I have to preface this post with two important details: 1) I feel some guilt for living selfishly/for leaving a community of amazing teachers and students (not to mention my family) to pursue my own dreams in teaching; writing about it now feels boastful: I don’t want to rub anyone’s face in my new life….but I also know that you’re curious, and I hope to maybe inspire some of you to embark on a journey like this of your own!… 2) I have only been at my job for eight days–five of which were spent with staff, so only three with students; I know that every school and every job come with problems and challenges–and I promise to report on those as they accumulate.
Many of my students here don’t speak English as their first language, just like in the U.S. Many of my students here struggle with reading and writing skills, just like in the U.S. Many of them love sports more than school, wish vacation wasn’t over yet, haven’t found the-book-that-made-them-fall-in-love-with-reading (yet!), and need work on their vocabulary; they have busy parents, unmet needs, and bad habits, just like my beloved students in the U.S. The school has more of some things than it needs and not enough of other things, just like schools in the U.S.
Unlike the schools where I’ve taught in the U.S., this school does not have overcrowded classrooms, ancient textbooks or worn out materials. It does not have delapitating buildings, graffiti on the bathroom stalls, trash shoved into the heat registers, or bolts on the windows to keep students in and fresh air out.
Yet to be determined: if it has the same heart. (Love and miss you, Bulldogs!)
We also don’t have our own rooms here (in the high school) so that’s something I need to get used to. The internet is just about as reliable as I am used to….or maybe a little less so. I don’t have to spend my own money on classroom supplies: I can walk into a well-managed supply closet and ask the assistant to get me what I need and give them my number to document what I took. I don’t get to make my own copies: requests must be submitted–in Portuguese–well in advance.
The school’s leaders brought in a mindfulness instructor to lead the staff in meditation the first week of PD. Yes, they have the money to spend on our emotional well-being, though sitting quietly for an hour trying to clear our minds just days before students arrived may have been counter-productive. They feed us extraordinarily well. I’m talking better-than-Golden Corral, all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch every day. A freakin’ sushi buffet awaited as at the Happy Hour (on school grounds) after our first Friday PD.
Veteran teachers here warn us newbies of the “Freshman 15,” and I’m afraid they’re talking kilos (though no one will confirm this)! They serve one amazing dessert every day, and it’s highly recommended to try them all for the first semester, then choose your top-5 and only eat those if you want to maintain a shape other than a marshmallow. (I’ve started taking the stairs up to my 10th floor apartment to counterbalance all the eating.)
Of course, it’s not all glitz and glam….oh, was that already obvious? Haha…. I had sparkling illusions of living in the same apartment complex with all my expatriate colleagues where we would drop by one another’s units like dorms in college; some of us live roughly in the same neighborhood. The bus we all ride to school in together is broken into cliques just like the schoolbus of my childhood, and often nearly empty on the way home: not quite the fraternizing community I anticipated. The worst part about the bus is that the driver allegedly smokes cigarettes on it all day, then covers up the smell with an Olympic-size swimming pool’s worth of air freshener before we get on it, which makes many of us victim to daily headaches. Cruising over the hills of Sao Paulo on a bus with a headache is not my idea of a good time, but this is honestly the worst part of my day, so I’m dealing. 🙂
Each time I finish going through a stack of assignments I feel like I’m back at Westy High where only half of my students turned their work in regularly–then I realize that all of my students did turn their work in and that I only have 17 students in that class, and, yes, I am done grading the assignment already. So I breathe, and am thankful. I know that I’m going to have a lot of work cut out for me: I have four preps, two of which are brand-new, and one of which is an IB (International Baccalaureate) course. I also have a new language to learn before I feel comfortable on the streets here. But I also know that I have landed myself a pretty sweet gig for a couple of years, and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it!
Tchau for now, friends!