Before I knew what our schedule for Brazil looked like, when friends and family asked me what I was going to do here, I answered in one word: learn. I knew this trip was going to be educational months before I stepped on the plane; however, I now know that my prior interpretation of “educational” was very wrong. I began this trip thinking I was a student learning about different aspects of Brazilian culture. Little did I know I was also going to play the role of the teacher, on more than one occasion.
Among other experiences this week, many of us got to participate in different job shadows. For me, this meant visiting, observing, and participating in classrooms of a local K-12 school. Just within the first week of shadowing, I have learned so much about the education system in Brazil. Through watching student presentations about waste and recycling in their country, hearing children present their “family posters” in English, or helping to teach the English pronunciation of shapes and colors, I have seen and participated in a variety of lessons, styles, and teaching methods both. Some of what I have seen is similar to methods from hom and some is unique.
While learning about and experiencing school in Brazil first hand was educational in itself, the main lesson I learned came from the interactions and conversations I had with the students themselves. It quickly became evident that in addition to being the college student learning about Brazilian education, I was also the “teacher,” teaching about the English language and life in the United States.
Whether it be answering questions such as “How does the United States recycle and manage waste,” “What is high-school like in the States,” or my personal favorite, “Do you have a dog,” my experience in the school and my interaction with the students has made me consciously aware of the inquisitive nature we all have. Their questions not only made me realize that we are continually learning, but that we are also constantly teaching. It may not be evident at first, but in almost every situation life presents us, we are given the task of performing the role of both teacher and student.
I was so surprised and pleased to see how curious the students were in regards to my country and language, as I came on this trip with my mind set on the goal of learning about their country. Their questions made me realize that my presence in the school was just as much of a learning experience for them as it was for me. I visited with the intention of learning about their education, and I left with the priceless experience of both learning about their culture and teaching about mine. Their genuine interest about my life made me realize that not only is it human nature to have curiosities, but also that learning is a never-ending cycle for everyone. We are always teaching and learning from each other in one way or another.