.
In 2005 I adopted blended learning. I felt the need for a significant change and I wanted to involve my beginner EFLers in it. I wanted to open our four walls to the world in a somewhat unconventional way. It wasn't through projects with other students, but mainly through blogs posts, audio messages and comments from and to EFL teachers all over the world. I had a fabulous network of peers worldwide.
At first I felt like an E.T. at school. I was eyed suspiciously every time I walked into the Staff Room with my laptop and other gear. Eight years on nobody understood why edtech sparked so much enthusiasm in me and my students. We ended up getting the international EU Schoolnet e-Learning Awards 2007, Gold Prize in the category of "School of the Future". The school received two fabulous prizes. There was never a word of acknowledgement from the School Board to the classes involved, nor a simple "Thank you!" for what we'd accomplished for the school. No comment!!!
The fourth and last moment was my pronunciation strategy, using L1 sounds to make pronouncing the L2 intuitive and learner friendly. The English Department didn't believe in it and never followed on my footsteps. Eleven years later, after launching the e-dictionary last September, one of my colleagues (still teaching at the school) commented: "It does make things [pronunciation] much easier." Better late than never!!!
On each occasion I always rebelled, acted 'out of the box', moved away from the status quo, because I believed the change was for the good of the students, who were always my top priority.
I did things differently, because I believed in what I was doing and it worked.
It's great to rebel when you strongly believe in your cause and see that it works. I encourage each one of you to do the same the moment you have a strong, different belief in something. Your students won't ever forget it and will always say that you made a difference in their lives. Can it get more rewarding and gratifying than that? :-)