Monday, June 18, 2012

We're all in this together.....

During the 9 hour flight to Brazil, and the 6 months anticipating the trip, I couldn't help but wonder what major differences I would find when I learned about the Brazilian education school system. I pondered the vast canyon I would find between my country and this one, 5,000 miles away. Turns out, we are not so different at all. Sure, in the states we do some things differently, like have students rotate instead of teachers. Or decorate or walls instead of leaving them blank. Our government offers serious money to struggling public schools under Title I , and in Brazil the public schools fend for themselves.

But I am talking about the universal sameness of teaching. In both Brazil and the US, teenagers sneak text messages under their desks. Graffiti finds its way on bathroom stalls. Teachers laugh with kids, they are inspired, they get burned out, they aren't paid like doctors like we all deserve. (Brazilian teachers much worse in this struggle.) In both countries, high school students spill out of the classroom the minute the bell rings, some stay after to talk with a favorite teacher, papers are graded, friendships are made.

Our struggles are very similar. Will the students care enough? Will the teachers? Will teaching ever be a respected profession? In these struggles, we are the same.

Today I spoke with a group of passionate teachers in a public school that was in a low-income neighborhood. The teachers and students had pride in their school, from the brand new computer lab to the beautiful vegetable garden out back used for school lunches. The teachers I spoke with lamented about low pay and respect, and we decided as a group that educators, beyond country borders, need to stick together. After we said this, a friendly teachers next to me gave me a half hug and pressed her face against mine. She continued to hold me close to her side and smiled at me frequently. She did not speak English, but she didn't have to. I knew what she was saying.

We are all in this together.

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