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brazil (23)

Obrigada for eveything Brazil

 Now that the TAB experience is over, I'm looking ahead to my practicum. I am so excited to take what I have learned and experienced in Brazil and share my new perspective and realizations in my teaching. I have been making connections between my experiences in Brazil and what I have learned in Interdisciplinary and Indigenous classes and I am excited to put it all into practice with my partner teacher in my kindergarten classes. Stories, indigenous perspectives, building relationships and being able to relate to ELL students are just some of my main takeaways from my combined online courses/TAB experience. Brazil has more than one story or narrative and I was able to experience many different parts of Brazil – the flashy tourist beaches of Rio, everyday life in Goiania, homeless villages in Sao Paulo and many parts in between. Brazil has a very negative stigma attached to it because people tell one story, instead I am coming home with many stories of Brazil – some bad, but more so good. I met amazing people, traveled to different towns/cities, and learned some of the history. I learned about how the education system is working for the students and in the ways that it doesn’t. There is always room for improvement, even in Canada.

I came home with exactly what I set out to get – a new and different perspective to teaching and life in general.

As much as I miss Brazil, it is good to be home. Even with the snow and cold.

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Reflection

It strange that everything seems so normal, like nothing has changed, except for the weather. The reverse culture shock is setting in and it’s almost like the experience was a dream. It’s bizarre and I already miss so many aspects of Brazilian life and culture. Now that I am back in Canada, I wanted to reflect on my aspirations I wrote about before leaving for Brazil.

My main aspirations for this journey:

1. Practice Portuguese everyday in order to become more fluent and comfortable with speaking and communicating.

While this was a very practical goal at the time, I believe that language learning is a more rigorous process that I was not prepared for. I felt very stuck in the main phrases I was comfortable with and really struggled to pick up daily conversations. I did use Portuguese everyday, very basic Portuguese while ordering food, talking with the Uber drivers and communicating during my everyday routine, but I wish I put more effort in daily to ensure that I improved by the end of the 10 weeks. I was very dependant on others and it’s tough when you know that your friends speak English, so you feel like you don’t have to speak Portuguese all the time. I was almost embarrassed to say that I had been in Brazil for 2 months, while our other international friends where at a much higher fluency then I was. I understand it’s not about comparing, but I believe that for another international journey I will take more initiative to learn before and during the journey. For an educator’s perspective, I can really understand the difficulty with ELL students and how they learn English. The emotions and stress when communicating in a new language is extremely difficult and I have so much respect for our students learning a new language. I see how the main goal can be clouded with complications and will ensure that I can use my language learning problems to touch base with my students who many be experiencing the same struggles. It is such a great experience to be in the shoes of our future students while learning a new language.

2. Compare and contrast the Brazilian and Canadian school systems, while examining their history.

There are stark differences between the Brazilian and Canadian school systems, while many of the teachers on the front lines are fighting hard for equality and student rights, what is being said in the government is not always accomplished. While we didn’t focus too much on the historical aspects of the Brazilian school system, there were many political aspects that contribute to the downfall in many areas of the education system. The private and public school systems sadly are not equal and if you have money, you are set up to be more successful in life. That is the sad reality, but we have met so many inspiring teachers and students who believe that with the corrupt system, education and learning are the most important aspects in life and they have hopes for change and a better future.

3.Learning from challenges and mistakes in a new culture/environment and how they relate to becoming an educator.

This TAB experience has been life changing on both a personal and professional front. I am thankful for the many opportunities I have as a Canadian and realize the importance we have on our students, communities and society. Although this journey did not involve too much teaching, there is an aspect beyond teaching that I think is critical and very important to realize for my professional practice. Being relatable to my students is one way that I can build strong, impactful relationships. To have the same feelings, emotions, and experiences as our students will help my teaching practice and connect and create a greater classroom environment.  I have learned so much about communication and the difficulties that my student may have in the classroom beyond the curriculum.  I believe that every personal experience we have, will impact how we are as educators, like many say, we can’t come home from a day of teaching and forget about it, we are constantly thinking, reflecting and adapting how we are as educators. Our personal experiences affect how we relate and grow with our students. Being immersed in a new culture has taught me to be open and adaptable with circumstances that are not always in my control, while thinking creative ways and taking challenges head on, not to dwelling on the negative. Brazil was challenging, but also an extremely rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a learner and teacher. I want to thank PUC for setting up school visits, letting us be apart of their English classes and for having amazing tutors/organizers to help us experience Brazil from a different lens. I love Brazil and I cannot wait to go back!



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Tchau Tchau Brazil

The time has come to say goodbye to Brazil. Goodbye to flip flops everyday, plus 30 weather, sweating all the time, coconut water straight from a coconut and acai, just to name a few things.

The past 10 weeks have flown by and have been filled with lots of fun, adventure, challenges, experiences, memories and learning. We have met some amazing people and had an incredible trip.

Fun

-Rio

-Pirenópolis

-São Paulo

-everyday with Megan

-sitting by the pool.

Adventure

-hiking to the Christ Redeemer

-camping near waterfalls.

-hiking to many different waterfalls.

-jumping from too high into the pools beside the waterfalls

Experiences

-backpack stolen while on the beach in Rio (lost $, clothes, phones) trying to get help, stuck in our bathing suits all day.

-driving in Brazil and up one of the craziest bumpy sandy roads I have ever driven on.

-staying in the most beautiful open concept inside/outside space house.

-spending time in hammocks

-Paddle boarding in the ocean at Copacabana

-stumbling on to a night market with food and craft beer in Rio.

-sitting outside a bar while it poured rain harder than I have seen (getting wet because it was also windy, but laughing and loving it the whole time)

Challenges

-communicating

-finding help after our backpack was stolen

-getting used to 'Brazilian time', we were often referred to the prompt Canadians.

-traffic (pedestrians have little to no right of way)

-having no phone for most of the trip (challenge at the beginning, but a blessing really. I learned to disconnect and that I don't have to take pictures of everything, it's okay if it is just a memory.)

Memories

-Hostel owner picking us up, taking us for beer and pizza (still in our bathing suits..)

-watching the sunset up at Sugar loaf in Rio.

-swimming in the waterfall pools and underneath the waterfalls.

-interacting with the school children and all the schools we visited. (many drew us heart pictures) Children are children everywhere you go and laughter is universal.

-all the inside jokes with our new friend Matilde, the exchange student from Belgium.

-trying to learn how to dance to the funky music with our Brazilian friends.

Learning

-spending time in different public schools in Goiania. Seeing first hand what public education is like in Brazil, and how education is very political and far from standard.

-observing how English is taught as a second language and having the opportunity to teach a few lessons.

-Portuguese (according to Memorize I am up to about 70 words).

-Being in a place where I don't speak the language is very frustrating, but I learned a lot while struggling to order food, drinks, give directions ect. So many basic daily interactions I took for granted back home.

Special shout out to Rafael who was our main tutor and point of contact. He helped us get settled at the beginning and at the end of the trip invited us all out to his mother's house for a home cooked Brazilian lunch We spent one of our last days in Goiania hanging out in Andreza's backyard, eating delicious arroz com galinha and feijao tropeiro, drinking cerveja and visiting.

All in all, these past 10 weeks have been unforgettable and I am so thankful to have been apart of TAB -Brazil.

Tchau Tchau.

Our selfie with Andreza (she's the blonde in the light blue tank - can you believe she's is Rafael's mom (he's the one in the front)

Christ the Redeemer - worth the hike!

Me and my menina's

Sunset from Sugarloaf mountain in Rio

One of the many cachoeiras we visited.

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10 Thoughts for 10 Weeks in Brazil

As my time wraps up in Brazil and my emotions come in waves and flutters, here are 10 thoughts for 10 weeks in Brazil.

  1. Language learning never stops; you constantly pick up nuances, idioms, slangs, accents and dialects.
  2. Humour and sarcasm are a true indicator for fluency of a language, its funny how things can go over your head.
  3. A hug and a kiss on the cheek are essential in almost all social situations.
  4. Time is a bit more relaxed here and it can be wonderful if you’re late, but you’ll be waiting if you’re early.
  5. Brazil is a country of extremes that always contradict one another.
  6. Food brings people together and Brazilian food is unlike anything i've had before.
  7. Students regardless of culture, language, and age are precious. They are truly curious and want to learn, below the surface and what may seem like a rough exterior they are kind, aware and have huge hearts.
  8. You truly learn the most valuable lessons when you are extremely uncomfortable.
  9. Tell the people who are important to you that you love and care about them constantly.
  10. Goodbyes never get easier.

I want to end with one of my favourite quotes from The Office, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days, before you've actually left them." It's a small reminder for myself to be active and present, to take a moment to not worry about the past or future, but to think about and appreciate the moment I'm in right now.

Hope everyone has an amazing last week in their respective countries! 

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Southern (American) Hospitality

I’m not even sure I know what to say about my time Brazil so far. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how different our education systems and teaching styles are. I’ve also learned a lot about a culture that I had no idea about. I’ll do my best to sum up my thoughts and feelings in one post. But I’m not sure I can ever capture the true spirit of my time here with words. It’s really been truly special.

I think when the phrase “Southern Hospitality” gets thrown around, they are really talking about “Southern (American) Hospitality”. I have met some of the most hospitable people ever here in Goiânia. Everyone from Uber drivers, to waiters, to our co-teachers and tutors from the University (PUC) has been patient and kind to us. It would be reaching a lot to say that my Portuguese speaking skills are beginner. It’s a really hard language! I feel at times frustrated with myself, and envious of those who can communicate with each other with such ease. I find myself desperately wanting to converse and thank people for their kindness, but I just know don’t how too. But, some part of me thinks they know. A smile has become my best way of expressing my gratitude to people.

We’ve made people who are quick to want to connect with us and show us around their city and really be the best local tour guides you could ask for. There seems to be a pretty even divide between people who live here; you either love it here or you don’t. I think I fall on the loving it side of this debate! The city is littered with parks and açai stand for an afternoon snack, and just outside of the city limits, if you’re brave enough to drive, are some of the most stunning waterfalls and adorable colonial towns. The people we’ve met have not been shy about showing us all of these places, and more!

In terms of my professional development, the teaching that we have been lucky enough to observe has been very similar to something you would see in a Canadian institution. However, because these classes are “extra-curricular” they aren’t like regular classrooms. Students only visit these English language classes twice a week for 90 minutes. I’ve been visiting once a week with three different classes, with three different skill levels. My first class is a group of students called Pre-Intermediate 1. The students range from about 16-50 years old. My second class in Teens 2, and they range from about 11-14 years old, and lastly, my Juniors 2 class. They range from about 8-10 years old. So, it’s safe to say that I’ve been exposed to all different age groups and skill levels. What I’ve seen in these classes is a more traditional approach to learning, but it appears to be working for most students. Unfortunately, because these are private extra-curricular classes, that are truthfully quite expensive, we’ve only been able to see students from one socio-economic background. That meaning, the majority of the students in all of the classes attend private schools, where it is widely common for them to receive a significantly better education than those of a lower socio-economic status who attend public school. I feel like this might have an impact on the sort of teaching style that is used in the classrooms. There is hardly any need for differentiation due to a specific learning need or disability. Technology wasn’t engaged as much as I would have expected. Not for a lack of trying on the teachers part, but more for a lack of resources available to the teachers. The teachers, for the most part, are provided with the bare essentials for their classrooms and teaching practices. They really have to fend for themselves and be creative with how to continue to engage their students, with their limited resources. 

Prof. André and Pre-Intermediate 1

Prof. Márcia and Juniors 2

Prof. Fabiano and Teens 2

I was pleasantly surprised to see how passionate the majority of the students seemed to learning English. Though their individual reasons for learning English varied, over all, they all wanted to learn English to be able to pursue a better career and open up more opportunities in their future. Again, part of me wonders, if this level of English training was offered to students in a public school, would the level of passion and dedication be the same? It’s clear from the students that, even though they still have an overwhelmingly traditional school system, there will be inevitable change to come. They are motivated and passionately smart people who will propel serious change within Brazil over the coming years.

Overall, I’ve seen a lot of similarities within my exposure to the Brazilian school system to the type of education system I experienced as a child. Traditional is the name of the game when it comes to education I’ve seen in Brazil. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; we have TLC’s popping up all over the country. There is certainly value in this type of education. With its status as a developing country, I think that, as their country continues to develop, so will their education system. I look forward to returning as an experienced teacher one day and seeing the progress that will inevitably take place.

I’m not ready for goodbye yet, so I guess I’ll just have to come back soon!! 

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For JV and João Pedro

As a few of you may know, On Friday October 20th, two students, João Vitor Gomes and João Pedro Calembo were shot and killed and four other students injured by a classmate who brought a gun to school in Goiânia.

I debated writing this post, out of respect for the families affected, but I believe that when tragedies occur, it is important to talk about how we feel. I was very blessed and lucky to be a get to know/teach João Vitor, or JV, at a different school to where the incident took place. JV was brilliant and had a witty sarcastic humor that would make the whole class laugh. He always talked about how he hated soccer, even though he was Brazilian and how he adored cars (his ten-year plan was to learn to drive and own his own car). It’s crazy how in such a short amount of time you can get to know your students quirks and build a relationship.

It puts into perspective how we don’t know how much time we have and how important it is to ensure and constantly give appreciation to those we care about. It also brings up the very important topic of bullying and how we need to do whatever possible to ensure that our students are in a safe, respectful environment and we provide whatever necessary, to get the help that they need. It is senseless and unimaginable. It breaks my heart for the families of the two young boys and I still can’t comprehend how this happened. I have been thinking constantly about how he didn’t get to experience certain things that we do in our lifetimes, like drive a car or travel the world. I’ve been feeling incredibly guilty when I’m experiencing these amazing opportunities to realize that JV won’t get to experience this. I know it’s not healthy to think about how life can be incredibly unfair, but the ups and downs have been very eyeopening. This is a very short post, as I don't know how else to express my sadness and frustrations, but I hope that we never have to experience this tragedy in the classroom and hope that the remaining weeks will bring some answers and possibly some closure for the families. 

Sending my love to JV & João Pedro.

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Boa tarde do brasil,

Where has the time gone? It seems like we only just arrived in Brazil. It is very hard to believe that in just over two weeks I will be back in Canada and cold weather. Some days its so hot here I can’t wait but then I remember I hate being cold. Our time in Brazil has been a mixture of keeping busy with our online classes, visiting language classes, taking Portuguese and exploring.

The last few weeks we have had the opportunity to observe in different levels of English language classes. The schedule they made for us had us rotating through three different classes but due to holidays and tests I have really only had the opportunity regularly visit one class. It is a juniors 6 class with about 12 students ranging in age from about 12-14. They are quite chatty and easily distracted but a fun class. I enjoyed having a few classes to observe the teacher, Fabiano, and his teaching style as while as brush up on my English grammar. The students were asking me what I was writing in my notebook and I told them I was learning along with them and they were amused by that. This week, I had the opportunity to teach a short lesson on interrupted past continuous and the difference between ‘when’ and ‘while’. I had to look it up to make sure I would teach it correctly. I decided to mix in a short lesson of Canadian vocab. It was fun to share some very Canadian things, places, and people with the students. We talked about Moose, elk, hockey, lacrosse, maple syrup, the RCMP and of course Ryan Gosling. We finished by played a game where they picked two actions and had to combine with ‘when’ or ‘while’ and incorporated some of the Canadian vocab. It was learning moment for me through out the whole lesson as I adjusted as I went and had to think on my feet to fix hiccups in my lesson. My biggest takeaway is that explain Canadian things is difficult and I need to speak slowly (always my problem).

This class also helps me with my Portuguese. I wish I could say that I was able to have basic conversations but alas, Portuguese had not come easy to me. I can say hello, greet for morning, afternoon, and night, say goodbye, how are you? And respond. But other than asking people their names, age, where they are from and what their profession is, I struggle. The students love when they can speak Portuguese to me at the end of the class since usually class is a no Portuguese zone, however they all get very excited and speak at the same time. Once they slow down and take turns it is beneficial for me – they love to help me. I usually can pick up a few words of what they ask me but overall, I struggle a lot. I able to read/recognize written text and words but I am struggling with the understanding and speaking. Our Portuguese teacher, Pedro has been wonderful and this week he took us along with the other exchange students to eat a traditional Brazilian dish called Pamonha. It is a corn based dish that is served in a corn husk, very hard to describe but very tasty. We also tried it deep fried and a corn based dessert that was like a pudding. Pedro helped us with ordering in Portuguese which is a skill I am still working on, it seems if your pronunciation isn't just right people don't seem to understand at all what you want or need. I am hoping in the next few weeks I can work on my clarity, pronunciation, and confidence in speaking Portuguese so at the very least I can order Acai with granola and condensed milk (my favourite) and not receive granola and banana instead. Small goals.

 We have used our weekends to see Goiânia and more recently a few places nearby. We were brave and rented a car to go to nearby Pirenópolis and it was both exhilarating and nerve racking at the same time. Brazil drivers are pretty crazy. We had a wonderful couple days exploring the town - touristic, charming, and full of great places to eat and shop. We also explored some nearby waterfalls and drove up one of the craziest, steep, bumpy sand road I have ever driven on.

The next weekend we went camping. We rented a FIAT Toro, which is a little truck, and off we went to Chapada dos Veirdos. We were a little under-prepared, who knew it got cold in Brazil? We spent our days sweltering in the heat while we hiked to amazing waterfalls and cascades and our nights were spent shivering in a tent. It was an experience I will never forget.

We have visited local breweries in Pirenópolis and in Goiânia and drank some amazing local cerveja (beer). We have had lots of cerveja both local and not. But I still need to try 'pequi' - it is a local fruit and apparently people either love it or hate it. You can't bite the fruit because it has tiny thorns that get stuck in your tongue and it has a very strong aroma. I am hoping to try it before we go just to say I have - we have tried cerveja with pequi flavour as well as a sauce.

 We have also used some of free time to visit more classes at the language centre at the request of some of the teachers. They say it is a great opportunity for them to practice their English and in turn we learn a little bit more about Goiania, Brazil, the education system and about the students. They love to ask questions about what we think of Brazil, what we like here, what we don’t – which is hard to answer. I love Brazil, but it so different from Canada. The biggest thing for me is the safety, everyone is always reminding us to be safe, and not walk anywhere at night. We are also able to share about ourselves, Calgary, and Canada with the students so it’s a win-win. Again, I always have to remember to speak slowly and use simple language so the students are able to understand me – I always want to say a lot in a small span of time.

 I am looking forward to seeing what our final weeks here have in store for us. Hoping to learn as much Portuguese as I can and soak up as much of the sun before heading back to Canada. Our time here is wrapping up so quickly it is hard to believe I will be teaching in a kindergarten class in just a few weeks.    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Tchau for now!

 

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Algumas semanas em Goiânia!

Bom dia! Tudo bem?!

This is now the start of our fifth week here in Goiânia, Brazil. Now that we are more comfortable and confident moving around in the city and coming and going from place to place, I think I’ve really hit my stride here. The weather has been a blessing, the friends we’ve made have been amazing, and even most strangers we meet have been welcoming and kind. Once you venture out of a big tourist city into a more off the beaten path type of place, I think you really get to see what a country is made of and it’s heart and soul. So far, I think Brazil is made of kind, fast-talking people, beautiful food and drinks, gorgeous scenery, and breathe taking heat (which I happen to quite enjoy!). Also, now that I’ve spent more time here, I’ve really gotten a feel for the education system, how it works and what it’s motivating factors are; at the university level and the secondary and primary levels. I am by no means an expert, but I certainly am more comfortable in talking about it.

The view of Goiânia from the window of our Portuguese class.

Does it get any better than this?!

To start our time in Goiânia, we’ve visited 4 different public schools, and I can say with confidence that they are all very different from each other. We visited three elementary schools and one high school. Similarly to in Canada, the academic rigor, appearance and overall success rate of the school has a lot to do with where the school is located within the city. However, the economic differences between sectors within the city are much more exaggerated than it is in Canada. Walking into an elementary level school in Brazil, you would think you were walking into an elementary school in Canada. They are warm, colorful, loud and vibrant places with lost of busy kids running around playing, socializing and learning. The classroom walls are lined with student art work, and two of them even had a room and teacher dedicated to those students who require a little bit of extra help. The teachers are all trained and passionate teachers who, like in Canada, don’t get into teaching for the money, but rather for the love of education and kids. The high school we visited however was starkly different from a high school back home, once you peel a few layers back. Teachers at the high school level are not trained teachers, they are instead trained in different fields such as history, geography, English language, Portuguese language, math, etc. then are simply hired by the school board. Since teachers at this level aren’t trained teachers, they often lack skills surrounding classroom management, assessment, etc. High school teachers are also paid significantly less than primary school teachers, so much so that most of whom we’ve met have second and third jobs to make ends meet. Because of this, there is a lot of teacher turn over at the high school level. Additionally, at this level, there is a relatively high threat of violence, particularly against male teachers. With all that being said, we did meet some absolutely fantastic teachers who really had a passion for education and who took the time to get to know their students and connect with them. Even though there are a lot of negatives about the job, there are still teachers who are working hard everyday to ensure that students leave high school with the best chance at success they can be offered. In a way, it was inspiring to see. Despite all the odds stacked against them, they still try and push on and offer success to their students as best they can. Unfortunately we did not get to see how things are different in a private school versus a public school. We do know that privates schools are incredibly expensive and many of the do not offer scholarships or financial assistance to lower income students. Many private schools claim to offer an “American” curriculum or “Canadian” curriculum, and I think it would have been useful to see what exactly that means, but unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to do so.

The high school students were very interested in the kind of music we listened to. They suggested we should listen to Brazilian Funk music. 

As we move through our education here in Brazil, we will continue to participate in Portuguese language classes as well as being observers and teachers in the PUC Language and Extension Center. The language classes we have been apart of have been so helpful, and even though our progress has been slow, we are still making progress! We can ask and respond to most basic introductory questions, and now we tackle pronunciation and more complex conversational skills. Pretty good progress for only having one class a week if you ask me! I’m most excited to be able to (hopefully) teach a few lessons at the PUC Language and Extension Center. This is a place where students of all ages take extra curricular language classes. This sort of class is almost exclusively offered to students who have wealthier families, as these classes are quite expensive. Regardless, it is really great to be able to see students learning English with many of the ESL teaching strategies I’ve seen in schools back home. I have three different classes, one class with teens (ages 11-13), one with juniors (ages 7-10) and one pre-intermediate (ages 16-55). We will be in these classes for the rest of our time here in Goiânia. I look forward to being able to build a bond with the students and the teacher, a hopefully teach a lesson or two!

When Anthony Bourdain says "If you're ever in Brazil, you need to eat Acarajé", you immediately search every street market you can find until you find it.

Once we found it, it was definitely worth venturing out in the heat to find! 

Apart from education related things, we’ve been exploring our community, making friends, eating our body weight at least once a week and laughing the whole entire time. While we haven’t yet ventured too far outside of Goiânia, we’ve been too busy soaking up all the fun and exciting things to do in town. These last few weeks we have here, we plan to venture outside the city limits and visit all the untamed and wild nature that surrounds us. Did you know they have waterfalls here?! GUYS… WATERFALLS! I don’t know if I can really explain to you all reading this how excited I am for waterfalls, camping and hiking in the next few weeks. I can honestly say that I truly feel thankful to have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country with Meghan and Courtney. I couldn’t have asked for better adventures buddies! #blessed  

 

Até logo!!

 

P.S. The most useful Portuguese phrase we’ve learned since we got here is “Tocar o seu cachorro?” or “Passar a mão no seu cachorros?” Which both mean, “Can I pet your dog?” 

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Boa tarde,

The first three weeks here in Goiânia have sure flown by! So far, my first impressions of Goiânia are: it’s hot (but we are acclimatizing well I think – mainly getting used to the sweat haha), the people here are very friendly (even if we have very little idea of what they are saying to us – we are getting use to the hugs/kisses hello’s and goodbyes), and the traffic and driving here are crazy (the pedestrians have little to no right of way so looking both ways twice is crucial!).

Our time here in Goiânia has been filled with school visits, Portuguese classes, parties with some of the exchange students, formal meetings with the President and other officials of the partner university, PUC, and day to day adventures of getting groceries, doing laundry, and exploring our neighbourhood (in the daylight of course).

We have now visited four different schools, all public and all very different. We have had a different tutor/student from the education program come along with us each time and therefore different explanations of how the school system works and it seems to be slightly different for each school. We visited three elementary schools and one high school. In Brazil, the primary schools are the responsibility of the city, the high schools are the responsibility of the state and universities are federal. Most directors (principals) are elected into their positions. Teachers are not paid very well, although high school teachers are paid slightly better, and teaching is not seen as a good job. At most schools, the students are fed at least lunch and sometimes breakfast and a snack and for some of the students it may be their only meal of the day. After all our visits and chats with different people my very basic understanding is that education is very political. The day to day at the schools seems to be very similar to Canada – students are split into cycles instead of grades, there are about 25 students in a class, and they have a break to play and run around outside. The average length of a school day seems to vary school to school and depends are what cycle. After our visit at the first school, we sat with the director and asked her questions. She told us to one thing to takeaway from our visit to her school was that education was for the individual student not the masses – this reminded me of one of the mandates for Alberta Education being for the individual student and making sure learning was personalized. I am not sure how much personalized instruction happens overall in Brazil, but at this one school it was a focus and that was good to see.

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting different schools, we were able to get a taste of what education looks like here and with the help of our tutors/interpreters were able to answer questions for the students and ask some of our own. Children are children you go and I loved their enthusiasm, curiosity and wonder about us and Canada. I do wish our Portuguese was a bit better but hopefully that will come. We have been attending Portuguese class once a week and our instructor Pedro has us counting to at least 200, introducing ourselves and others including name, age, nationality, and profession. We also practice as much as we can when we go out and mostly when we visit Francesca, the friendly lady at the store below our apartment.

This week we also started at the PUC language center where we will rotate through three classes and eventually help teach a few lessons. Our first visit we just observed how they teach their lessons. I observed two classes, a per-intermediate 3 (adults) and a teen 6. There are three age groups and then up to 6 levels within each age group. The lessons seem to be based on three main methods: a workbook with activities, group conversation exercises and listening to a CD. I m excited to get to know the students and the teachers better over the next few weeks.

Everyone we have met so far from the tutors, teachers, students, exchange students, professors and the university president have been so welcoming and friendly. The time is going by so fast and I hope to make the most the remaining time we have here in this fabulous city. We are looking forward to exploring some more of the culture, food, nightlife and outdoor activities the city and state have to offer.

 

Tchau!

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Language and Education

Oì!

Our first few weeks in Brazil have been a great growing experience, both in language learning and realizing the realities for students and teachers in Brazil. Teaching has a stigma, as we have discovered. A person either wants to become a teacher to make changes, help students or to better understand the system...or a person is simply put in the position as a last resort, not truly caring about education. Luckily for us, we have encountered more of the first type of teachers, who just like many of us, are eager and passionate to see students grow and succeed.

"Do you have any questions for the Canadian student teachers?"
"Why do we bleed?"
One of our favourite questions we've been asked by a student.

Earlier this week, we had a very honest discussion with a student teacher and the issues of many public schools in Brazil. There is a stark disparity in quality education from the very expensive private schools to the publicly funded. We have only visited public schools, which lack resources and funding, but have hardworking and dedicated group of teachers and administration that strive to make their students education the best it can be. To hear that some students may only eat one meal a day, that is provided by the school, puts into perspectives the many realities many students face. We’ve meet a few individuals that are becoming educators as a way to almost fight back and understand the current climate of the government and the lack of honest change they promise. We also discussed how schools use spaces, like the the library. In Canada, many schools are moving towards a more collaborative space, or “learning commons” that is filled with technology, resources and a space for discussion. Many of the libraries we have been in are not used to their full potential and are typically in a back corner of the school. It’s interesting to see how schools priorities spaces and use of resources.

Practicing Portuguese tongue twisters.. I don't think I can make that sound!

In terms of language, there are many times the communication barrier creates some obstacles, but we always find a way to cope and laugh at our mistakes. Our Portuguese classes are brilliant! We have an amazing professor who is passionate and eager for us to learn Portuguese, that it has become a highlight for our week. I’m having great difficulty understanding Portuguese due to the fast pace most people speak at, but as the days turn into weeks, I’m recognizing a lot more vocabulary and getting accustomed to their culture.

The amazing group at PUC University that have organized all of our school visits, English learning centre visits, Portuguese lessons and weekend activities!

October will be filled with learning about how English is taught in Brazil, outdoor activities, Portuguese lessons and travelling around the state of Goiás. It’s been amazing in Brazil so far and I am so thankful to be with a group that share similar goals and are willing to face obstacles together!

Obrigada! 

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A Brazillion Things to Learn

Brazil is a country filled with contradictions. There is a refreshing vibrancy and energy in the air, but it is also contrasted by corruption and poverty. It’s hard to appreciate all Brazil has to offer, without first acknowledging their history and struggles. With this in mind, I hope that this TAB experience can create a starting point into examining Brazil's culture, traditions, language and education system.

My main aspirations for this journey:

  1. Practice Portuguese everyday in order to become more fluent and comfortable with speaking and communicating.
  2. Compare and contrast the Brazilian and Canadian school systems, while examining their history.
  3. Learning from challenges and mistakes in a new culture/environment and how they relate to becoming an educator.

I believe that to grow as an individual and educator, one must learn to adapt in situations that are uncomfortable or challenging. These encounters help create a resiliency and encourage strong elements required in the classroom, like problem solving, communication and building relationships. Embracing a new culture and language are common challenges that many of our students face in our diverse and multicultural society in Canada. TAB provides an authentic experience of being fully immersed in a new culture and the real life challenges associated when being an “outsider”. Bridging this gap between feelings of not belonging to feeling accepted, while understanding new norms is essential for our students and ourselves. Educators that understand these difficulties and emotions can create resources and demonstrate skills to ensure that all students succeed.  TAB provides a basis to evaluate our current pedagogy and create a pedagogy that incorporates and values the journey of learning. I hope by experiencing a new culture, that It will allow me to better connect with my students in the future, while creating a classroom environment for all students to thrive, embracing diversity. I hope to gain a greater understanding for social norms in Brazil and to become comfortable in the public sphere alone and with my fellow TAB partners. Contradictions help us see the differences, but are also valuable learning opportunities for those who chose to embrace them.

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Ola Brazil!

Traveling to Brazil for 11 weeks had me feeling both excited and nervous. I arrived at the airport five days ago in Calgary at 4 am sleepy, nervous, and excited to start my journey to Brazil – first stop Rio de Janeiro!

Our 'trio in Rio' has had so much fun exploring - hiking to the Christ Redeemer, going hang gliding, stand up paddle boarding and finding the tiled stairs in St. Teresa made famous by Snoop Dog. We haven’t let our language barrier slow us down, we have tried to use as much Portuguese as we can. So far almost everyone we meet has been nice and some even try and help us with our terrible pronunciation. I myself have mastered a few Portuguese words – ‘obrigado, olá/oi, tchau, de nada, agua, por favor, chope and frango’/ thank you, hello/hi, bye, you’re welcome, water, please, draft beer and chicken.’ The essentials haha.

As we finish off our week here in Rio I am looking forward to the experience that lays ahead of us once we arrive in Goiania.  I hope this experience pushes me out of my comfort zone and helps me grow both professionally and personally. I hope to gain a new perspective on teaching and learning. I hope to relate with my future students by learning more about a different culture/language and by experiencing being in a different culture surrounded by a language I don’t understand. I think I will be able relate by having gone through something similar. I think knowing your students is so important and I hope this experience with help in the future. I plan to integrate everything I learn and experience into my future teaching.Specifically I am interested to see how early childhood education in Brazil differs from Canada.

I haven’t done a lot of traveling and grew up in a small town so this experience will be pushing me in every aspect. I love a challenge and I think this just that – a new country, culture, and language on top of online classes and the TAB program. I think you can learn so much from the people around you and by having an open mind the possibilities are endless. I really see this an opportunity to learn from people whose background and educational values may be different from my own.

 

 

 

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Teacher, Student and Traveler Aspirations

When applying for TAB, I immediately began to think about what I wanted to get out of this trip. The more thought I put into it, the more I realized that it really didn’t matter where I got placed because my aspiration where the same; broaden my teaching horizons. What I mean by this is that I hope to learn how education functions (i.e. how teachers teach and how students learn) in a different country and within a different culture, and use that knowledge to inform my own teaching. All of these thoughts were running through my head even before I had accepted into the program and placed within a placement.  

When I found out I was placed in Goiânia, Brazil I was so thrilled. This was a culture I knew pretty much nothing about, which meant I had the most opportunity to learn and grow. Even though the idea of going somewhere I was totally unfamiliar with scared me, it also excited me. When am I ever going to get an opportunity like this again?!

I am most looking forward to learning the language here, which is Portuguese. I was actually surprised how many people believed that Brazilians spoke Spanish (I wasn’t one of them!). I think that be putting myself in the situation where I do not understand the language and have to learn it will help better serve my students who are ESL, as well as those who aren’t. It’s kind of like getting a little bit of an insiders scoop on how to best guide your students as they learn a new language that they may or may not speak as their first language. I say may or may not because, as an Early Childhood Education specialist, I fully anticipate teaching young kids new elements and words in English, even though it may be their first language.

As much as the teacher inside of me is doing backflips with anticipation, so is the traveler in me! I mean, I wouldn’t be doing myself justice if I didn’t at least talk about doing the cheesy tourist things before hand in Rio de Janeiro. This country has some many beautiful people, places, food and drinks to experience that I don’t think I will ever get enough. Having been playing to role of tourist in Rio de Janeiro the last few days, I’ve already had some of the best food I’ve had in my life, stared at some of the most beautiful people and seen some of the most amazing sites. All that in 4 days? I can’t wait to see what the next ten weeks has to offer!!

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After almost 2 months in Brazil I can confirm that I will return to this beautiful country to live and to teach for a longer time period.  The culture and the people are special to me - I found a soft spot.  I love to walk through the city and keep an eye out for the beautiful street art that is literally on every corner of the city, I love that I am able to buy fresh tropical fruit at every turn and I have found a new appreciation and gratitude for Air Conditioning and swimming ares under the Brazilian sun.

To quickly elaborate about the "swimming areas" I am talking about swimming in natural pools in the jungle, in the National Park, "Chapada dos Veadeiros".  I spent a week exploring the natural beauty in the wilderness of Brazil just as I like to do in the rockies back in Canada.  Brazil has it's own unique charm though.  The National Park is sought out by people from all over the country and (in my case) the world.  We went on long hikes in the 35 degree weather and there is no way to describe the feeling that I had when I could finally hear the water and could see the opening in the trees that would reveal the canyon or cove covered in a gorgeous display of "cachoeiras"(waterfalls).  Stepping carefully down to the base of the waterfall in silence all I could think about was how cool and refreshed I would soon be.  Shoes off (sometimes flipflops - not advised for hiking), shirt off, phone away and dive.

I spent what seemed like ages sitting under the thundering downpour of fresh water, grateful to be in Brazil.


Once back in the city I resumed my exploration of what "Education in Brazil" really is and like any institution it takes a while to truly understand the complexities.  The most noticeable aspect of Brazilian education is the difference between the public and private systems.


These systems can not be generalized and my observations are not necessarily reflective of all of the institutions across the country but merely impressions I have from the various schools I have visited in the city of Goiânia.  School happens year round with a couple months break however the school day is half as long as ours.  In public schools students are supposed to receive one meal as part of the public school requirement and in private schools students must purchase or bring their lunch. (important in reading further on)

There are a variety of public schools in Goiânia and the first couple were elementary/middle schools, fascinating in that they were special "arts" schools.  Students would spend part of the day in classrooms and part of the day in their different arts facilities.  Students would be able to pursue artistic design, movement and expression at the facilities which were also available to students outside of "school" hours.  This seemed to be a really healthy balance of traditional "in-class" learning and a newer "artistic-approach" to education.  I was told that a school such as this one does wonders for many children who may be coming from homes with little to eat and various family problems.  Often students with behavioural issues find their place in a school with an artistic freedom/approach.  I noticed that there seemed to be quite a few unfinished repairs happening and I'm told that there is often less than expected(required) funding.  Then I visited another K-12 type public school nearby and the atmosphere was not comparable.  There is a police section in the school, the classrooms were very plain and somewhat run-down.  There were handfuls of students "hanging-out" in cliques while a few were silently working and talking with their teacher during class.  There was quite a shocking lack of engagement (almost none I would say) and the required meal was not provided.  Then I found out that the public school teachers compensation is outrageously low and those who teach can not rely on their teaching income (but I will elaborate on a day in the life of a teacher and a student in my next post).  The private schools visited were a lot less shocking to see, they seemed to be comparable to some public schools in Canada except the students wore uniforms.  I will elaborate on what the life INSIDE the school was like in the next post.

From what I can gather public school education in Brazil does not hold consistent standards in achievement and many look to the private system to offer a higher level of teacher and student engagement.  Ironically, post-education is the opposite.  The public universities hold a very high standard and there is a very competitive entrance exam to get in and many students from the public secondary route end up having to find ways to pay for a private post secondary degree while students from the private schools will benefit from "free" higher education.  It is interesting to compare the system in Canada with the Brazilian system since we have no public universities but it seems that our public K-12 schools do quite well.  There are a number of private K-12 schools in Canada as well (often for the upper class) but students in the public system are not put at such a disadvantage as it would seem they are in this city in Brazil.

The upside is that many of the teachers have mentioned that there is a slow movement toward education reform in Brazil much like the one we are experiencing in Canada yet I believe the reason Brazil is a little behind is because of some on-going political turmoil and the fact that the population of Brazil is almost 6 times that of Canada.  There is a lot of good happening in Brazil in terms of alternative approaches to education and as I have mentioned before there are some great historical leaders in the education reform movement such as Paulo Freire.  


I believe that creating and sustaining international academic relationships is one of the most effective ways to improve education, sometimes an outside perspective can make a long-lasting impact and as more teachers both "get" and "give" support around the world, more students will be inspired to do great things.

Last two weeks in beautiful (but boilin') Brazil and then back to (chilly?) Calgary.

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Creating Community

Two weeks in Goiânia and I have already started thinking to myself that Brazil is definitely somewhere I could see myself living & teaching for a longer period of time.  My time here during the TAB program has been so brilliant that although it will be relatively short I make sure to cherish every day.  

I am especially grateful for the TAB community that is beginning to form here.  The local students who took time to guide the TAB-sters from last years program have positive memories of the “Canadians” that were here first and so it has made the process of settling in quite seamless.  The TAB-sters left a good impression and paved the way for me.  THANKS Allison & Janeska.  

My day to day 

I originally thought I would be living by myself in an apartment and that I would have to “figure out living in the city” by myself… which I am totally capable of doing but I can’t express how grateful I am that plans changed and I moved in with Rafael and his two roommates downtown Goiâna.  Rafael guided Allison and Janeska last year as well.  As you can see... we are similar cats from two totally different places.

Raf is fluent in English mainly from watching tv shows in English with and without Portuguese subtitles and he has never been outside Brazil.  Impressive to say the least.  He is incredibly knowledgeable about his country and has shown me around the university, he has planned school visits and he has been a ‘stand-in’ Portuguese tutor and he has even been my chef so that I can taste some Brazilian specials (other than rice and beans-a staple).    On another note… the street food here is miles ahead of Calgary.

I have started taking my Portuguese classes at the partner university which have been so valuable because I am still unable to express myself at a comfortable level and English speakers are few and far between.  I will be visiting a few different school systems while I am here and I will help some of the teachers here come up with effective language learning lesson plans.  I have already been approached by one extremely enthusiastic Brazilian university student who’s life dream “is to go to the wonderful place, Canada!”  He teaches English to some motivated people from his church and he was hoping I could make a “very special appearance” and help out with his students.  I look forward to meeting his students and I really hope he is selected to come to U of C to make his dreams come true… Rafael too!  Then I can show them the same hospitality that they have shown me.


I have been to music workshops, festivals- (you can see Rafael having a blast with his arms in the air) and many of the local markets.  I have met one of Allison’s friends from last year who is planning on taking me to some nearby waterfalls to camp and to explore the wilderness a little bit as well.  I can’t wait!

It took no time to feel welcome here.  I may not be able to speak Portuguese fluently just yet but I feel the support from the people here.  When I feel somewhat lost out of nowhere comes someone wanting to practice their English but also to help me.  Some strangers in the supermarket have gone out of their way to help me and then leave me with their number in case I ever need help or have any questions!  

This program is so much more than an individual development, it reaches so many different people, it creates an international learning community.  I am grateful to be a part of that community.  I hope this exchange program grows and that the relationships get stronger every year.

One more disclaimer... Goiânia is very hot.  Don't worry Mum SPF 50 all day every day!

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Risk-it for the biscuit

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, don’t waste it.

You’ve already won (or you’ve already lost). Right now, you can choose to do what’s in your heart, you can bring your real work to the world, instead of a lesser version, a version you think the market wants. After all, what do you have to lose?

When it feels like it’s hopeless or when it appears to be a lock, why not?

So you bring your true self to the work, your unadulterated effort, without negative self-talk and the sanding off of the interesting edges. Instead of compromise, you bring us vision.

Of course, when we see that reality, the kamiwaza of what you’re able to do when you’re not second guessing or giving up, the odds of transformation go way up. In fact, you haven’t already lost, because your magical, vulnerable work changes everything.

You won’t get this chance again soon (unless you choose to). So go.

-Seth Godin

Oi, me chamo Michael - Muito prazer - (Hey, my name is Michael - Nice to meet you)

OR

E aí meu irmão, meu nome é Mike, prazer - (What's up brother*, my name is Mike, good to meet ya)

*it could mean sister too by changing irmão to irmã

Here is where I'll begin and officially introduce myself as a dreamer, a student, a teacher & a "lifelong learner". My name is Michael Barry and I am passionate about Languages, Cultures & Good Pedagogy.  I am sitting in my new apartment in central Goiânia, Brazil and I couldn't be more excited to be starting this totally new, totally different life challenge.  

While I am here I plan to:

Learn Brazilian Portuguese- I can speak English and French fluently and I have studied Chinese extensively but with Portuguese I am back to square one (square one is a little less intimidating after square one in french 4 years ago, I know I won't fit in straight away).  I have gained experience in language learning but I am by no means a magical language learning machine.  Knowing 2 languages is great, it opened my eyes a little wider to the world and challenged my perspective.  Knowing 3 languages is a way for me to work hard and push my perspective a little bit further and to refine my understanding of the language learning process for the purpose of becoming a better language teacher.  It is certainly frustrating to be lost in translation, afraid of failure and embarrassment BUT rather than remaining still, intimidated by the challenge before me I have to keep MOVING and TRY, TRY and TRY AGAIN!  It takes a lot of self-discipline and confidence when you're learning by yourself but with enough determination and support anyone can learn a second language.  

 

Fear,

fear's a powerful thing,

I mean it's got a lot of firepower,

If you can figure out a way to wrestle that fear to push you from behind rather than to stand in front of you,

that's very powerful.

-Jimmy Iovine

 

TIP #1: Embrace failures relentlessly - key word "relentless"

Understand Brazilian Culture- Language and culture go hand in hand.  I want to learn how to express myself in another language in it's cultural context.  I want to learn the many stories of Brazil.  What are the traditional foods and why are they traditional and since when?  The dances? The music? The celebrations? The sports? The politics and the business? I want to know and be a part of all of the many different ways Brazilians lead their lives. 


I came to Brazil a week early to the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro where I stayed at a small hostel in order to ease my way into my Brazilian immersion experience through learning a popular coastal Brazilian hobby, surfing.  It was magnificent. Despite being tossed and smashed by the waves on a regular basis I was happy and grateful to be learning/living life in Brazil.   

-that grin is exactly how I have been feeling since my arrival

  • Tasting the local food and drinks are necessary cultural immersion activities... its going very well
  • I plan to take Capoeira classes and learn a Brazilian song or two while I am here
  • I have the pleasure of being paired with a very knowledgable University student in Goiânia, Rafael, who speaks excellent English and who also happens to be one of my roommates while I stay here.  I have only been in Goiânia for 24 hours and he has already peaked my interest about the political climate, the bureaucracy in schools and many pros and cons he sees in the Brazilian education system.  I am so lucky to have him as my go-to guy during this exchange.
Grow as a Learner and as a Teacher- Through my own personal journey here in Brazil I am gathering information and ideas to use in my future language classes.  When Rafael gave me a quick tour of the Education Faculty at his university I noticed quotes from a great Brazilian educator who had a role in the education reform in Brazil, Paulo Freire.

Quem ensina aprende ao ensinar. - (Whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching.)

E quem aprende ensina ao aprender. - (And whoever learns teaches in the act of learning.)

-Paulo Freire

  • I want to learn many things while I am here and in doing so I hope to reflect on what had the most impact on my learning and on my teaching and how I can use the knowledge I gain on this exchange to enhance the classroom learning... or any learning space (room or not).  I am looking forward to being in a variety of public and private, urban and rural schools and most of all I am excited to interact with the students and to share with them a little Irish-Canadian culture.

Educação não transforma o mundo. - (Education doesn't transform the world)

Educação muda pessoas. - (Education changes people)

Pessoas transformam o mundo. - (People transform the world)

-Paulo Freire

Dear Werklund school of Education, dear University of Calgary, dear Dr. Dressler…thank you for this opportunity.  

 

Dear reader,

Stay tuned, the adventure begins, I'll keep you posted.

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Unforgetable

It’s hard to believe that my 12 weeks in Brazil have already gone by and I’ve been home for 4 days now. 

Coming back to zero degree weather and snow on the ground was quite the change from the 40 degree weather I experienced for most of those weeks, but that said, distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I am feeling so grateful to be back in Canada. I dashed straight of the plane and towards the nearest Timmies for a breakfast sandwich and did it ever taste fantastic! It just made my heart so full and so proud to be back in my homeland. 

Just think, one week ago, I was waterfall hunting and hiking in flip flops and a bathing suit and yesterday I went cross country skiing with three layers of pants on. Quite the change, but nonetheless, I am so happy to be back with friends, family, and my own bed. Now, if only I could get my car to start in this weather… 

What am I missing most about Brazil? 

First and foremost I am missing my host, Claudia, she was more like a friend and confidant to me. We were a team- travelling, roaming the streets, learning Portuguese, trying new foods, going for coffee, shopping, studying, and needless to say we had a kooky amount of hobbies and interests in common. It was meant to be that we came together and we always say that we will see each other again in India someday.

I will miss the fresh fruit and juice vendors. This came to a peak when I visited Rio de Janeiro. On almost every street corner, especially by the beaches there are juice shops where you choose what fruits you would like and they make it there for you fresh! Jugo Juice, look out! You’ve got some fierce competition. And a reasonable cup was about 5-7 reals or 2-3 dollars. A steal of a deal. 

I will miss my amazing experiences in the wilderness of Brazil and the incredible people I traveled with and met along the way. I camped in the Savannah, went piranha fishing in the swamplands, tried scuba diving down a tropical river, and saw toucans and new exotic animals. And everyone I met was so welcoming from even before we introduced ourselves. I can’t even count how many times people would invite me over for dinner or offer me rides home so that I could get there safe or invite me to weekend family gatherings. Brazilians come from a very inclusive and welcoming culture and I feel truly blessed to have been a part of it.

Lastly, I will miss the students I met while helping at the Basileu França school as a part of the TAB exchange. While I was only there 2 weeks, the students and my partner teacher made an 

incredible impact on my experience in Brazil. I had the opportunity to share my culture with them (mostly through  lessons on Canadian fashion and teaching them folk songs like ‘My Bonny’ in music class, and they shared their culture with me by showing me patience, understanding (especially with my broken Portuguese) and by sharing their views on their school and their way of life.

And of course I will never forget that amazing Mango tree that reigned in the middle of the school patio…

Click on the following link to hear my students practicing for their choir showcase (it is quite inspirational):

Depende de nos (Depending on us)

Here is a (rough) translation:

Depending on us 
Anyone who has been or is a child
Who believes or hopes
Who does everything for a better world

Depending on us
The circus is armed
The clown is funny
That laughter is in the air
We don't need to dream

The winds sing on the branches
The leaves drink dew
The sun more descortine morning

Depending on us
If this world still has a way
Despite what the man has done
If life will survive
The winds sing on the branches
The leaves drink dew
The sun more descortine morning

Depending on us
If this world still has a way
Despite what man has done
If life will survive

Depending on us
Anyone who has been or is a child
Who believes or hopes
Who does everything for a better world

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Colegio St. Agostinho...

I had the opportunity to visit the Colegio St. Agostinho a school located in the heart of Goiania. It is a Catholic school and their faith is very much a prominent influence in how education is approached. Halls and spaces throughout the school are filled with images of saints and Catholic figures. It provides the school with a very welcoming feel as the images are beautiful, and yet sacred. Although the families from the Catholic faith are favoured, the school accepts families and students who are non-Catholics as well. 

The school teaches students from age "infantil" (infant age) up to Grade 9 students. As a result there are a variety of programs and collaboration done between teachers who are teaching the younger students and teachers who teach the older students. They have an excellent administration and the access to resources is unbelievable! The school truly believes in supporting students in whichever discipline it is that they are most successful in. They have large Chemistry labs, Physics Labs as well as large areas for Art to be taught and a even a massive theatre for students who wish to engage in the performing arts. This school is an example of science and the arts mingling in a way that each discipline is supported by the other. Families who send their students to this school are very focused on the success of their child's education and eventually post secondary education, so the school does a very good job at making sure students have access to resources in every discipline. 

 It is my belief that  the school does such a great job at supporting the students in terms of their interests, and at the same time the school establishes a welcoming community through the Catholic faith to an extent that students are very excited to be there. This is the type of community that I would like to create within my own classroom and school community as I become a more experienced teacher because it truly benefits the student and their engagement. The classroom no longer becomes a place of simply learning but it becomes a space in which students can come in and build strong relationships, be supportive of one another and trust each other. My partner teacher told me that he teaches 21 classes of level 6 students in the morning and he teaches another group of students in the afternoon. He stated that it is very tiresome, but that he loves it because he truly sees how much success there is in supporting the interest of the student. My partner teacher himself was an individual who was very engaged and interested in the lives of his students and it was evident that he had created a strong bond where students could come and talk to him about almost anything. It is my hope that when I return to Calgary I will be able to take what I have learned in my short time at St. Agostinho and instill this experience within my own teaching practice 

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I visited a college just outside of Goiania. The college has programs that are strictly focused on the health sciences. Students can earn certifications in nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition and more. The campus has a very ‘health awareness’ feel and the hallways, classrooms and library are filled with posters with information about staying active and healthy. They have numerous amounts of guest speakers come in and talk to students about different current issues the world, and particularly Brazil is facing in health and wellness. I had the opportunity to attend several of these seminars and one particular night was called “Cultural Night.” 

The night consisted of a guest speaker who spoke about multiple types of mosquitoes that were passing on life threatening viruses within specific regions of Brazil. Students had the opportunity to listen to the speaker and ask him several questions after his presentation. At the back of the main hall were the event was taking place several posters were up of students who had done projects on different health issues (very similar to our own showcases we hold at U of C in the Werklund School of Education). There, students could present their research, knowledge and engage in conversations regarding health and wellness. At the very end of the night, students were asked to come back together to watch a cultural show. This show consisted of many different acts of music and art. There were many performances that consisted of Brazilian dances, singing and other Latin American dances.

Being at a health focused school, I was at first confused at seeing the cultural performance because for some reason or other I thought it really had nothing to do with health education. I was told that several of the performers were students that attend the health college who had come together with students from surrounding art colleges to collaborate and put together a cultural performance. It was then that I realized that this was exactly interdisciplinary education in action at a post secondary level. The idea could very well be applied to Elementary, Middle, and High School level education. The health professors at the school explained that in Brazil there is the belief that you cannot have one field of thought without the support of its opposite. One professor explained it very simply he stated: “We believe that when we send out a doctor into the working field they cannot be a well rounded and established doctor if he doesn’t understand the people. The people who they are working with are more than just their physical health and well-being. They are people who create art and who make up our Brazilian culture.”  

His explanation of it sent chills up my spine. I would like so much for this idea to be implemented in a country like Canada. In Canada we have so much potential to introduce programs and interdisciplinary form of thinking at this level.  It starts with us teachers at the grade school level to establish this form of thinking in the minds of our youth. 


  


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When Life Gives you Mangos...

Entering into week three now helping at the Basileu França school in Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil. What a wonderful and enlightening experience it has been so far. 

Basileu França

First of all, Basileu França is a very special school, one of a kind. It is a purely Art school and the only in Brazil that offers music (instrumental, vocal and theory), dance(general), ballet, fine arts, sculpting, theatre, and circus. Basileu has two different functions 1) it serves as an after-school or before-school centre for families who wish for their children to have more exposure to the arts and 2) after the age of 16 students can enter into the ‘technical program’ where they attend on a full time basis with the intent of becoming a professional in that field. This is truly a remarkable school. 

The rhythm of things here at Basileu

I have been spending my days with an extraordinary group of 7-9 year olds who are in the art specialization. What does this mean? This group has art every day for at least one hour where they look at both technical and theoretical aspects. They also have circus, choir, dance and ballet as well (ballet is optional as the attire is more costly). The teachers work very closely together and sometimes merge classes or change the order of classes based on the day and what they wish to achieve. One of the days that I was at the school they cancelled circus class as the students were already playing so energetically in the school courtyard. Another day my host teacher switched our art and recreational periods so that the students could share recreational time with the other classes. Teachers aren’t tied to a specific curriculum or expectations, they work with the students and fellow teachers in order to maximize learning and engagement of the students. 

When life give’s you mango’s…

Last week the school celebrated their 48th anniversary. Students brought in cakes, cookies, miniature hot dogs, dulce de leite, fresh juices, and of course popcorn. As there was a heavy windstorm the previous night when I arrived to school it looked like it had rained mangos from the giant mango tree in the middle of the courtyard. One of the teachers collected a couple buckets of beautiful, fresh, ripe mangos and made juice for the occasion. All the students and teachers from the art specialization as well as the director of the school sang happy birthday to Basileu França and enjoyed the goodies together.

Tia, me pode ayudar? (Aunt, can you help me?)

One of my favourite parts about the Portuguese school system is that the younger students call their teachers ‘Tia’ which literally means Aunt! As Brazilians work such long days and students spend so much time in schools, teachers hold a lot of responsibility for how students develop and who they become as they grow up, so they call them with this familiar name: Aunt. I feel like it changes the dynamic greatly inside of the classroom. In these classes there is a lot more laughter, inclusion of student interests and personal involvement, hugs, and autonomy. While I don’t believe any of these students are ‘special needs’ there is one student in particular who constantly is hugging the teacher and seeking out attention. My host teacher warmly welcomes it and always says kind and reassuring words to her. Even if it’s in the middle of a lesson, she even incorporates it into what she’s teaching at times. I see a lot more compassion and warmth in these Brazilian classes, they treat each other as family and I think that contributes to the image that we all have of South Americans being so warm, friendly and family oriented; which they are. 

Teaching history through Art

What have we been looking at recently in Art class? My partner teacher has actually been teaching Fashion for the past few weeks. But not just fashion, we have covered how fashion has evolved over the years- both in Brazil and with influence from the USA  thanks to the invention of the television. Through teaching about fashion, my partner teacher can touch on women's rights and their reflection in dress, the wars, values of that period, crises, the arrival of the television and external influences, etc. She doesn’t just teach art, but teaches history and incorporates all different mediums. About once every two months each class has a show in the exposition room of the school that is free for public and parents to visit. This class is preparing three different projects, on three different mediums, of three different eras that they will be showcasing in two weeks. It’s a shame that I won’t be here to see how everything turned out.

Curriculum planning

I asked my teacher if she follows a curriculum or works with other teachers to come up with unit plans and for the most part she has free reign on the assignments and works independently but the philosophy of the school is that the projects will be as interdisciplinary as possible to reflect reality. Which reminds me, one of the students’ parents is a fashion designer and made a couple sketches of the 70’s era to show the class and also demonstrate how what they are currently working on is meaningful, especially since they could pursue art professionally in just a few years. 

Canadian Fashion- it's so chic...

I was lucky enough to have started in this class at the beginning of the theoretical portion of the unit and was invited to teach on Canadian fashion and especially how it differs from the American fashion that they see every day. I talked about the Inuit people of the North and how they used seal skin for warmth, about the typical Canadian lumberjack trend which seems to never really make a comeback as it never really leaves the fashion industry, I talked about hockey hair and in a more serious manner I talked about the 60’s and 70’s in Canada and how we had a lot of Americans living in Canadian woods who had fled the country escaping conscription during the Vietnam War. A lot can be learned through fashion. The students were pleasantly engaged in the lesson and asked me numerous questions about Canada, including how cold it is and ‘have you seen Sasquatch?” which is my personal favourite question as of yet. 

It’s sad to think that this experience is coming to an end so soon but without doubt the wheels are turning as to how I can take this experience and incorporate into  my Classroom in Canada. I welcome the challenge…

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