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!