It's funny how I spent my whole life trying to make my future happen the way I wanted it to be. Now, I find myself in a situation that doesn't even resemble what I had been imagining as I was buried underneath a stack of books at libraries, offices and apartments around the world. Never had I imagined I would be in the Amazon. Speaking PORTUGUESE at that. I have to admit, I thought the Amazon River was in Africa for the longest time. Although a year before graduation from college I included "Learn Portuguese" and "Live abroad for 6 months" in my bucket list, I had never imagined that I would be able to achieve both of those goals at the same time... going to Brazil wasn't even on my mind when I wrote "Learn Portuguese," I just wanted to get a few books and teach myself. Heh, how naive that seems now! Portuguese, from a BOOK?
Also, I am a teacher. I am a reference tool. And, my favorite job description is that I am a source of enthusiasm and motivation for kids, teens and adults. My goal when I enter into the classroom is not just to explain in a clear and concise manner the present perfect or past continuous, but to see my students smiling; I want to help them to forget about the things that are outside of the classroom, outside of their control. My goal is that every student walks out of my classroom with a smile on their face because, even if they DIDN'T understand everything, they know that WILL understand, someday.
Last week I had a particularly difficult class. The teachers and the director of the school explained to me that this class was "special," that I needed to be extra patient and be super carinhosa, or especially supportive in a physical way by hugging, rubbing their backs, etc... As the class commenced and the "I don't know, teacher" responses became unbearable I sat the students down to work in pairs on a few verb tenses so that I could brainstorm. However, I heard something I wasn't expecting. The students KNEW the material. They were teaching each other how to correctly put the sentences together. *BING* new idea.
After the students wrote a few sentences I had the pairs write on the board what they had come up with. I then sat down in one of the student's chair (and flopped my leg over the other student's chair) and explained now they had the Magic Marker that gives them the power of the teacher and had them explain to the class where were the verbs, what tense they were in, where the subject was, what the object of the verb was, etc... after a few moments of hesitation, the students took to this new method and blossomed before my eyes into confident English instructors. This wasn't a trouble class because they were slow learners, they just didn't have much self-confidence! Hugs and back pats can help with that, but I won't be there to coddle them when they are in Australia trying to reserve a hotel room. I felt like I had finally broken through a wall that has been established for the last three semesters.
It's incredible where life can take you. Sometimes I find myself wondering what the heck I am doing here. It's hot, there's mosquitos, ants, and all sorts of other bugs. I'm an airplane ride away from the nearest art museum, the "library" is about as pathetic as it could get and I can't even find bookshelves in the furniture stores. That's how much importance reading has for the general population of Ji-Paraná. Regardless, when I step into the classroom and I have a student run up to the board, "Teacher! I learned a new word, is this right?" I know I'm in the right place.