Teachers for Global Classrooms

In June of 2015 I embarked on a memorable journey that has had a profound impact on my life.  As a participant fellow in the Teachers for Global classrooms I was selected to travel to Brazil with a group of 16 American teachers from across the United States.  For 18 days we visited schools, taught workshops, conducted lessons, made presentations, talked and laughed with Brazilian students and teachers, shared meals and attended festivals, enjoyed the beach, and explored cities.  The preceding pages of my blog were recorded while I was happily immersed in this experience in Brazil, and shortly after I returned.


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The Food of Brazil

Brazil offers a wide variety of food and dining experiences.  I collected photos of all the things I tried while I was there.  The students we met often asked us what our favorite Brazilian food was.  Usually we responded that it was the dish we had just tried the day before.  Our days usually started with a buffet breakfast in our hotel.  The fruit and juice selection was amazing.  Slow cooked chicken and rice dishes topped my list for lunch and dinner. Everyone suggested we try feijoada, a special dish of beans and pork. It wasn’t until the end of the trip that I tried it – and had 2 heaping plates full.   Brazil 2015 266 Brazil 2015 263  Brazil 2015 128 Brazil 2015 119 Brazil 2015 055 Brazil 2015 061 Brazil 2015 063Brazil 2015 223 Brazil 2015 115 Brazil 2015 117 Brazil 2015 054

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Day 17 Salvador

This was our last full day in Salvador. We spent a good part of the day driving around the city, getting a glimpse of daily life from our tour bus window . We passed sidewalk produce markets and the crowded streets and alleyways of Salvador’s favelas.

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One of our stops was at the Church of Bonfim (Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim), built in the 18th century, and a pilgrimage site for those looking for miracles. A side room was filled with ex-votos, replicas of body parts, hung as offerings in gratitude for healing. The gate outside the church was tied with thousands of multi-colored wish ribbons.Brazil 2015 296 Brazil 2015 299 Brazil 2015 300

In the evening we returned to the Pelourhino for dinner and more shopping.Salvador 25 Brazil 2015 303 Brazil 2015 311 Salvador 26

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Day 16: Salvador

On the second day of our collaboration with the ILEP teachers, we shared ideas and planned future projects.  Our gratitude was immense for these ILEP host teachers  who had taken such good care of us and made our experience so memorable.  TGC-ILEP in Salvador

They had planes to catch throughout the day, returning to their homes. Alex and Joselia had the latest flight out so they joined us on the beach  for some relaxing in the sun.  The caipirinhas, made with fresh limes by attentive vendors, were some of the best we’d had.Salvador 15 Salvador 16 Saying goodbye to Alex and Joselia at the end of the day was hard.  But we laughed right up until the end.                                                                          Salvador 17

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Days 15: Salvador

On this day, the IREX team brought together the American TGC Fellows and the Brazilian ILEP Alumni.

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TGCThat evening Allison and I returned to the Pelourhino and the Festival of St. John with Joselia and Alex and another ILEP teacher.  We waded through the crowds, had our photo taken in some Bahian garb, and tried some Acaraje, a deep fried ball of black-eyed pea dough, filled with shrimp.  We found a farro band and danced in the street.

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Days 13 – 14: Salvador, Bahia

We arrived in Salvador at night.  In the morning we began exploring this beautiful place.  Salvador is in the northeastern state of Bahia.  For the first time we saw Portuguese colonial architecture experienced some of the Afro-Brazilian culture and saw the coastline. .  Brazil 2015 236Brazil 2015 237  Brazil 2015 241 Salvador 2

In the historic heart of the city, the Pelourhino, we walked along the narrow streets decorated for the week-long Festival of St. John.  Street musicians kept the beatSalvador 6Salvador 5SalvadorOur guide, Wanderlay, took us into the Sao Francisco Church and Convent, a Baroque work, built between 1708 and 1723.  The gold-painted wood and elaborate carvings in the  nave of the church was an unexpected surprise.

Salvador Sao Francisco churchSan Francisco Church 2

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Day 12 Teresina June 18, 2015

What a fantastic day this was!  We started by visiting more classrooms at Centro de Linguas, then we conducted a second teacher workshop for public school teachers.  June 18 Teacher Workshop 3June 18 Teacher workshop 2June 18 Teacher Workshop 4 June 18 Teacher Workshop 5

Joselia made sure that everyone knew it was my birthday, and in a moving gesture, gathered students and the visiting teachers to sing a special song in Portuguese for me.

In the evening, Joselia and the Centro de Linguas principal drove us to visit a unique program called Musica Para Todos, a free music school with practice rooms and performance spaces for economically disadvantaged students.  The principal led us into many rooms and urged us to try out the instruments.  Just before leaving, she interviewed us on camera about our impressions of the school and its opportunities.Brazil 2015 205Brazil 2015 208Brazil 2015 210Brazil 2015 207

The night was topped off with a farewell dinner and gathering at our favorite venue, Seu Boteca, where we danced to 80’s songs performed by CCL English teacher, Gildo Veloso and his band.

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Day 11 Teresina June 17, 2015

UESPI Presentation 2UESPI Presentation

An article in the University online newsletter about our presentation:


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Day 10 Teresina June 16, 2015

We visited many more classrooms and spoke with students of all levels of English language learning.  It was fun to engage them in conversations where they could practice listening and speaking.  I co-taught lessons in grammar and pronunciation and demonstrated some activities to engage students in their learning.


At mid-day we made a trip to the city center where we bargained for souvenirs in the market and explored the “Troca Troca” swap market where all kinds of useful items (refrigerators, power cords, tools, and bicycles to name a few) were traded.  Marcos, our driver (and aspiring politician), led us a good number of blocks in the strong sun and we finally had to admit that Teresina’s heat was living up to its reputation.  We weren’t down and out yet.  We still had some shopping left in us at the Central de Artesanato, a co-op of craft shops.

We returned to CCL for an afternoon workshop for the English teachers who gave up precious time to come listen to us.  We shared Power Point/Prezi presentations of our lives back home and our work in our schools and about teaching techniques that we have found useful in our classrooms.  We ended the workshop demonstrating a number of Improv activities designed to get students actively engaged in their learning.  Soon we were all getting silly, pretending to be drivers and  hitchhikers, talk show contestants, roller coaster riders, and movie stars whose gibberish needed a translator.  It was good to laugh and step outside our usual serious teacher selves for a while.photo 5 (3)photo 5 (1)

A very memorable experience followed the teacher workshop.  Josélia had told us that she was preparing a “box of surprises” for us during the 5-6 pm break.  We were led into the faculty break room with great fanfare.  In our absence, the room had been equipped with a karaoke machine, courtesy of Gildo, a teacher with musical talent and a fun and generous spirit.  What ensued was the most fun I’ve ever experienced in a staff room.  DSC01421photo 1 (1)

We were treated to dinner in the late evening at an open air restaurant that served northeastern fare – MariaIsabel (rice and beef), pork rinds, shrimp pastel, and Carne de Sol (sun-dried beef).   photo 5 (2)

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Day 9 Teresina June 15, 2015

Back to reality and a new school week in Teresina, Allison and I jumped into a full day of classroom activities. Cento Cultural de Linguas (CCL) is a tuition-free public school whose teachers are employed by the government. Class sizes there are manageable – ranging from 10 – 20 students, unlike the larger traditional public schools where classrooms are packed with up to 60 students.  The age range at CCL was from 14-70+.  It is a unique public school, with only 2 campuses – one in Teresina and one in Parnaĩba.  Most are full-time university students of engineering, medicine, public health, accounting, education, and law, who find time to squeeze in English language courses at CCL.  Some students fit their high school classes around their language studies.  In one class we were surprised to meet a grandmother who was  learning English alongside her daughter.  CCL Classroom

Teachers in Brazil struggle with a number of challenges that make teaching a noble profession not for the faint of heart. Most teachers we’ve met cannot make a living with just a single teaching position.  They have to cobble together jobs at 2, 3, 4, or even 5 schools around the city.  Their work life takes a toll on their time with their families, and they often work from early in the morning to late at night.

Primary and high school students in Brazil normally attend classes for just 4 hours a day, and they juggle up to 14 classes per semester, with most classes meeting just once a week. Public school classrooms are often overloaded with students and have few resources to work with.  The teachers in these schools tell us that discipline is a problem they face in classes so large, and their one overriding wish for their students was for reduced class sizes so that students could learn without so many distractions. At CCL the teaching and learning environment is relaxed and more suited for learning.  Many of the teachers have traveled and studied abroad in programs like the Fulbright, and their teaching methods reflect their expertise.

Our time in the staff room is spent conversing and laughing with the teachers, sharing coffee and snacks.  They tell us that having guests is great for the quality and quantity of snacks that they enjoy while we’re here.  I am privileged to get to share in their world for just a short time.

Teacher's Lounge

In the evening we got to experience Teresina’s Festa Junina, Brazil’s Harvest Festival.  Youth groups from around the city came to perform their choreographed dances, in 30-minute rounds before a panel of judges.  Their costumes were elaborate and they had worked so hard to get there.  It was amazing to see so many young people so dedicted to keeping the culture of dance alive.                                                     Brazil 2015 145Brazil 2015 154Brazil 2015 146Brazil 2015 151

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