Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Today I began all of my lessons with a little chit-chat with my students. I explained to them that homework (called “work for house” in Portuguese) means that it should be done at home, not during the class before or hurriedly when the teacher is walking in the door. I said “I ask you guys every class, many times per class, if you understand and everyone always responds ‘yes.’ But the homework demonstrated that you guys hardly understand anything!” I explained to them that I need them to let me know and ask questions when they don’t understand, otherwise I have no way of knowing they are lost. Of course they all dutifully responded “yes teacher.” Seven years of this habit in school will be hard to break. I also told them that in the future if anyone fails to give me homework or gives me incomplete homework, they will receive a falta. (Students here receive “faltas” as bad marks, for example bad behavior or missing class.) Because, I told them, it is a falta of respect for me and my time if I am willing to sit down and thoroughly grade 225 homeworks, but they can’t do one homework assignment well.
The youngest girl in the orphanage is 3 and she is everyone’s favorite. Everyone loves to baby and coddle her, even the 5 year olds. The way she says my name “Mana Anata” (“mana” means sister), has a very distinctive intonation, so now all the girls imitate her way of saying it whenever they see me.
I have 225 students. Plus at this point I have sat-in in about 8 different classes, which puts the number of students who “know” me at about 600 students. So whenever I walk into town I am greeted by kids everywhere saying “Professora Anata!” And the awful thing is that for a lot of them I don’t even have any idea if they are my own students or not!

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